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Friday, January 27, 2006

 

The Wizards of ID

Latest nonsense to hit the headlines over the current governments centralisation obsession with ID cards according to the Daily Mirror. Apparently, according to a leaked memo, the possibility of putting Radio Frequency ID chips in the proposed ID cards is being investigated despite the latest upset by the House of Lords.

For the non technical amongst you, an RFID chip is at its simplest a wireless enabled data chip which, upon receiving a coded signal, can be ‘read’ with the right receiving equipment.

Essentially this is just another IT disaster waiting to happen. Got an RFID chip in your card which carries all your data? You could have your data cloned or even ‘zapped’ without you knowing with the right kit. Think about it. If the powers that be had the equipment to read a card without being noticed, how long do you think it would be before outside sources got hold of similar equipment? A whole new underworld industry would be spawned. Want a new ID? Hang on mate, zap this guy, yeah, the one who just turned the corner. I’ll just wander past him like so; download his details and wipe his card. Stick your retinal & DNA details on there and upload via a hacked wireless link to the main government database. Bingo! He’s now an unperson and you just became him. That’ll be ten grand guv; ta ever so.

No doubt supporters of the ID card scheme will rubbish this post, saying that there will be security in place which will prevent this happening. I say to them, don’t be so naïve. The temptation for organised crime to lay hands on the technology would be so overwhelming I’m ready to bet serious cash money on some clever bugger cracking the encoding before it’s even out of beta testing. I know data cloning isn’t done with mobile phones, but that’s because the financial incentive isn’t there.

Leave all your goodies (In this case your life details) in one place for long enough, and someone will be bound to break in and have it away with them. Why? Because anyone with a dodgy past and a reason to hide will be able to become you. Won’t they get caught when I report my ID missing / wiped? Er, well let’s put it this way, in order to report your ID stolen you will need your ID Card to prove who you are. With the card effectively wiped, you won’t get past reception front desk. Social services won’t touch you. Your Bank won’t believe you (Long gone are the days of personal relationships between Manager & customer). Lost your National Insurance number? Can’t remember your bank account number? Can’t recall your National Health number? How many people can remember all that? Not that many.

Now do you understand why having all your personal details in one place is so bloody silly. That’s why ‘smart’ ID cards are a really stupid idea. Just keeping the database up to scratch will create a whole new layer of bureaucrats. Even then I’ll be willing to bet that the database will never be more than 40% up to date, and that’s being optimistic.

Over to you.

Just a last little note; Brian of Brian’s Brief Encounters has been put on ‘Gardening leave’ because of some of his writing. Personally, I always find his stuff highly risible and very, very, human. Best of luck Brian. Perhaps your higher ups should do better to “seriously reflect on the impact and outcomes of some of their statements.” Rather than penalising you. Ian Blair himself might be well advised to heed such advice.

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Exasperated expatriate expostulations all the way from British Columbia, Canada. As if anyone really cared. Oh, I also watch Icelandic Volcanoes and seismic activity. Don't ask me why.

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