Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The EU Becomes Big Brother

Fears over pan-EU electronic identity network

By Philip Johnston, Home Affairs Editor
Last Updated: 2:54am GMT 27/11/2007
New concerns have been raised over the Government's multi-billion-pound ID project as it emerged that Britain's identity database could be shared with 26 other European Union countries.
The Home Office is taking part in a scheme, codenamed Stork, which aims to make all EU electronic identity networks ''inter-operable'' within three years.
David Davis, the shadow home secretary, said this development was particularly worrying following the loss of the nation's child benefit records by HM Revenue and Customs.
He added: ''How are they going to prevent a repetition of the disaster of the last few weeks when sensitive personal data is held by 27 countries?"
Speaking in the Commons, Mr Davis said: "If the Government gives away your bank account details, that's a disaster but at least you can change your bank account. What, precisely, do you do if the Government gives away your biometric details?"
Michael Wills, the data protection minister, yesterday conceded that the ''deplorable'' loss of 25 million records had implications for the ID card scheme.
"We are going to obviously have to look at the national identity register in the light of all this,'' he told Parliament's joint human rights committee.
''We are going to have to learn the lessons. Everything will have to be scrutinised and then we will assess it again.''
However, Mr Wills said this did not mean the ID scheme - due to start next year for foreign nationals - would be scrapped.
The Stork project, spearheaded by the Identity and Passport Service, will ensure electronic identity systems recognise each other and can be used across the EU.
Eventually, the Stork project is intended to allow easy access to social security, medical prescriptions and pension payments.
However, Britain's national ID database will be the most comprehensive in the EU by far. No other country has plans for such a sophisticated database containing so much information.

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