On Predictability.

While the entire world is admiring Londoners for their ability to not let the terror destroy their way of life, while London mayor Ken Livingston is taking the Tube each morning, because not doing so would prove the terrorists strategy right, the British government is reinforcing its ongoing quest to get hold of as much information about citizens as possible. I’d call it “opportunistic”, they’d call it “concerned”.

There’s much to be said in favour or against national ID cards, and pretty much all of that is being said in the UK these days. Personally, I’ve held a German ID card since I’ve been 12, later a French “carte de s?jour”, and I never thought it was a big deal. But that was before biometrics became a keyword in virtually every interior ministry in the western world – first because the International Civil Aviation Organisation decided behind closed doors what future ID documents should be like, then because oft 9/11 and 3/11, when the political climate seemed right to take all the problematic legislative proposals of the past out of the drawer and silently turn them into law while the public isn’t watching politics because it is busy mourning.

It is always interesting to read statewatch.org‘s analyses of what “the man” is doing to free societies he is supposed to take care of in the name of safety. But today’s newsletter contains a number of particularly interesting items. The first two thereof are –

EU: UK Presidency proposes that all ID cards have biometrics – everyone to be fingerprinted

Tony Bunyan, Statewatch editor, comments:

“This proposal, with others, means that everyone living in the EU is going to be finger-printed and their details held on an EU-wide database. At a time of great tragedy it is all the more important that we act with care and do not bequeath to future generations a society where every movement and every communication is under surveillance. Whether a democratic way of life could survive in such a climate is doubtful.”

EU policy ?putsch?: Data protection handed to the DG for ?law, order and security? – it is not “relevant” for citizens to know how and what information about them is exchanged.

The latter, of course, is rather unsurprising given the European governments’ determination go through with their allegedly safety-enhancing measures. The former one is what I’d call “opportunistic”.

It should be noted that, despite temporary and largely symbolic measures introduced by overly ambitious politicians, like the Schengen suspension by France, European government’s are continuing the European legislative sins of the past particularly in this area: If there’s too much opposition for national measures, they are silently taken to Brussels and sometimes even introduced against the European Parliaments expressed will, knowing that this is an area where legality is less important than having established facts.

Maybe, some people think, this is no big deal for civil liberties after all – hoping that in the end technological experts (not employed by eager policitians or companies trying to sell them toys) will be proven right in their assessment that biometrics are bound to disappoint on a large scale, that this will turn out to be a very costly experiment. Be that as it may, experts, even independent experts have a history of being wrong. And in matters of such importance, no civil society can take any chances.

One more thing: European Politicians – as well as their critics – should stop using the US as a scapegoat for their own datamining ambitions. I think the US-Visit programme is as pointless from a security point of view as is the Brazilian retaliatory measure of fingerprinting and web-camming US citizens upon entering the country. But, looking at the Bush administrations difficulties to get the Patriot Act renewed – it seems – in the US the pendulum is swinging back a little. I’m once again quoting statewatch:

[The proposed measures would] effectively mean that everyone living in the EU will be compulsorily finger-printed and this biometric plus identifying personal data will first be stored on national database and then on a EU-wide database.

The USA, on the other hand. is only going to follow the ICAO standard ie: a digitised picture, not the taking of finger-prints.

I’m not sure the terrorists are experts in reading Western politics. But one thing is for sure – if their attempt is to drive Western politicians into abolishing much of what most people would regard as fundamental civil liberties, their timing is “excellent”. Whenever a terror-shocked civil society has finally begun to mount even a little opposition, they’re attacking again.