Second thoughts about Britain’s ID cards and privacy

A new survey suggests British are increasingly wary of ID cards and their government's intrusion into privacy.

Shaun Curry/AFP/Newscom/File
A British Home Office employee displayed a biometric ID card when it was introduced in 2008. A new survey suggests public support for the cards has fallen and worries about government intrusions into privacy are on the rise.

The ASI has long campaigned against intrusive government; they lack the right to pry into citizen's lives, and cannot be trusted to look after and use the information they amass responsibly. And now, new polling by the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust suggests that the average Joe is becoming increasingly wary of government activity, too.

63% of those questioned were worried about the government holding data on them, up from 53% in the 2006 poll. 53% respondents now believe that ID cards are a 'bad' or even worse idea; a staggering leap from opposition of 33% in 2006. In addition, 56% of people think government power too centralized, while a massive 88% of respondents want local communities to have more say over decisions that effect them.

What these figures clearly show is that people are becoming fed up of government projects that gather and centralize information and power. Indeed, the significant rise in the number of people who are concerned about the Big Brother state is striking. The current low standing of politicians and past scandals with lost data have surely gone some way to increase the public's aversion to the retention of personal information. However, somewhere along line, New Labour's erosion of our privacy has also caused people to switch from thinking 'If I have done nothing wrong than I have nothing to hide', to having real apprehension about government's plans.

Obviously, the incumbent government is charging full steam ahead with Operation Observation, by rolling out ID cards on a (for now) voluntary basis to the 16-24 year olds of London. While both the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have pledged to scrap the cards, neither party has developed a meaningful agenda to really break down the monolithic state that currently looms over Britain and sucks in political and economic power at every opportnity. In politics, too much information and power is held by too few, and the Rowntree poll results suggest that a tipping point in the nation's tolerance could well be approaching.

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