Perfect Databases

This ID card system: going to be 100% secure and accurate, isn\’t it?

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, with a group of parliamentarians, was once given a demonstration of a facial recognition system. It failed; indeed the system subsequently crashed, twice. The reason? The baroness was told her face was “too bland”.

The only property that all systems have in common is that they fail. And the bigger the system – 60 million entries on a compulsory ID card database – the greater the opportunity of failure. Systems are much like any life form: they degrade over time, they entropy. In the case of databases, the pick up errors and then build data error upon error. The DVLA in Swansea in 2006, for instance, admitted that a third of entries contained at least one error, and that the proportion was getting worse.

We\’ve all had encounters with computer systems that get it wrong. Barclays once refused one of my transactions because they said I was accessing an account owned by a teenage girl named Ian Angell, who lived at my address and was a professor at LSE. I still had to take a morning off work to explain that a 14-year-old couldn\’t own an account that, according to their own records, had been open for 35 years.

It\’s not just going to be a massive and extremely expensive violation of civil liberties, it\’s going to be a disaster as well, isn\’t it?

5 comments on “Perfect Databases

  1. The scale of the disaster is unimaginable. If they can’t keep hold of a few child benefit records or get the details right on our driving license, the thought of them holding 40 pieces of information on 60 million people is terrifying.

    http://lettersfromatory.wordpress.com

  2. I’ve been saying this since the ID card project was first mooted but it’s worth repeating again:

    As a rather devious person, I can’t wait for the introduction of ID cards.

    When it comes to issuing the cards, they’ll have no problem with the majority of the population. Most people have driving licenses, birth certificates, passports, bank accounts, pension books or any of the other easily verifiable means of identification. But then they’ll hit a problem. There’s a sizeable proportion that don’t have any of these. The drifters & the people who exist in the cracks of society. The ones you see sitting on the bench with their bottle of cider. The chancers who move from cash in hand job to betting shop. The petty crooks who thieve a little here & there or deal a few drugs.
    Yet the ID card will not only be a requirement. It’ll also be an entitlement. It’ll be key to medical treatment & housing & all the other rights that the state showers upon the needy & greedy alike. these people will have to be given cards as well. The ‘rights’ industry with its campaigners & lawyers will demand nothing less.
    So when the ID card arrives, I’ll neglect to wash & shave. I’ll get my self a grubby pair of trainers & a track suit from Oxfam & wash my mouth out with cheap scotch. And I’ll go down to the High Street, heave a brick through Woolworth’s window, sit down & wait to be arrested.
    Soon I’ll be pleading guilty to drunk & disorderly, accepting my minuscule punishment, if any, with due contrition & looking forward to meeting my newly appointed social worker who will arranging my shiny new ID card issued in the identity of my choice. Now I’ll have the key to obtaining bank accounts, credit cards, driving licenses & all those other instruments for fraud & deceit.
    Roll on ID day!

  3. No government has ever succeeded in keeping even its secret files secret (has any intelligence service ever been water tight?), so how on earth do they imagine they can manage it on a vastly larger scale, with an open (in relative terms) distributed architecture which is *intended* to be heavily accessed?

    Seriously. What’s the definition of insanity again? Repeatedly doing the same thing and expecting a different result…

  4. it’s going to be a disaster as well, isn’t it?

    Thankfully, yes.

    Building it is going to be a monstrous waste of money, but nowhere near as bad an outcome as is they could happen actually get the damn thing to work.

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