openDemocracyUK

Pocketed! Angela is Britain's first ID card holder - you have to laugh or weep

Anthony Barnett
Anthony Barnett
6 December 2009

This is how Angela Epstein concludes her report from Manchester on becoming the first person to be issued with a UK ID card:

I loved seeing my name, face and the words British citizen on this tiny piece of plastic. That’s who I am, and why shouldn’t anyone know? 

As I’ve said before I understand why people have their reservations, but I personally can’t see what there is to lose if you’re a law abiding citizen with nothing to hide. And if it’s another weapon in the fight against identity fraud, illegal workers and terrorism, then that can only be for the good.

Slipping it into my purse and slinking off into the gloom of an icy winter afternoon, I felt like I was pocketing a piece of history.

"Pocketing" may be the word. As a journalist invited to write about being issued the first card, she was paid to write about it. In her column she says:

The Tories have pledged to junk them if they win. And when I had a shmooze with home office minister Meg Hillier on Monday she wouldn’t say whether I’d get my 30 quid back if that happened.

A good point! But did she charge the £30 to expenses just in case!

One of the funniest parts of her description is:

let me tell you what I actually had to do to get one.... Actually it nearly didn’t happen. Thanks to a small burn on my index finger (roast potatoes can be lethal) the plaster I was wearing scuppered my prints, foxed the scanner and baffled the interviewing officer at Manchester’s Passport and Identity Service in Piccadilly. But we put our heads together and agreed that removing it (the plaster, not the finger) would resolve the situation.

Perhaps they will have to ban the roasting of potatoes before they make ID cards compulsory.

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To: Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

We’re calling on you to immediately release details of the secret NHS data deals struck with private companies, to deliver the NHS COVID-19 datastore.

We, the public, deserve to know exactly how our personal information has been traded in this ‘unprecedented’ deal with US tech giants like Google, and firms linked to Donald Trump (Palantir) and Vote Leave (Faculty AI).

The COVID-19 datastore will hold private, personal information about every single one of us who relies on the NHS. We don’t want our personal data falling into the wrong hands.

And we don’t want private companies – many with poor reputations for protecting privacy – using it for their own commercial purposes, or to undermine the NHS.

The datastore could be an important tool in tackling the pandemic. But for it to be a success, the public has to be able to trust it.

Today, we urgently call on you to publish all the data-sharing agreements, data-impact assessments, and details of how the private companies stand to profit from their involvement.

The NHS is a precious public institution. Any involvement from private companies should be open to public scrutiny and debate. We need more transparency during this pandemic – not less.


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