When reading the ID card bill I am constantly struck by its minatory tone - the threats of fines and the general contempt for the average citizen. There's a reason for this. Rather than being something that is designed to help us, the card and the register are, in fact, tools of government control and surveillance. Over and above the information you have supplied at enrolment (please note the voluntary connotations of the word enrolment ) your file on the NIR will build an entire picture of your life - your hospital visits, your children's schools, your driving record, your criminal record, your finances, insurance policies, your credit-card applications, your mortgage, your phone accounts (and, one presumes your phone records), and your internet service providers.
Every time you get a library card, make a hire-purchase agreement, apply for a fishing or gun licence, buy a piece of property, withdraw a fairly small amount of your money from your bank, take a prescription to your chemist, apply for a resident's parking permit, buy a plane ticket, or pay for your car to be unclamped you will be required to swipe your card and the database will silently record the transaction. There will be almost no part of your life that the state will not be able to inspect. And it will be able to use the database to draw very precise conclusions about the sort of person you are - your spending habits, your ethnicity, your religion, your political leanings, your health and even perhaps your sexual preferences. Little wonder that MI5 desired - and was granted - free access to the database. Little wonder that the police, customs and tax authorities welcome the database as a magnificent aid to investigation.
But know this: from the moment the database goes live, we will become subjects not citizens and each one of us will be diminished in relation to the state's power.
Imagine handing over the keys to your home when you are out at work to allow some faceless bureaucrat to rifle through your desk and drawers, your photograph albums and children's school reports, your bills and love letters. That is the kind of access they are going to have, and it is going to grow as time goes by and we become accustomed to this unseen presence in our lives.
Well, it's not for me. I cannot do it. I will not do it, and I hope you won't either.
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