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Identity Cards - a Global Perspective

Identity Cards - a Global Perspective

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Published by Ivan Jankovic
High-tech ID systems, incorporating smart cards, biometrics and radio-frequencies and connected to mega- databases to track our every movement, are being introduced simultaneously worldwide. Is this a coincidence?
High-tech ID systems, incorporating smart cards, biometrics and radio-frequencies and connected to mega- databases to track our every movement, are being introduced simultaneously worldwide. Is this a coincidence?

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Published by: Ivan Jankovic on Mar 09, 2013
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OCTOBER NOVEMBER 2009www.nexusmagazine.comNEXUS 11
E
lectronic identity (ID) cards have made alarming progress towardsbecoming universal around the world. Already, over 2.2 billionpeople, or 33 per cent of the world's population, have been issuedwith "smart" ID cards. Of those cards, over 900 million havebiometric facial and fingerprint systems. On present plans, over 85 per centof the world's population will have smart ID cards by 2012. Most of theremaining population won't have escaped: largely, they are already enrolledin earlier-generation ID systems, often in repressive states such as Myanmar(Burma).Understandably, campaigns against the introduction of ID cards havetended to play up the problems with ID systems, presenting them as beingunworkable and creating unmanageable problems with privacy invasion,fraud, unauthorised database access, organised crime, unreliability ofbiometric recognition, etc. As a result, a substantial number of peoplebelieve mandatory ID cards "just won't happen".It's long past time to stop burying our heads in the sand. There are noobstacles to the worldwide introduction of mandatory electronic ID cards. All those problems with ID systems may be real, but they are not enoughto stop implementation, primarily because these are problems that willaffect people as individuals, not their governments—our problem, not theirs.There has been hardly any meaningful debate about one of the biggestissues of our time.It's also time to look at what ID systems are really intended to do, not atthe public justification for them. Since governments probably always knewthat ID cards wouldn't stop terrorism, organised crime, ID theft, fraud, etc.,there has to be some other reason for their introduction—and it appears tobe a reason that governments don't want to own up to in public.
A Coordinated International ID Agenda?
Perhaps we can learn more if we look at what is going on around the world.Interestingly, nobody seems to have published a comprehensive or reliablesurvey of worldwide ID schemes, so a survey had to be compiled for thisarticle [see tables in author's original posting; Ed.]. What stands out from this survey, incomplete as it may be, is that advancedelectronic ID card systems are coming to some of the poorest nations in theworld, some in chaos, civil war and starvation, both small and large countries.They are coming to nations with vastly divergent cultures, to nations that arealmost completely pre-industrialised and underdeveloped, and coming firstto almost all Islamic nations. The few that will not have advanced electronicpopulation registration will be in a tiny minority. This is all to happen by theend of 2012.For example, on 25 June 2009, India announced it is pressingahead with the introduction of universal biometric ID cards, to be completedby 2011—to register nearly 1.2 billion people within just 18 months.
IDENTITYENTITYCARDSRDS
A GG
LOBALOBAL
P
ERSPECTIVERSPECTIVE
High-tech ID systems,incorporating smartcards, biometrics andradio-frequencies andconnected to mega-databases to trackour every movement,are being introducedsimultaneouslyworldwide.Is this a coincidence?
by Nathan Allonby
© Global Research31 August 2009Centre for Research onGlobalizationMontreal, Canada
Website: www.globalresearch.ca
 
However, there are grey areas. For example, in somestates, such as Mozambique and Zambia, there arebiometric ID cards for voter registration which aren'tofficially national ID cards but nonetheless haveregistered the population."Election cards" tend to become national ID cardsimmediately after an election, as in Haiti. (How didintroducing ID cards get linked to "bringing indemocracy"?) The USA would probably be in the greyarea due to the uncertainty (deliberately not clarified)about the Real ID Act, Canada due to proposals forbiometric "enhanced drivers licenses", and Australia dueto the uncertain status of the Access Card. Anyuncertainty gets put into perspective by the "bigpicture": ID cards are coming, almost everywhere.The simultaneous introduction of very similar ID cardsystems in so many nations seems more than acoincidence. If it were purely amatter of nations taking theirown initiative to upgradesystems, this would happenover a longer timetable asnations periodically updatedsystems once every couple ofdecades. Does this timetableindicate unseen internationalpressure applied to nations toadopt ID cards?In the process of researchingthe list, something interestingcame out. The plans tointroduce a national ID cardsystem in Uganda were announced in a memorandum ofunderstanding, dated 20 June 2008, sent to theInternational Monetary Fund (IMF).The impression is that the IMF was involved in thedecision long before the people of Uganda wereconsulted about their national ID card scheme.Has the IMF required nations to adopt biometric IDcards, on the pretext of instigating financial regulationand preventing fraud and money laundering? Again and again, in the public description of thealleged benefits of biometric ID systems, the reasonsgiven include the benefit to the banking system, inpreventing fraud, and allowing the poor to have accessto the banking system.Several nations (e.g., India) have mentioned the needto confirm that aid gets to the intended recipients andis not lost in fraud—again, something which a bodysuch as the IMF might see as a justifiable reason topromote or require biometric ID, but other peoplewould see as a mere pretext for "policy laundering".In a different example of western promotion, theEuropean Union (EU) has financially sponsored theintroduction of biometric ID cards in the DemocraticRepublic of Congo, allegedly to help promote peace bytracking down ex-soldiers and ex-fighters. A similarlogic has been applied to a biometric scheme inSomalia.Grotesquely, biometric ID cards are coming toRwanda. ID cards were a major tool in the Rwandangenocide. Imagine how much more effective thegenocide could have been with a computerisedpopulation register and an ID system with biometrics toprevent fraud or evasion. Rwanda's experience is anhorrific illustration of how lethal ID cards can be in anation in civil war, and raises uncomfortable questionsabout western involvement, as does the situation inCongo.
Policy Harmonisation in the EU, UK and USA
The worldwide introduction of ID cards is merely thevisible witness of an invisible process. Policies thatprofoundly affect our lives and take away our freedomsare worked out in secretinternational deals.In July 2005, during its six-month rotation in thePresidency of the EU, theUnited Kingdom introduced aproposal for biometric IDcards for Europe despite thefact that it had no power to doso under the EU treaties atthat time.Legalities being no obstacle,this subsequently evolved intobinding EU policy in theHague Programme on justiceand security.However, policies introducing ID cards, evolved insecret, go far beyond identification and security, asdescribed by Tony Bunyan of Statewatch in an article inthe
Guardian
("The surveillance society is an EU-wideissue", 28 May 2009; includes quotations from Bunyan'sStatewatch report, "The Shape of Things to Come"). IDcards are only one tool, enabling a much larger schemeto track and record the life of every individual; Bunyancalls this the "digital tsunami".
'Every object the individual uses, every transaction theymake and almost everywhere they go will create a detaileddigital record. This will generate a wealth of information for public security organisations', leading to behavioubeing predicted and assessed by 'machines' (their term)which will issue orders to officers on the spot. The proposalpresages the mass gathering of personal data on travel,bank details, mobile phone locations, health records,internet usage, criminal records however minor, fingerprints and digital pictures that can be data-minedand applied to different scenario[s]—boarding a plane,behaviour on the Tube or taking part in a protest.
But this isn't just coming to Europe, as Bunyanexplains, because the USA and Europe will share similar
12NEXUSwww.nexusmagazine.com OCTOBER NOVEMBER 2009
Has the IMF requirednations to adopt biometricID cards, on the pretext ofinstigating financialregulation and preventingfraud and moneylaundering?
 
