Identification quandary

Britain looks to keep tabs on visitors with a new, controversial form of ID card.

The British are taking steps to keep closer tabs on visitors to their country by demanding the use of ID cards for some visitors and foreigners. These cards are a supposed step forward in secure technology, featuring biometric information such as face scans and fingerprint data. There is cause for concern, however, that these cards will soon be mandatory and consolidate too much sensitive information into one piece of plastic.

The ID cards will soon be required for all foreigners and tourists who enter Great Britain for more than three months. This also applies to students who are studying abroad. In addition, workers in industries vulnerable to terrorism, such as airport workers, will be required to have the cards. Beginning in 2010, the cards will be offered on a voluntary basis to interested individuals.

The British have certainly been subjected to more terrorist activity on their soil than we have, and they also have difficulties with illegal immigrants. This is a strict, but justified, attempt to keep closer tabs on the comings and goings of individuals.

The program starts to raise concern when we consider the massive amounts of critical data that will be stored in a central location. Just in the past six months, records of 25 million citizens receiving child benefits were stolen, as well as a laptop containing the data of 600,000 other citizens. These cases of sloppy security give legitimacy to the claim that the government couldn’t handle a database with such personal information.

And then there’s the concern of the big brother factor. Britain is already notorious for its complex and comprehensive network of cameras keeping an eye on the British people. That an ID card could become compulsory is a scary thought for many. The Conservative Party has vowed to quash the system if it can.

Keeping a closer eye on immigrants and visitors can be justified, but the inclusion of current citizens should be slowed, and meticulously examined. The government must ensure such a system will be implemented without endangering personal information and violating individual privacy rights.