Philip Pulman doesn’t like ID cards. In an aside in an interview in The Spectator this week,
Later, the conversation roams unsparingly through officialdom and encroaching regulation (especially in the national curriculum), crass sloganeering and political unspeak (‘Tony Blair was a great bullshitter’), and ID cards: ‘I’d go to jail rather than have an identity card.’
And so say most of us. For a short but excellent take on ID cards, read Grayling’s question in October’s Prospect, Are ID cards either philosophically or pragmatically justifiable? His answer,
Emphatically no. A requirement for every citizen to carry a device that enables the authorities to demand immediate information about them dramatically changes the relationship of individuals to the state, from being private citizens to being numbered conscripts. An ID card or device (technology will rapidly supplant plastic cards because the latter are too easily lost or stolen) is a surveillance instrument, a tracking device, like a car number plate or the kind of tag punched into a cow’s ear.
And to make the point,
The main pushers of an identity surveillance system—the biometric data companies who stand to gain billions—tell us that the iris and fingerprint details that will link you to the computer that stores your address, medical records and so on can be stored on a chip the size of a full stop. This can be implanted in your earlobe, ostensibly to protect against loss or theft, and read by a device similar to a barcode reader. I asked David Miliband what the difference is between this and a number branded on your arm. His furious response was proof that I cut close to a nerve.