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Ben Laurie blathering


(Lack of) Knowledge Limits the Imagination

I was poking around Jacqui Smith’s website, since she is our new Home Secretary, and I was disappointed (but not surprised) to find this. I won’t bore you with yet another diatribe about ID cards, I’m sure you know what I’d say anyway. But I was interested to note this:

In addition, when we provide benefits or people receive free treatment on the NHS it is important that we know who the recipients of these services are. ID Cards will help us ensure that only those who are entitled to these services get them.

As I have been saying for a while, the imagination of policy makers is limited by what they think is possible. Notice that in the second sentence she talks about entitlement – but in the first about identity. Policy makers tend to think you must have strong identity assertions in order to judge whether there is entitlement. But this is not so: in fact, it is possible to prove entitlement without any hint of identity at all, using, of course, selective disclosure. Because policy makers don’t, in general, know about selective disclosure, they find it impossible to think in terms of anything other than what they are used to, which is, of course, various forms of identity combined with access control lists.

This is why I tend to go on about selective disclosure every time I am in a room with policy makers.

1 Comment

  1. Ben, (and BTW I share your under-enthusiasm for ID cards.) The problem with entitlements to govt. services is that many of them are based on your citizenship and residence. I can’t think why “it is important that we know who the recipients of these services are” “we” should only need to know that the recipients were entitled when they received the service, the trouble with that is that it currently can’t be done because all of the existing “evidence” of identity is awash with forgeries. I even hear that fraudsters are now “buying” the identities of junkies, use the junkies details and the fraudsters photo to apply for things with.

    I don’t mind proving my entitlement to services, but what I don’t want is for govt. or anyone else to start joining-up all the information about me and using it for purposes to which I didn’t consent.

    Comment by Danny — 29 Jun 2007 @ 14:02

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