Wednesday, 25 May 2011


Less than a year after dismantling the previous government’s plans for an “identity card” scheme, the coalition has decided to introduce an “identity assurance” scheme, which from what I can make out still involves a “card”. So that will be an “identity assurance card” instead of an “identity card”.

A prototype will be in use within months and will be used to reliably identify the users of government web sites, although just how reliably is the question.

Currently Visa (the credit card system preferred by the government, and the only one valid for the purchase of Olympic tickets) has been involved in trials with its customers, where they can log into government websites using their credit cards.

I’m not certain which is more dangerous: my credit card details being known by the government, or my use of government internet sites being known by my bank. But something even more worrying is that Francis Maude appears to be in charge of the project, which almost certainly dooms it to failure.

He reckons that the proposed system will make it more difficult for fraudsters to dupe the benefit and tax systems. (I’m not sure how some of his colleagues will feel about that, but perhaps they could find a way of ensuring that Noble Lords have a card as soon as possible, as they seem to be fiddling on a grand scale, according to one of their number.)

The use of the internet for the delivery of government services is not an unreasonable idea. Of course it will save a lot of money. Offices all over the country where people used to be able to go to talk about their business on a one to one basis have long since closed, or become call centres where people can at least talk to another human being about their problems, albeit not face to face. How much cheaper would it be to sack half of these staff and replace them with an online service?

Who cares about quality of service?

Another worry about this is that, of course, there are still people who have no idea how to use a computer, most of them over 65, and there are very many who have no access to a computer.

Use of public computers for personal transactions, with identity cards (sorry identity assurance cards, by people who are not “net savvy” will create far more security problems than use of the cards may eliminate.

Sometimes you have to wonder why they bothered changing governments in England. (I say that because our representation didn’t change at all, except that SNP and Liberal by-election wins went back to Labour!)

I trust that these cards will at least be free, and the invasion of our privacy won't, as proposed by the last lot of incompetents, cost us £40-£60.


  1. Tris

    Re costs, never assume, these are torys we are talking about. OK the last lot were torys with a different name, but you get my drift.

  2. Mmm, I hadn't read about this and have googled it. Scarey stuff and I had hope there's uproar, but we've become so subservient I doubt it will hardly be mentioned.

  3. "The use of the internet for the delivery of government services is not an unreasonable idea. Of course it will save a lot of money."

    Having been involved in the delivery of online systems for local government, I wouldn't be too quick to jump to conclusions! Theoretically, this is true, as long as each council is not paying to have its own individual software for the same tasks, they are organised in what they want and how they want it done, and they don't pay the same few crappy companies to create the software.

    Unfortunately, this is not quite how it happens. I spent two years on a piece of software to implement new licensing laws, and I was joining it in the second half of its lifecycle. By the time I left, that software was STILL going through various changes before it could be fully adopted by councils, and I'm fairly sure there was some change to the law a few months ago which means it's already a bit out of date. It's quite pathetic, really. I also worked on a piece of software that interfaced with another piece of software that came from Private Eye's favourite local government service provider (Crapita), and that interface continually changed, meaning our software had to keep changing too.

    Of course, the main problem here is people who are not very well versed in the software development process calling the shots, leading to things having to be changed, and every change to software costs money. Get your requirements sorted out at the start, and changes to the final product should be minimal.

    Maybe I should get Big Eck to hire me as the government's IT consultant...

  4. I'm all for simplifying access to government websites/services etc but not by this approach. I wouldn't trust the UK gov with a 40 watt light bulb let alone my credit card details.

    I smell a rat and its identity cards by stealth.

  5. tris

    I dont know about youse but me I am in an right old 'Uproar' over this...................

    Subrosa..he ..he..he....Giggle

  6. It's the perfect tool for control. You can become a non person at the click of a button. See how long you last without access to big brother.

