27/8/04 NO2ID NEWSLETTER – Supporter's Newsletter No.3

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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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THE INFORMATION COMMISSIONER SPEAKS OUT

A real boost for objectors last week. In an interview with The Times, Richard Thomas, the Information Commissioner, who is in charge of overseeing the UK's data protection regime, attacked not only the Home Office's National Identity Register but its shadow in the Office of National Statistics and the newly-mooted Children's Act database. “My anxiety is that we don't sleepwalk into a surveillance society where much more information is collected about people, accessible to far more people shared across many more boundaries than British society would feel comfortable with.” He said. He suggested comparisons with the former East German secret police, the Stasi, were paranoiac at this stage… but invited them, nevertheless.

The Commissioner's words were impressively strong ones for a British public official and have generated a lot of interest. He has a little way to go however before reaching the outspokenness of his equivalent in the Canadian province of Alberta. According to the Calgary News: '[…]privacy commissioner, Frank Work, says he would refuse to get one should they become mandatory. “I won't carry one,” says Work. “They can come and get me.”'

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THE CBI MUMBLES

The Confederation of British Industry has published a response to the HO consultation. (Obtainable from www.cbi.org.uk/ ) Its conclusions are confusing. Big business likes the idea of ID cards, but isn't really sure why. It is however uneasy about the proposed system, not least because—like everyone else who has been paying attention—the CBI has noticed that the Home Office won't say exactly what it is trying to do, or why.

We suggest that at least part of the confusion is because the Confederation begins by accepting the need for, and value, of a centralised ID-system, and feeding-back many of the Government's own assertions. It has taken on faith that a single identity authentication system is a Good Thing and will work as advertised—precisely what most critics have taken issue with. That, having swallowed the Home Office's inconsistent premises and varied past pretexts, it can't reconcile them with the obscure and far-reaching proposals in the Draft Bill should not be a surprise. Neither can anyone else.

There is one unequivocal point that stands out, however. And it is an important one. Businesses should not be held liable if they use information from the Identity Register that is wrong. We agree. Why should they? (Though we wonder why they would expect to be using the information.)

Will the Home Office admit that the Identity Register will go wrong, and consider the consequences for individuals as well as businesses when it does?

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WHAT JUST HAPPENED?

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The Information Commissioner's comments were the occasion for Mark Littlewood to appear on Five News for NO2ID, talking to Kirsty Young. A Government representative did not join the studio debate but was separately interviewed by video-link. As often on these occasions Five held a live phone-in poll: “Is Britain in danger of becoming a surveillance state?” Yes, said 75%. While it is certainly as unscientific as Martin Linton MP's own vox pop (Newsletter No.2) this at least shows public opinion isn't solidly behind the Government. What people say depends on what the question is.

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Of interest in relation to the future uses of an Identity Register was a Court of Appeal Case on 30th July www.lawreports.co.uk/civauge0.3.html It seems that under certain circumstances the police already have wide discretion to disclose charges not resulting in a conviction.

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A little late we have picked up The Freedom Association's submission to the Home Office consultation www.tfa.net/id001.pdf It is forcefully against in principle. Normally associated with the right of the Conservative Party, TFA is a group that it is very hard for Mr Blunkett to dismiss as airy-fairy and soft on crime.

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Otherwise August has been politically quiet, and we hope you've had a chance to enjoy a break. Things may hot up as the weather cools down.

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We think Mr Blunkett's private life is his own business and have no interest in it. We only wish his civil servants could be persuaded that the same is true of the rest of us.

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WHAT'S NEXT?

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Defy-id Resisting Identity Cards Gathering September 11th 2004, Manchester

The direct action network defy-id is holding a free gathering to organise resistance to the Government's plans. You can email admin@defy-id.org.uk or phone 07980 291478 for details of the venue, or more information.

