“There are no plans to introduce digital ID. Our position on physical ID cards remains unchanged.”
These were the words of UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s spokesman a couple of days ago. Note the rather unusual use of the word “physical” to describe what is, generally speaking, a non-physical document (digital ID). This has sown all sorts of confusion in a country that is instinctively distrustful of identity cards and where the debate around digital identity is finally seeping into the public arena.
The statement came in response to former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s latest attempt to peddle digital identity, this time alongside former Conservative Party leader William Hague. In a joint letter, the two former politicians said “[e]veryone in Britain should be given a digital ID incorporating their passport, driving licence, tax records, qualifications and right to work,” as the cornerstone of a “technology revolution” in governance.
The digital ID system would be “secure, private [and] decentralised,” yet would also somehow bring together each individual’s data from across all government agencies. “Other countries are forging ahead,” said Hague. For the UK to keep or get ahead, it “has to redesign the state around technology.”
“A Natural Evolution”
While prime minister Blair tried — and ultimately failed — to introduce mandatory physical ID cards. He was also one of the first prominent proponents of digital vaccine passports. As early as June 2020, before any vaccine had reached the market, Blair told the Independent that people would need a form of “digital ID” so they could prove their “disease status” as the world gradually moved out of lockdown. This, he said, is part of a “natural” technological evolution that encompasses more than just COVID-19 vaccines and public health (comment in parenthesis my own).
“It’s a natural evolution of the way that we are going to use technology in any event, to transact daily life (an interesting choice of words given the potential threat the introduction of central bank digital currencies could pose to people’s ability to transact), and this COVID crisis gives an additional reason for doing that.”
A year and a half later, despite the vaccines’ by now undeniable shortcomings, Blair’s position remains the same. During a panel discussion at the latest World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, he said:
In the end, you need the data: you need to know who’s been vaccinated and who hasn’t been. Some of the vaccines that will come down the line, there will be multiple shots. So [for vaccines] you’ve got to have — for reasons to do with healthcare more generally but certainly for pandemics — a proper digital infrastructure and most countries don’t have that.
A couple of weeks ago, Blair’s eponymous foundation, the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change (TBIGC) released a report titled “A New National Purpose: Innovation Can Power the Future of Britain.” The report’s seven authors call for “a fundamental re-ordering of our priorities and the way the state itself functions,” which includes the introduction of an all-encompassing digital ID system:
“A well-designed, decentralised digital-ID system would allow citizens to prove not only who they are, but also their right to live and work in the UK, their age and ownership of a driving licence. It could also accommodate credentials issued by other authorities, such as educational or vocational qualifications. This would make it cheaper, easier and more secure to access a range of goods and services, online and in person. A digital ID could help the government to understand users’ needs and preferences better, improving the design of public services.
Blair’s Global (i.e. Largely US) Partners
Tellingly, the word “privacy” appears only once in the document, which calls into question just how seriously the report’s authors and endorsers take the potential risks and pitfalls posed by the technological platforms they are hawking…
Read the full article on Naked Capitalism