policies and practices in an agenda of policyharmonisation:
...it is proposed that by 2014 the EU needs to create a 'Euro- Atlantic area of cooperation with the USA in the field of  freedom, security and justice'. This would go far beyondcurrent co-operation and mean that policies affecting theliberties and rights of everyone in Europe would not bedetermined in London or Brussels but in secret EU–USmeetings.
 Was this a response to 9/11? No, emphatically not. We can say this because some of these schemes have apublished history and timeline dating from muchearlier, e.g., Taiwan, 1997, and India, 1999. We can tracea continuing pursuit of ID-based databases back to the Australia Card, which was defeated in1987. We can also say with certaintythat EU–US cooperation on securitypre-dates 9/11, as does EUdevelopment of security databaseswhich have been applied to politicalprotestors.
What Do ID Cards Do?
The new cards are like a high-tech"glue", an interface, joining togetherall the different state databases andlinking their information together.This is the significance of the "multi-functional" identity function ofthe new cards: one ID number isthe key to access all services andalso all databases. One card, onenumber, tracks a person acrossmultiple activities, across theirwhole life and everything theydo—employment, tax, health,everything. When numerousdatabases are linked together bymeans of a common interface, inthis case ID numbers, theyeffectively function as a single"meta-database".In the
Guardian
(30 September 2003), home affairseditor Alan Travis wrote that the "citizen informationregister" in Britain will "bring together all the existinginformation held by the government" on its 58 millionresidents:
It will include their name, address, date of birth, sex, and aunique personal number to form a 'more accurate andtransparent' database than existing national insurance,tax, medical, passport, voter and driving licence records...The decision to give the go-ahead to the nationalpopulation register without any apparent need for newlegislation or any public debate is in sharp contrast to theintense cabinet debate now taking place over the...identitycard scheme......The scheme is a joint project between the Office of National Statistics and the Treasury...The idea was developed by the Treasury's public servicesproductivity panel—a group of senior business people andpublic services managers...[The Home Office] admitted a national identity cardscheme will have to be 'underpinned by a database of allUK residents' and asked for views on whether the citizensinformation register should be used for this purpose...
The Indian ID scheme is another major example. According to an article in the
Hindu
(26 June 2009):
...the UID [Unique IDentification] numbers and thedatabase will be linked to agencies such as the ElectionCommission of India and the Income Tax Department,which...issue...voters photo identitycards...In addition, it will be used for providing services under governmentschemes such as the publicdistribution system, and the NationalRural Employment GuaranteeScheme for families living below thepoverty line...and for delivering financial and other assistance to theneedy.
This is the new model for e-government around the world.Historically, this isn't the firsttime we have seen systems likethis. It is very similar in conceptto the Nazi ID system, as it finallyevolved, with a Reich PersonnelNumber to link all otherdatabases.The system of compiling theinitial population register fromrecords in existing, earlierdatabases is, again, very similarto Nazi practice. Why should this be significant? Why should there be any big dealabout the government collecting together data that italready has? As reported by Henry Porter in his
Guardian
blog (25February 2009):
'Once an individual has been assigned a unique indexnumber, it is possible to accurately retrieve data acrossnumerous databases and build a picture of thatindividual's life that was not authorised in the originalconsent for data collection,' says Sir David Omand in areport for the Institute for Public Policy Research...In 2006 Sir David Varney, the head of TransformationalGovernment, predicted that the state would know 'a deeptruth about the citizen based on their behaviour, experience,beliefs, needs or desires'.
OCTOBER NOVEMBER 2009www.nexusmagazine.comNEXUS 13
...one ID number isthe key to accessall services and alsoall databases...When numerousdatabases arelinked togetherby means of acommoninterface, in thiscase ID numbers,they effectivelyfunction as a single"meta-database".

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