No – We Still Don’t Want ID Cards

It is disappointing to see Policy Exchange’s attempt to revive the tired and failed idea of a national ID scheme. The British public has made clear time and time again that we don’t want ID cards, ID numbers, or centralised databases of highly sensitive information about us.

A national ID scheme would be dangerous, expensive, and would fail to meet the aims its proponents claim it would. ID cards are not a magic bullet solution to solving a broken immigration system, or rising crime – yet they are periodically touted as such by those in the establishment that refuse to accept the public’s reasoned rejection of ID cards.

Calls for a national ID scheme are calls for a giant centralised database with a file on every person in the UK that could include records about our health, tax, travel, benefits, religion, and even fingerprints, faceprints and voiceprints. To a free society, this sets off major alarm bells – and so it should.

Big Brother Watch stands up for people’s rights to be free from a database state and we believe information should only be held about citizens where there is a clear purpose or where they have consented. That is why we fight against the state’s troves of 12.5 million facial recognition photos, 5 million voiceprints, 20 billion ANPR (automated number plate recognition) records – and much more.

If those giant, uncontrolled and likely unlawful databases were centralised – with each citizen given a barcode-like ‘ID number’ – we’d have a much bigger issue on our hands.

In 2010, Theresa May scrapped the ID card scheme, pointing out that it would have increased “state control over decent, law-abiding people” and would have been “intrusive” and “ineffective”. Then Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg agreed that a national ID scheme would be “wasteful, bureaucratic and intrusive”.

In this current climate, there are few areas in politics where there is consensus – but the British public’s preference for freedom over an authoritarian national ID scheme might just be one, and we should all feel reassured by that.