You Know What Seems Like A Bad Idea?Posted: February 8, 2010
“This” being the government pushing ID cards on young people (16 – 24) in London.
Why is it a bad idea? Because the government getting involved with IT in general and databases in particular inevitably involves a huge bill, a shitty contract that they don’t bother reading the small print for, and fuck ups. Monumental fuck ups.
One spelling mistake. That’s all it would take. One number getting switched with the one next to it. And then – what? Do I want to run the risk of my iris being mistaken for somebody else’s? How on Earth would you get that kind of problem fixed? I can imagine the levels of beaurocracy now.
“Your ID card says this.”
“But it says this!”
“It’s still wrong.”
“But – “
And so on, ad infinitum.
“Your ID card says this, and it can’t be wrong. Stop wasting our time. Get out.”
And, because I have fairly recently been a teenager in London, it’s wrong for a simpler, less political reason too. Nobody will actually accept the fucking cards. Remember the PASS Scheme? Remember? Remember how nobody ever, ever accepted those? How all the small shops had signs up saying it was a passport or driver’s liscence only? Remember that? Remember how 30 quid is a lot of money for a seventeen year old – fuck, it’s a lot of money to me!
Their FAQ says: “Retailers have the problem of trying to identify what is a genuine proof-of-age card versus a fraudulent one. With a PASS accredited card they will instantly know it is genuine when they see the unique PASS hologram.”
What actually happens is that small retailers say “you know what? Since there’s virtually no difference between the real one and the fake, we just won’t accept any of them. That real one – or indeed that fake one – you just bought? Yeah, that was a waste of your money. And I’m still not selling you that cider.”
So. Why should the new ones be any different? Apart from the fact that they want more of your personal information, which they promise cross their hearts and hope to be spanked till their bottoms go purple that they won’t sell to anybody else. Honest.
This frightens me.
It also reminds me of something else.
When I was seventeen, and studying for my A-levels, one of said A-levels was Spanish. And our teacher decided that we should go as a class to the Curzon Soho, a self-described art-house cinema, which regularly screened foreign language films. So off we went, all five of us! And afterwards – since everybody but me was 18, and I chose not to inform them that I wasn’t – they decided that a drink would be a nice idea. Well, it would have been. If they hadn’t chosen Walkabout, and if it hadn’t been late enough in the night for the bouncers to be outside, and if they hadn’t ID’d everybody.
I, of course, had “left my passport at home”. Which, you know, was pretty wise, since it proved I was underaged. They wouldn’t let me in. And my teacher went off on a rant about how this was England! And how dare they make people carry around their passports in a democracy?! Didn’t they (the bouncers) know that it was a slippery slope?! With acompanying hand-waving. Well, more flailing, actually. I think we all left. We certainly didn’t get in. Not that that will come as a shock to anybody. And of course, the bouncers were only doing their jobs, and were right to do so, even if I didn’t appreciate it at the time. They could’ve been fined something stupid for letting me in without ID.
But my teacher was Portuguese, and furious. He’d lived in a dictatorship, after all. And perhaps one of the most important things I learned from him (other than that if you want good grades you should damned well work for them, and if you want to be lazy, fine, but don’t come crying to him for extra help a week before the exam) was that you shouldn’t make people identify themselves as a routine. That it’s none of your business, and can in some cases lead to tyranny.