07/10/04 NO2ID NEWSLETTER – Supporter's Newsletter No.6

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+++ Stop ID-cards and the database state

This is the latest regular email newsletter to keep you informed about the campaign against the Home Office's plans to fingerprint and track the entire population of Britain for its National Identity Register. As soon as practicable the NO2ID Newsletter will also be produced in printed form to let us reach people without email. Meanwhile, if you want to forward this email to friends or print and distribute hard copies, then we have no objections.

You've been sent this (if you are a first hand recipient) because we believe you registered as a supporter of the campaign. If not, or if you just don't want the newsletter, let us know and please accept our apologies. We don't want to spam anyone.

(Equally, if you were a supporter in the past, but have now decided that you do want yourself and your family to be tagged like cattle at huge and unnecessary expense, please let us know.)

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++ Laboured Conference Arguments

+ Mr Blair's Personal (Valedictory?) Endorsement
He said it. And in so many words: “We will introduce ID cards.” It is certainly, to coin a phrase, an eye-catching initiative with which he can personally be associated. Whether, however, the Prime Minister (who has admitted in the past to not being a very experienced computer-user) is completely clear what he's doing with the big database we can only guess. He didn't say WHY… though immigration was mentioned immediately afterwards, and the public might be invited to make a spurious connection. Still, it is modern; and he has simultaneously made it obvious he won't be around to take the blame for what looks like being Labour's Poll Tax.

+ NO2ID in Brighton

The good news is that the Labour Party as a whole is not yet sold on ID-control. NO2ID campaigners leafleting outside the Brighton Centre got a varied response, and approximately 600 delegates took our literature, many with alacrity. Most of those in favour didn't want to discuss it, so we suspect they don't know why, and could do with knowing more.

We'd like publicly to thank those hardy souls who were prepared to take the long trek to our fringe meeting on a rainy evening, forgoing many rival attractions including the Scottish Whisky Producers' reception. Such people care about freedom.

+ Official Tory Position – Constructive Vagueness?

We'd like to be able to report the Conservative Party had stopped sitting on the fence this week, but we can't—quite. Hopeful proponents of the Kremlinological arts suggest that they may be sliding down on our side, but, if so… boy are they taking their time about it!

Mocking Labour, David Davis said: “When it comes to controlling the honest citizen, they're enthusiastic for any and every means of control: speed cameras, ID cards, trials without juries – they love all that.” We suppose that means that ID-control is worse than speed cameras but not as bad as trial without jury. In time the public may come to realise speed cameras run a very poor third among threats to ancient British liberties, but Mr Davis has yet to commit his party to opposing any of them.

Dr Liam Fox offered the splendid phrase, “the intruder state”, but forbore to give examples. We have some, if he'd like them.

+ Unofficial Tory Position: More Hopeful

Just as with Labour activists, those leafleting the conference found attitudes to ID-cards much more overtly anti than any expressed for media consumption: “a few faces that even I knew —[we don't reveal even our famous supporters' names without their express permission – Ed.]— some who said they'd been meaning to join, and one who apologised for not making the Launch. A lot of 'damn right!'s.” Leaflets went faster, if anything.

+ Help Wanted

If you are in or near London (or just fancy a weekend in town) please come and give us a hand with our stall at the European Social Forum (ESF) at Alexandra Palace. Give as much or as little time as you can. We need to cover two full days on Friday 16th and Saturday 17th and a half day on Sunday 19th. Guy Taylor (guy@no2id.net) is coordinating, so contact him to arrange a place on the rota.

This is an ideal introduction to campaigning, if you are nervous about arguing with people in the street. We don't expect to find many proponents of ID cards at this event, and the wildly varied views on other subjects will guarantee entertainment.

+ESF Workshop – “The War on Civil Liberties”.

We'd be equally delighted if you are only able to visit the ESF to attend NO2ID's workshop on Saturday 16th from 2pm-4pm. It is more central than the main jamboree: Birkbeck College, Mallet Street WC1. (Goodge St, Euston Sq, or Russell Sq tube). Mark Littlewood and Neil Gerrard MP (Lab, Walthamstow) will be speaking.

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++ What Just Happened?
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+ Mr Blunkett's bigger picture

His thunder on the main issue stolen, Mr Blunkett only had time to mention ID-cards glancingly in his speech. But he did elaborate the immigration theme in the same context, going on about elaborate monitoring of all visitors, so that does appear to be the current pretext. “This will further secure the UK's borders by efficiently recording people travelling into and out of the UK, using airline reservation information and capturing passengers' biometric data.” Apparently Britain is to have not just ordinary borders but “e-borders”. This is code for yet more databases.

