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Anger As Scotland Faces Big Brother ID Cards

UK Daily Mail | April 27 2006

SCOTS could be issued with ID cards storing details of every aspect of their lives under plans being considered by the Scottish Executive.

Hundreds of thousands of Scots have already been issued with the Citizens' National Entitlement Card - a microchipped card that carries the holder's name and photo.

The cards are used to access free bus or coach travel, but there are plans to link them to a central database.

This would give the Executive access to such details as people's travel movements, gym visits and reading habits. There are fears that the system could be expanded to include other information such as NHS records and benefits payments.

Critics say the proposal represents the latest encroachment of the 'Big Brother' state and have condemned i t as an unacceptable invasion of privacy.

Phil Booth, of the pressure group NO2ID, which is fighting any move towards ID cards, said: 'The worst excesses of a database state will be foisted on Scottish people.

'Scots are first in the firing line for lifelong surveillance and an end to life as a private citizen.' He added: 'This appears to go much further than the UK National Identity Register. There would be far more detailed information collected in one place and available to the state at the touch of a button.' Critics say the National Entitlement Card could go even further than the ID cards proposed by Tony Blair as a weapon against terrorists.

Executive officials want to introduce the database to improve efficiency of public bodies by bringing several computer systems under one roof.

But their plan to link it to the entitlement card will set alarm bells ringing for those already in the system.

From this month, people aged over 60 and people with disabilities can use the card to travel free on local bus and long-distance coach services.

About 1.1million Scots are eligible and 500,000 have applied. There are plans to add other functions to the cards to make it easier to use public services, such as libraries or council leisure centres.

But linking the card to the database would let officials access these details through the new central computerised system.

Critics say the scheme would hold too many personal details in a single place, leaving it open to abuse.

The plan was disclosed in a GBP100,000 funding application made by the Executive's Geographic Information Services (SEGIS) to develop a central database of information about Scots.

Bosses say the GBP35million entitlement card scheme could be one system incorporated in the new national database, which could be used by public bodies across the country.

Green MSP Patrick Harvie condemned the SEGIS funding application and said he would be demanding answers from ministers.

He said: 'This database is potentially-very powerful. Who can predict what purposes ministers may think of for it in the future?

' The Scottish parliament has supported the principle that we don't want public services accessed through a database system.' The plans form part of the Executive's Geographic Information strategy - One Scotland One Geography - which aims to computerise public sector information by 2011.

SEGIS says the drive would include existing databases covering forestry, environmental protection, policing, health and land ownership.

But it also wants to include the Scottish Neighbourhood Statistics, database, which provides details on the proportion of people who are, for example, unemployed, disabled or who abuse drugs or alcohol.

There are fears that the new centralised system could disclose details about individual Scots.

The SEGIS document states there are opportunities to pass information from the local to the national level.

The body says there are opportunities to 'add value' to existing initiatives by making 'cross links', including 'linking National Entitlement Cards with address-based data'.

Last November, Public Service Reform Minister Tom McCabe told Holyrood that the idea of a Scottish ID card was not being pursued.

In a written answer, he said: 'The Executive has no plans to link the entitlement card to any national identity register or similar database.' But last night an Executive spokesman said officials developing the Geographic Information strategy were in talks with the Customer First programme, which is designed to offer easier access to public services.

He added: 'We are fully committed to delivering a joined-up solution.'

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