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« Another thing invented by lawyers | Main | The role of identity cards »

Identity and incentives

By Dave Birch posted Feb 5 2008 at 9:56 PM
[Dave Birch] Now, I don't want to blow my own trumpet (well, not strictly true I suppose) but it's only taken me five minutes to come up with a better idea of an incentive for identity card use in the U.K. than any I've heard so far from the government's management consultants. Does anyone remember the story of Geldkarte in Germany? It was a barely-used electronic purse added to German bank cards some years ago. It was moribund until the big bankers came up with an excellent (and I use the word deliberately) wheeze. They persuaded the German government to pass a law requiring the use of bank cards (that could verify age) to buy cigarettes. Naturally, Geldkarte complied with the relevant standards, and away they went. Now I notice that Japan is going down a similar route:

The Tobacco Institute of Japan has started accepting applications for taspo age-verification cards to be used at cigarette-vending machines starting in March... To obtain the card, an application form with a mugshot and a copy of a document that shows the applicant's age, such as a driver's license, must be mailed to the institute... From July, all 520,000 cigarette-vending machines in the nation will require the card, which also can be used as an electronic money card to buy cigarettes from vending machines.

[From Smart card for cigarette machines introduced : Business : DAILY YOMIURI ONLINE (The Daily Yomiuri)]
Now there's an idea. You could bring in a quarter of the population at a stroke (bad choice of language, I know) and build from there.

Leaked Home Office documents reveal teenagers may need an ID card to open a bank account or take out a student loan from 2010, making them (according to this article) among the first people to have the "controversial biometric cards" in the U.K. Surely smokers (and drinkers) are a better target if you want to find something that people will actually go out and get an ID card for?

Please don't think I'm being flippant -- I learned my lesson a couple of years ago when I made a joke about putting Personal Carbon Allowances on ID Cards to dress the initiative in a green cloak (or camouflage, perhaps), only to see it later put forward as a serious suggestion -- but this is an inevitable direction of the tragic (in the sense of inevitable) mission creep that accompanies identity technology in the hands of bureaucrats. And if you don't believe me, have a listen to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Assistant Secretary for Policy, Stewart Baker...

Just five days after the Department of Homeland Security released the final regulations to implement the REAL ID Act, DHS Assistant Secretary for Policy Stewart Baker suggested yet another terrifying use of the controversial ID card: to buy Sudafed.

[From PolicyBeta - Blog Archive - REAL ID for Sudafed? Call it ‘Mission Creep’]

We need to start with a clean sheet of paper and design a national identity management scheme from first principles, a scheme that distributes the benefits between government, business and individuals so that all of them actually want it.

These opinions are my own (I think) and are presented solely in my capacity as an interested member of the general public [posted with ecto]


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