ID cards not meeting data protection laws

The Information Commissioner yesterday released his response to the government’s consultation on entitlement (or ID) cards, expressing his concerns over the security and administration of the scheme.

Information Commissioner Richard Thomas said the current proposals are “so widely drawn that it is impossible to confirm the necessary privacy and data protection safeguards will be in place”.

“The present proposals raise a number of serious concerns that must be remedied if the scheme is to meet the requirements of data protection law,” he added.

But the Commission is not against the introduction of identity cards, seeing them as an effective and secure way of enabling a person to prove his or her identity. What it wants are strict limitations on the amount of data that is held on the card and strengthened data protection supervision and inspection powers.

It seems the government has a lot of clarifying to do before the Commissioner and civil liberties groups — such as Privacy International, which spoke out against the consultation paper just last week — will be happy to proceed with the idea of ID cards.

“We must be under no illusion. We are dealing with matters touching on the very nature of the society in which we live. There must be greater clarity about the main purposes behind an effective mandatory entitlement card,” added Thomas.

Thomas’ key concerns include:

– the problems of relying on existing data bases which are or questionable quality;

– the ongoing challenge of keeping personal data up to date;

– stopping the card itself becoming the target for identity fraudsters;

– excessive amounts of information displayed on the card and the dangers of misuse by others.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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