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NATIONAL LAUNCH of NO2ID

September 18th There will be a London rally at a central location beginning at 11am, with speakers, a convivial lunch and campaigning activities in the afternoon. Stay for as much or as little as you like, but help us get started with a bang. To give us an idea of numbers in advance, register your interest through meeting@no2id but feel free just to come along-and bring a friend. Full details in the next issue.

If you would like to be involved in an alternative event closer to home on that day contact Guy Taylor guy@no2id for help.

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Political Conferences. Anyone who'd like to help—particularly Labour Party members who may be attending their Conference, where we are planning a fringe meeting—please get in touch.

Liberal Democrat Party Conference (Brighton) 19th – 23rd September Labour Party Conference (Brighton) 26th – 30th September Conservative Party Conference (Bournemouth) 4th – 7th October

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AGM AGAIN

A reminder of NO2ID's first Annual General Meeting on 9th October in Westminster. It will be for paid-up members only. So join now and have your say.

Individual membership is open to anyone who supports our aims and who pays an annual membership fee. Membership starts at 15 GBP (with an 8 GBP concessionary rate). We have deliberately set the rate low to make membership affordable to as many people as possible, but encourage you to pay what you feel you can afford as a membership fee, since we are not a charity and gifts to us are taxed. Membership forms are available on the NO2ID website, or you can write in with your name and address, enclosing a cheque for your membership fee to NO2ID. It is our policy not to pass on the details of members and supporters to any outside organisation.

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EUROPEAN SOCIAL FORUM

Volunteers are needed to help run a stall at the European Social Forum on 14th -17th October in London www.fse-esf.org/en/. In is own words, the ESF is “a unique opportunity where social movements, trade unions, NGOs, refugees, peace and anti-imperialist groups, anti-racist movements, environmental movements, networks of the excluded and community campaigns from Europe and the world can come together.” So it is a chance to get our message across to a diverse range of activists and organisations—and to meet unusual people. If you can spare even a few hours, please contact <meeting@no2id.net>

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BUTTONS & BANNERS

Website buttons and banners will be available for download on the NO2ID website shortly. Please display them on your website to show support and link to us.

“ID” IN THE NEWS

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The Information Commissioner put the cat among the pigeons, for a week at least, with leaders in all serious papers. Even THE SUN said: “BRITAIN is entering a Big Brother age of state snooping, a watchdog warned last night. Round-the-clock surveillance will create data files on everyone…”

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And various people were as confused as us by the CBI:

CBI Wishes for the ID Scheme we're not getting An alternative interpretation from The Register www.theregister.co.uk/2004/08/13/cbi_id_scheme_critique/

EMPLOYERS raise concerns over ID card security ComputerWeekly.com … are “significant questions” over the security of the government's proposed central population register which underpins the national ID card programme.… www.computerweekly.com/articles/article.asp?liArticleID=132743

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'Every Little Helps' – a piece that illustrates data matching and asserts Tesco have advised the government on ID cards www.theecologist.org/article.html?article=470

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Identity Crisis CorporateWatch casts a jaundiced eye over the participating institutions (though it is actually a little generous on the statistics of false fingerprint matches) www.corporatewatch.org/news/identity_crisis.htm

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'National Identity Cards on Trial in the UK' – speculation from US analysts on whether government might pull part of the scheme www.econtentmag.com/Articles/ArticleReader.aspx?ArticleID=6868

(This largely relates to trials of biometric cards, which could be dropped or delayed without affecting the core of the scheme, which is the population register.)

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Senator Edward Kennedy has been prevented from flying on commercial flights in the US. Even with his influence it has taken some time to sort out: www.cbsnews.com/stories/2004/04/06/terror/main610466.shtml

A classic example of how running society by central databases is not quite the infallible solution to every problem that the Home Office would like us to believe. Who are you going to call?

** (Please send me any items of interest you encounter – Editor)

WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT

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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. 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. 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. 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&prod CategoryID=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 www.no2id.net/content/buttons.html) 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.

*********** Support the campaign, buy (wear!) a T-shirt ***********

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