  7. Hoi! Republicans

    wot abaht this

    Alex Salmond: we'll keep the Queen while England becomes a republic

    Alex Salmond, the first minister of Scotland, has just given a gushing interview about the Queen in which he raises an intriguing prospect. The SNP leader tells Prospect magazine that an independent Scotland would keep the Queen as head of state while England would be better off as a republic

    Salmond said he loved the royal wedding, which he attended, because it broke the traditional "English reserve" and ushered in a "carnival-like atmosphere" which he likens to Hogmanay. He says he "missed a trick" after failing to plaster Edinburgh in royal colours:


    Ha! Ha! Ha!

    suck on that me boy-o's

  8. Nikostratos said...

    I'll never grow up..never

    Not if you are person of your word as actions speak louder.

  9. Looks like another U-turn from the U turn in chief

  10. I trust in nothing when it comes to Westminster Dubs.

  11. SR: I don't think Brits do uproars. I guess it will simply happen like every other thing they are doing to us and we'll moan a bit and say we'll never vote for them again...which of course I never have anway.

    I see that despite banging on about localism, and how big government shouldn't be poking its nose into everyone's affairs, mr Pickles has overturned a local council's decision, which was backed by local referenda (99%) in 20 villages, to not allow a company to dump low level nuclear waste in a landfill sight somewhere in England.

    Mr Pickles it seems knows better than all the people who live there about the risks.

    Don't you just thank your lucky stars every day that that fat loonie has absolutely NOTHING to do with our country.

  12. Oh yes, Doug. I know only too well the kind of IT equipment that Westminster has bought and how incredibly inappropriate it has been, unequal to the tasks required, expensive and late. Of course as you pointy out if they will keep changing the goalposts then it can’t help. The Passport Office, the Tax Office, Jobcentre Plus, the list in endless.

    I suspect civil servants who know less than nothing about software and not quite as much as they should do about what goes on in their departments, what the software will be required to do, topped by ministers who keep getting their laws wrong, faced with systems salesmen who know every trick in the book, are at a disadvantage.

    Then there’s teh staff that operate the systems.

    But my biggest worry is that many people will not be able to access systems which are only available via the internet. The biggest users, I would imagine, are the old, the sick and the poor. (Although that covers about 80% of the population.) They will be left with telephone contacts... but very few of them.

  13. LOL Allan, a 40 watt lightbulb. Certainly not.

    Yes, an identity card by any other name would smell as rat-like!

  14. God Niko. You are taking your life in your hands if SR checks back here!!!

  15. LOL Niko.

    Salmond has never said he was a republican.

    We all know he gets on famously with the Queen, who probably finds him a delight after having dealt with Thatcher (overbearing cow), Blair (supercilious muppet), Brown (manic depressive monster), and now Tory Boy (the thickest of them all).

    Eck is just Eck and he would speak to the Queen the same way as he speaks to you or me.

    Personally, I've no problem with the Queen at all. It’s the fact that she unfortunately won't be with us forever, and then we get Big Ears and Mrs Big Ears Parker Bowles, both of whom I'd happily drop off the top of the Scott Monument, heid first!!

  16. Och CH... I don't mind him not growing up. I'll be damned if I'm gonna do it either.

  17. Yes, the

    Mrs Thatcher must be birling in her... oh,not yet, sorry.

  18. Monty: Who is going to supply all the internet access for the poor and the old to become enslated to them.

    It's not cheap and I suspect not everyone even wants to be a part of it, even if they had the wherewithal, and the intelligence to learn.

  19. tris..

    The poor and old would be catered for by a freephone number to a call centre ( probably the same number as at present for benefits). The call handler would ask the person for their unique code and then put the phone down if they've been deselected from the system. If they were still on the system the call handler would do all the data inputs required. Persistent calls from a non person would result in a visit from an enforcement officer , followed by imprisonment for persistent offenders.

  20. OK Monty. That's the theory. Now in practice they'd be saving money so some poor old soul in a call box for 3/4 hour listening to an endless mix of Musak and a sugary sweet voice telling them that both their operators are busy right now; if they would care to hold; their call IS important to the government... well importatish, well sort of...actually nobody gives a damn and if they'd be so kind to get on with dying sharpish it would save the government a lot of money.

  21. tris

    ha ha right enough. It's a win win for the government. Anyone without internet access is a 'useless eater' to them anyway. Come to think of it non persons would probably have their internet access cut off as well.

  22. Wouldn't put it past them Monty.

    I suppose WasteMonster has control of telecommunications.