+ ID for Health – Claims and Denials

While everyone was listening for the Home Secretary's big speech, Hazel Blears MP was telling Bloomberg for the delectation of the IT companies that there'll be biometric scanners in every hospital and doctor's surgery. This was followed within 24 hours by official denial. (See Kablenet tinyurl.co.uk/hhbl ) “Whether GP surgery patients will need to authenticate themselves with a biometric scanner has not yet been determined, says the Home Office.”

All very weird. Should we believe a planned presentation to a major news source was off the cuff? Wasn't it a promise only a few months ago that no one would be required to produce ID to receive health services? And if you do have to do so, doesn't that mean an “audit trail” of your visits to the doctor? Will you be able to preserve your privacy by going private?

Ms Blears, who has the chirpy aspect of a cartoon robin, is currently the Home Office minister of choice when the government wants to punt an outrageous attack on civil liberties and see if anyone notices. Her predecessor in the role, no-nonsense (= menacing) Bob Ainsworth, was not nearly so well camouflaged.

+ “Government plans will be reviewed” – but weren't they just announced?

“Computing's Data Debate campaign sparks Whitehall action” …according to Computing
www.vnunet.com/news/1158601
“Newly-appointed head of e-government Ian Watmore is to investigate the proliferation of government databases in response to Computing's Data Debate campaign.” Has no-one explained to Mr Watmore that the proliferation is intentional?

+ “ID cards scheme is in unsafe hands”

Technology Boosters can't agree either: “I've said it before, and will no doubt say it again, but what on earth are national identity cards for? The argument they will prevent terrorism is blatantly nonsense.” Writes Sarah Arnott, also in Computing
www.vnunet.com/comment/1158438
We couldn't agree more. Unfortunately Ms Arnott doesn't stop there. She goes on to spout alternative blatant nonsense out of the songbook of smartcard manufacturers. Apparently we need to secure—and to be unable to change—our online identities. This is achievable through government-controlled biometric ID. And it will be good for the economy.

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++ What's Next?
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+ AGM

A final reminder of NO2ID's first Annual General Meeting this Saturday in Westminster. If you are a paid-up member, you should have received a formal notice. If you are, and haven't, contact the National Secretary (adam@no2id.net). Full report in the next newsletter.

+ Children's Bill

When Parliament returns from its seaside holiday, among the first items for consideration is the Children's Bill. It comes with the late addition of a database of all children under 16 in the country, to contain notes from—and presumably accessible to—all the agencies with which they might become involved. The details, as ever, are vague, secret—or both. We hope this monstrous proposal has a difficult passage.

It should certainly help sort out who in Parliament cares about privacy. Why not ask your MP about it?

+ Queen's Speech trailer

We are told the Home Office has been promised several slots in the Government's legislative programme for the forthcoming year. Guessing their content is like guessing exam questions, with the knowledge that all will be compulsory, and at least one you won't be able to answer. There will undoubtedly be an ID Bill. But when it will appear is hard to predict. It may also be substantially different from the Draft Bill presented earlier in the year (on which see Newsletters 1 and 2). Though it is hard to see how it could be worse than the draft, the Home Office may yet surprise us.

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++ “ID” In The News
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+ “Children Bill repeats ID Card database problems” – Masons
www.out-law.com/php/page.php?page_id=childrenbillrepeat1096381311&area=news
Government plans criticised by the Joint Committee on Human Rights.

+ “Blair's Britain vies with US in ID snoop wars” – The Register
www.theregister.co.uk/2004/09/29/uk_intros_semaphore_capps_uk/
Ah, so that's what they mean by e-borders…

+ “Expert pans quality of government's biometric ID system” – GovExec.com – USA
www.govexec.com/dailyfed/0904/093004tdpm2.htm
And we always thought the US government was better at that sort of thing…

+ “Cabinet Office worker is questioned over leaks to newspaper” – The Independent
news.independent.co.uk/uk/politics/story.jsp?story=567214
But we are grateful to know the cabinet was split on ID.

+ “Smartcards make Inroads into Asia” – Asia Times
www.atimes.com/atimes/South_Asia/FJ02Df03.html
Everybody is at it. Does that make it good?

+ “Malaysia issues dual interface 'MyKad' ID card” – ContactlessNews
tinyurl.co.uk/fmb8
“By the end of 2005, all Malaysian citizens over the age of 12 will be carrying […] multi-purpose MyKad cards incorporate[ing] both government and private sector applications onto a single card.”
And just imagine losing it.

+ “National IDs for everybody?” – CNET News.com
Comment on American schemes: “voters won't be pleased when they've figured out what it actually means”.

