Thursday, November 16, 2006

Ask Tony

My question didn't get asked. Unsurprising but bah all the same.

Blair was questioned about the National Identity Register scheme. He was asked to explain who will have access to the details on the register. He tried to dismiss the importance of this by saying that "the key for this thing is... the fact that you have the biometric data of your fingerprint and your iris scan. That's the data that matters and that data is peculiar to you."

Not for the first time, you have to ask whether he's being deliberately misleading or just a fool.

Your fingerprints and iris patterns are indeed peculiar to you but the identity that those biometric details are linked to on the database is determined by fallible, corruptible human beings. Human error will cause many problems but that isn't my main concern. As was reported not so long ago, a large part of the reason why drugs are so freely available in British prisons is because a small minority of prison officers have been corrupted by wealthy criminals. The idea that some of those who maintain the national identity register will not be similarly corrupted is fanciful in the extreme.

So what, says Blair, you're biometric identifiers are peculiar to you. The system is infallible.

Well, if I was a wealthy criminal with a sense of humour (which I'm obviously not) here's what I'd do. As soon as Blair's biometrics are added to the database, I'd have some fun. I'd pay an amenable NIR maintenance officer to take those biometric details, detach them from the identity "Tony Blair" and attach them instead to the identity "Osama bin Laden". Blair goes to demonstrate his shiny infallible new system for a press conference, puts his finger on the scanner, and the system says "You are Osama bin Laden. GUARDS! GUARDS! ARREST THIS MAN!!!!!!!".

Obviously, this would be illegal and I do not advocate such an activity. But I can't help but imagine the self-satisfied expression drain from the smug git's face as the alarms go off.

It's a silly example but this sort of thing will happen one way or another. Known criminals will manipulate the system so that their actual fingerprints and iris patterns are attached to the identities of clean individuals on the database. They get scanned and the system says "you are Mr Joe Goodcitizen, have a nice day".

And vice versa, of course. The criminal's identity on the database is going to need to have someone's biometrics attached to it. And if that happens to you, you're going to have to go through a world of pain trying to prove that you are not actually Pimp McBastard as the system says you are. Because your biometric data is peculiar to you, Mr McBastard. The system is infallible...

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