Memorandum submitted by Mr William Selka
Firstly, congratulations in identifying this
issue as important.
Privacy and rights (or absence of them) of the
individual have long been a differentiating factor between the
UK and other countries and I believe are an essential ingredient
Personally, I don't mind the state knowing where
I am, but I do object to the state having the right to know.
The ability of the courts to apply common sense
and the layers of overlapping laws and precedent gives the UK
the best and fairest legal systems in the world. I am a big fan
of the idea that you can do anything that isn't illegal, rather
than having to have permission for everything.
My concern about the drift of the state towards
surveillance, in particular ID cards, is that it potentially changes
the legal definition of an individual from something that the
courts assess at the time of the charge to a set of attributes
on a computer. I refer to the courts because this is where a disagreement
between the individual and the state will end up. ID cards may
be cheaper to administer than the current system of identification
in court but there are huge opportunities for abuse. A set of
attributes on a computer can be sold, modified and duplicated
in a way that the individual themselves cannot be. I am not even
sure whether the ID card scheme will be cheaper to administer,
as the expected costs look horrific.
If the state redefines the relationship with
the individual as a relationship to this computer data, this will
significantly undermine for me the attraction of being British,
taking a step backwards, becoming more like other countries in
You may be able to quote existing miscarriages
of justice and administrative difficulties as justification for
increased state surveillance, but to give up on the principle
for practical reasons would be profoundly sad and an indication
that the government does not appreciate the jewel that the UK
currently has, in the strange way that the relationship between
state and individual has developed.
I have never made a submission to a committee
before, so I am not sure whether this is in the correct format,
but please do not underestimate the importance of your work and
please, please, don't let us sleepwalk into a situation where
the identity thieves get more power and individuals less freedom
due to the state's administrative laziness and desire to control
As a minimum, if the worst happens, and the
government and computer industry is successful in forcing ID cards
onto us, I would like to see penalties for civil servants who
sell identities to be extremely severe, on a par with treason.