+ “Senate Wants Database Dragnet” – Wired News
go.hotwired.com/news/privacy/0,1848,65242,00.html/wn_ascii
And guilt by electronic association, seemingly.

+ “EU's data-protection commissioners concerned about biometrics on
smartcards” – British Journal of Healthcare Computing & Information Management
www.bjhc.co.uk/news/1/2004/n41006.htm
At least somebody cares.

(Please send me any items of interest you encounter – Editor)
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++ What You Can Do
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Like any campaign we need funds and people. Any help or expertise of any kind you can spare will be most welcome. Most important is to get other people involved and to understand the issues. ID-CARDS sound innocent: what the government wants is ID-CONTROL. When people know that they (and their children) may be fingerprinted like criminals and will be made to register every change of address with the authorities, their attitude changes. So:-

1. Tell your friends about the campaign and that you are supporting it. Most people are scarcely aware of the government's ID database project, and few understand the dangers. Feel free to redistribute this newsletter to acquaintances. (But please do introduce it personally and don't spam.) Your personal witness will help others understand that this is an important real-life matter, and not just the province of hyper-political nuts.

2. Let us know if you have time or special expertise that you can give to the organisation, even if only a couple of hours a week. The campaign is getting bigger, but needs to grow some more. We urgently need an experienced Press Officer, more secretarial staff, and policy researchers. We can use any amount of professional creative and marketing expertise as we begin to lift public awareness of the issues.

3. Get together with others in your area to form a local group. A national campaign needs a national network. Guy Taylor ((guy@no2id.net) can give you advice on how to do this. If you are close to London come to the Launch rally on September the 18th. Details of other meetings are posted on the website.

4. Write to the local and national press, to express your concerns whenever there is relevant news. Phone-in to appropriate radio and TV programs. There is plenty of information on (and linked to) the website to help you do this.

5. Write to your MP and MEP expressing your disquiet and ask for _their personal opinion_. (Big-party MPs in particular sometimes avoid controversial issues, or may pass on your letter to the Home Office rather than answering for themselves.) Let us know what they say.

6. Buy a T-shirt, and wear it. This publicises the message—people will ask you what it means—and raises funds. Details on the NO2ID website. Or buy online at:
www.ntkmart.co.uk/ntkmart.cgi#No2ID
or
www.cashncarrion.co.uk/?listPos=&op=catalogue-products-null&prodCategoryID=28

7. Join. Membership starts at GBP15 a year (higher contributions encouraged) and entitles you to a say in the running of NO2ID. Membership form on the website at
www.no2id.net/content/join.html

8. Give generously. A few weeks back we had no money. Now we have a little money, but we will always need more. The Home Office is planning to spend billions. But we will spend your money better. Funds can be transferred to our HSBC Treasurer Account in the name of NO2ID, A/c no: 91339427, Sort Code 40-28-15. You can send a cheque, payable to “NO2ID” to: NO2ID, Box 412, 78 Marylebone High Street, LONDON W1U 5AP. Special donation or sponsorship enquiries should be made to Phil Booth (phil@no2id.net). Help in kind is equally welcome.

9. Link to us. Help us gather support on through the internet by displaying a button or banner (available on the website) and linking to us.

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++ NO2ID Who's Who and Resources
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First port of call should be the website: www.no2id.net/

+ If you have specific assistance or information to offer, you can contact the following NO2ID people:

National Coordinator – Mark Littlewood (mark@no2id.net)
National Secretary – Adam McGreggor (adam@no2id.net)
Treasurer/Fundraiser – Phil Booth (phil@no2id.net)
Marketing/Communications – Andy Robson (andy@no2id.net)
Newsletter Editor – Guy Herbert (newsletter@no2id.net)
Public Affairs and Parliamentary Liaison – Dave Walker (dave@no2id.net)
Local Group Coordinator – Guy Taylor (guy@no2id.net)
Technical Manager – Owen Blacker (owen@no2id.net)

+ Please, please remember that everybody on this list will be getting a huge amount of email, so you should only direct enquiries to the relevant person. We are grateful for all specific offers of help, but can't give detailed answers to individual general queries. There is a lot of information on the website and there will soon be much, much more.

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++ Publication details: (c) NO2ID 2004 – This document may be freely redistributed in one-to-one communications or physical copies as long as it is reproduced in its entirety including this notice. It may not be mass-mailed without the prior permission of NO2ID. NO2ID, Box No.412, 78 Marylebone High Street, LONDON W1U 5AP.

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Order yours now from www.no2id.net/content/tshirt_order.html or
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