Author Topic: Scottish Campaigners taste victory in ‘backdoor ID cards’ battle  (Read 724 times)

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Campaigners taste victory in ‘backdoor ID cards’ battle

CIVIL liberties campaigners have won a review of Scotland's controversial microchipped entitlement card scheme.

Ministers are to scrutinise the project amid fears that it is a "back door" to compulsory ID cards.

Around one-third of Scots now have the plastic swipe cards, which are backed by a database and far-reaching legislation.

Opponents insist that, while the programme may appear harmless, it is almost identical to the Home Office's plans for a National Identity Register.

Now the SNP has heeded the result of a Holyrood vote and pledged to reassess the scheme - entitled Customer First - to ensure it meets data protection principles.

Last night, campaigners welcomed the review. Geraint Bevan of NO2ID said: "It is reassuring that the Scottish government is looking again at the implications of this programme.

"Until now, it has been allowed to evolve into a dangerous parallel of the UK national identity scheme.

"Design decisions have been made by bureaucrats, resulting in a system that can record even the details of bus journeys made by children and pensioners.

"Political oversight is needed to ensure that respect for citizens' privacy is built into the system at every level."

Entitlement cards were introduced in April 2006 to replace cardboard bus passes for pensioners.

But the scheme has been extended to include students and children and to allow access to other public amenities including school lunches, libraries and leisure centres.

Ministers want all Scots to eventually use the cards when dealing with local authorities.

Under Customer First, people are given a unique number and their use of the card may be tracked using a computerised record called a Citizen's Account.

An obscure piece of legislation - Section 57 of the Local Electoral And Registration Services (Scotland) Act 2006 - gave the registrar general (RG) powers to help run the database.

It also allowed the RG to find, store and pass on personal information about Scots that may be useful to local authorities.

However, there are no boundaries set for the type and amount of detail held and the legislation does not insist on parliamentary scrutiny of his actions.

Campaigners believe the system is an ID card by any other name and will allow unprecedented surveillance of people's activities as more and more databanks are fed into the central structure.

Last December, Holyrood backed a motion by Green MSP Patrick Harvie that called for entitlement cards to be reviewed in line with Data Protection Act principles.

They demand that information is only kept if it is relevant, accurate and obtained for limited purposes.

Last night, Harvie said he would help guide finance secretary John Swinney through the fine detail.

He said: "We're pleased to see the Scottish government firm up its commitment to data protection and privacy principles for these entitlement cards.

"In particular, we'll be working with the minister to oppose any call to monitor people's movements around Scotland.

"Tracking overall use of public transport helps planning, certainly, but a system that tracks individuals will be misused by a Westminster government determined to monitor all of the people all of the time."

He added: "Section 57 slipped under parliament's radar in 2006 and, unless it's reviewed properly by Scottish ministers, we cannot be sure that Scots' personal information will be kept secure and private."

A government spokesman confirmed: "We are seeking review of the programme to provide assurance that it is being implemented in accordance with data protection principles, in line with the parliamentary motion.

"We agree that the fundamental liberties enjoyed by generations of citizens must not be eroded.

"That's why we are fundamentally opposed to the introduction of compulsory ID cards."

Last year, the Sunday Herald revealed that an influential think tank had advised "piggy-backing" UK ID plans on to Scottish entitlement cards.

The influential New Local Government Network said it could "deliver the government's goals quickly and perhaps at reasonable cost".

It also claimed the cards may soon be used to document citizens' mental health, "reporting a crime, attending an accident and emergency department or claiming benefits".

11:34pm Saturday 24th May 2008


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