Ben Laurie blathering

Privacy International Loses The Plot

I’m aghast to read in IT Week (don’t ask) vol 9 no 29 p24 an article entitled “Will industry rescue the identity card?”

I’d hope not. But apparently this view is not shared by Simon Davies, Director of Privacy International, who is quoted as saying

I’ve believed for some time that a ‘white knight’ consortium from industry is needed. Companies that can see the benefits of the ID card idea should approach the government about effectively taking over the project.


It is now all about trust, the government has to restore some faith in the project.

I am at a loss for words.


  1. Ew. ‘nuf said.

    Comment by cat — 25 Jul 2006 @ 5:08

  2. EDS! haha.

    Comment by robin — 25 Jul 2006 @ 10:12

  3. On the balance of probabilities, until Simon confirms that he actually said and/or thinks that, I’m going to assume he’s been misquoted or that something he said has been wildly taken out of context.


    Comment by Wendy M. Grossman — 27 Jul 2006 @ 12:41

  4. WG is right. It’s important to recognise that context can be lost in any media report. In this case the quotes are accurate, though of course not complete. I’ve made similar remarks to conferences over the past six months, and for good reason. While it would have been nice to have seen the full conversation published, we all know that’s not the way media does its business.

    I doubt that anyone who has followed the UK ID card debate, or indeed the debates in other countries, would have any doubt about where I stand on identity. My views are well known, mainly because government has made a point of repeatedly expressing them in public. I don’t resile from anything I’ve everr done or said on the subject.

    As for these particular remarks, I will clarify the position.

    1. You will know through the recent leaked emails that it is government, rather than Privacy International, that has lost the plot over the ID card. The Home Office is in disarray and Treasury wants it scrapped or severely limited;

    2. You’ll also know from the leaked Market Soundings report that industry no longer supports the goverrnment’s scheme. I’ve know that for more than a year. Industry wants a manageable project that has a light structure and that carries public trust;

    3. Into this context comes the idea that industry wanting to pursue the “right” approach (no compulsion, no central register etc) now have the opportunity to do so. Companies like EDS will always support the government line. Others are moving quickly to establish an alternative position.

    4. The idea of the “White Knoght Consortium” has been around since mid 2005, when it was first discussed at an industry-wide meeting of the Enterprise Privacy Group. I supported the idea then because it seemed the best way to derail the government approach.

    I don’t see any need to defend myself, other than to observe how odd it feels to be hailed one day as the master strategist behind the ill-fortunes of the scheme, and the next to be condemned as a guy who lost the plot.

    The “plot” is something I have well and truly in mind, and maybe you just need to reflect a little more on what I’m supporting and why I’m supporting it, rather than lashing out. Strategy and tactics on an issue like this are long term game-plans.

    Simon Davies

    Comment by Simon Davies — 27 Jul 2006 @ 16:59

  5. Simon,
    I agree with you, it makes perfect sense. If it is handed over to private industry, then it is an admission of defeat, and that will bring a concommitant failure of support. The whole thing could collapse on the admission.

    But I would wonder at the high stakes of the poker game here; If it were the USA, and the consortium were led by any well known firm in DC area, would it still be a smart idea to court their “support” ? I don’t know the Brit scene well enough, but I’d wonder who the Brits would be comfortable with handling the system. Some defence contractor? Virgin? The banks? And who would regulate the system?

    Comment by Iang — 28 Jul 2006 @ 20:31

  6. I still think the best idea – first floated publicly at the EPG session Simon refers to – is one or more “Identity Foundation” or “Identity Trust” NGOs set up specifically for this purpose. It would need kickstarting from the industry white knights.

    Their status would be like the Consumers Association or National Trust.

    Job 1 is to define the user requirement for identity management. Then job 2 is to offer the services, whether it’s recording biometrics, offering onine authientication, issuing tokens such as cards or earrings. These can be outsourced to Atos, EDS, or whomever.

    Comment by William — 5 Aug 2006 @ 10:03

  7. Oh, and please let’s not use the word “resile” – it sounds like a legalistic Home Office minister.

    Comment by William — 5 Aug 2006 @ 10:04

  8. […] IT Week recently ran a story quoting Simon Davies, director of Privacy International, that has raised an eyebrow or two in the blogosphere. Industry may need to lead the way if the UK is ever to get a national identity card scheme that can deliver significant security and efficiency benefits. […]

    Pingback by Kim Cameron’s Identity Weblog » Will industry rescue the identity card? — 10 Aug 2006 @ 3:21

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