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Further official criticism about ID Card database and the lack of privacy

The Information Commissioner, the Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) and Law Society have added to the criticism of the ID Card Bill prior to its second reading in the House of Lords next week.27 Oct 2005

On Monday, the Constitution Committee of the House of Lords published a critical report which reiterated its concerns about insufficient safeguards associated with the ID Card scheme as it believes that the ID Card "fundamentally alters the relationship between citizens and the State".

In a Position Statement placed on his website today, the Information Commissioner says:

"The measures in relation to the National Identity Register and data trail of identity checks on individuals risk an unnecessary and disproportionate intrusion into individuals' privacy. They are not easily reconciled with fundamental data protection safeguards such as fair processing and deleting unnecessary personal information. An effective ID card can be established avoiding these unwarranted consequences for individuals as research has shown."

He continues, "The primary aim of the Government with this legislation should be to establish a scheme which allows people to reliably identify themselves rather than one which enhances its ability to identify and record what its citizens do in their lives."

These comments are echoed in the JCHR's official findings that the scheme might not be compliant with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), in particular the respect for private life (Article 8) and prohibition on discrimination (Article 14). In its Report published on Tuesday, the Committee detailed its concerns. The JCHR reported:

  • "That the establishment of the National Identity Register under the Bill was likely to lead to the compulsory retention of large amounts of personal information in respect of large groups of persons";
  • "That such retention, either under a compulsory scheme or under a scheme requiring registration to obtain designated documents, risked being insufficiently targeted at addressing the statutory aims to ensure proportionate interference with Article 8 rights";
  • "That the imposition of effective compulsory registration through designation of documents, including documents unrelated to the statutory aims, risked disproportionate interference with Article 8 rights, as well as unjustified discrimination under Article 14";
  • "That a system of phased-in compulsory registration risked disproportionate interference with Article 8 ECHR, and unjustified discrimination in breach of Article 8 read with Article 14 EHCR";
  • "That further safeguards should be included on the face of the Bill to ensure that the system of checks on the Register (clause 18) was compliant with Article 8";
  • "That the wide scope for disclosure of information from the Register (clauses 19-22) risked breach of Article 8 rights, in the absence of sufficient safeguards on the face of the Bill".

The Report concluded by saying "the Bill's provision for the retention of extensive personal information relating to all or large sections of the population may be insufficiently targeted to be justified as proportionate to the statutory aims and may lead to disproportionate interference with Article 8 rights".

The Law Society in a statement published with the JCHR Report states: "We believe that the Bill provides Government with unnecessary and undesirably wide powers to record, retain and disseminate personal data, and do not believe that adopting an identity card scheme is a proportionate response to the challenges which the Government is trying to address".

It concludes, "In addition, we believe adopting the scheme would increase the administrative burden on those delivering public services and put a heavy financial burden on government and members of the public".