Massive backlash against government ID card proposals



Press release, Privacy International, 14th January 2003, For immediate release

"The government's plan to introduce a national ID card suffered a setback today with the release of figures indicating a surge of opposition to the proposals.

A series of "consultation response initiatives" by Privacy International and the campaign group STAND have attracted more than 2,700 responses to the consultation since last Friday afternoon, nearly all in opposition to an ID
card.

Yesterday, January 13th, more than 1,200 consultation responses were forwarded by the organisations by email to the Home Office Entitlement Cards Unit yesterday. By 3PM, responses sent through the stand.org.uk portal were
being clocked at around six per minute.

Downing Street claimed on December 11th a 2-1 majority public support for the initiative. This figure was drawn from an analysis of the 1,500 consultation responses received by that point. Based on the new figures, the current support rate has dropped to less than 25 per cent.

The figures are likely to surge further with today's launch of Privacy International's "phone to email" service. Privacy International has set up two local rate numbers. In favour of the ID Card: 0845 330 7245, against the ID Card: 0845 330 7246. Each message left on these lines will be converted to an audio file, and then emailed to the Home Office.

In an unprecedented decision, the government confirmed last week that these audio files will be regarded as legitimate consultation responses.

"This is an unequivocal vote against the government", said PI's director, Simon Davies. "People are learning at the eleventh hour why this proposal is so dangerous. Public support for the ID card is dropping by more than one
percent per hour."

"The government has failed to establish a convincing case for the card. The consultation has been a sham from the word go".

"An ID card is costly, dangerous and unnecessary. Many of the responses reflect this view. Many also complain about the sheer arrogance of government in the way it has managed the consultation".

Mr Davies also strongly criticised the Office of the Information Commissioner, which has organised an invitation-only conference tomorrow (Wednesday) at which the Home Secretary will speak on ID cards. Privacy
International has been prevented by the regulator from distributing relevant printed material at the meeting. "I am not sure we can rely on the Information Commissioner's office to guard our rights when they are compromised by an identity card. It appears in this instance that they have a cosy relationship with the Home Office."

"It is disgraceful that a civil liberties group should be censored in this way by the official responsible for freedom of information", he added.

Privacy International has predicted a total of 10,000 negative consultation responses by the end of January, at which time the consultation closes."

Simon Davies can be reached for comment at 07958 466 552


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