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IT IDiocy

The libertarian arguments against the government’s plans for a national ID database may be arguable; the practical ones are clear. David Birch sets them out in this month’s Prospect magazine.

I think we need a register but there is no way to make it secure, so we should not store personal data in it.

An easily-accessible register linking reliable biometric markers to an ID number would be a great convenience, as I have been saying for some time. It requires esssentially a 2-column database table and would be easy and cheap to set up. (In fact why not allow multiple private registrars, as we do for Internet domains?) As Birch says, most of the available benefits come from doing only this much. (He also has an ingenious variation, scarcely harder, by which your marker is linked to not your single ID number, but to several: one for the police, one for the NHS and so on.)

The technical and economic arguments for keeping it simple are nearly as strong as the government’s reputation for haemorrhaging money into overambitious IT stunts. What can be keeping this pig trough open but the lobbying of consultants, greedy for more swill?

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