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    Location: Aberystwyth, Wales, United Kingdom

    I am the owner and managing director of Information Automation Limited (IAL), a company that specialises in research, consultancy and training for the information profession. We are particularly interested in all forms of electronic information resources (e-journals, e-books, etc) and I teach a course in electronic publishing at the Department of Information Studies in Aberystwyth. Drilling down still further(!), my interests centre on the quality and evaluation of electronic information, and in the thinking that underpins activities in library and information science.


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    Thursday, July 26, 2007

    Function creep = Budget creep...

    ... or perhaps not creep as much as 'romp'; or 'gallop' for the UK ID card scheme costs.

    The inestimable IWR Blog links to an article in its sister publication, Computing: ID card consultancy hits £50m. I have blogged here (and also here and here ...) in the past about the gradually extending role of the ID cards and the concomitant rise in costs. IWR picks up the point that the ID cards aren't worth the plastic they are printed on:
    There are various reasons why a national ID card won't do what the government thinks it will do. At present, we rely on multiple forms of ID, which create a patchwork of different points of contact with officialdom, both commercial and governmental. This appears to work quite well. Single ID cards, as used by Spain, for example, don't. Every one of the bombers who attacked Madrid had a valid national ID.
    Identity Fraud isn't necessarily a case in point, either. LSE estimates that, rather than preventing £1.3bn of fraud a year, an ID card will hit, at most, £35m.
    Finally, it won't be compulsory to carry a card. One wonders if a nation that has alread sleepwalked into a surveillance society will refuse cards if they provide notional convenience...
    Computing points out that:
    The government has spent £53m on consultants for the national biometric identity card scheme, and continues to use 83 external contractors at a cost of nearly £50,000 per day.

    The figures are more than double the value of the original £19m pre-procurement consultancy contract signed in 2004, according to data released to Computing by the Home Office under the Freedom of Information Act.

    That's quite a gallop! But then the whole project has changed shape too:
    The ID scheme has been substantially re-shaped in the past 18 months – changing from a standalone card system using entirely new IT systems to a broader identity management programme that will reuse existing government databases and is closely allied with international requirements for biometric passports.
    An identity management programme. That has a chillingly Orwellian sound. And, as you have read here before, it makes free with data about YOU. And, apparently, to no good effect.

    I may be wrong, but I see the government as the servant of the people; running the country as we would like, for our advancement and benefit (Sorry! that was just a tad too Utopian, wasn't it?), but you know what I mean. Should our new Prime Minister allow such pointless expenditure of our money? Is there a (sinister) alternative agenda? Shouldn't the Information Commissioner - or a non-governmental body - oversee the project? Shouldn't the public know what is going on? Why do government agencies really need to know so much about each of us? Do we really need Dystopia?

    Come back Winston Smith: the last man in Europe with no identity!

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