Date:27 February 2023
This is not our weekly newsletter, but rather an urgent call for action. Action in the form of a consultation response that might take around 15 minutes to complete is required before the close of Wednesday, 1 March 2023. The response is related to a UK government consultation that appears to be part of a very slippery slope towards authoritarian or even totalitarian control of populations. While this consultation is specific to the UK, it should be of interest to anyone concerned by the recent inroads of governments which have chosen to use the ‘state of emergency’ engineered around COVID-19 to subjugate rights and freedoms based on personal information or choices.
Who is this email specifically for?
This email is specifically intended for UK citizens and residents- as well as those who know people who are UK citizens or residents, with whom we hope you can share this email and information.
Why is it so important that UK citizens and residents respond imminently?
This is an alert or reminder that an important consultation closes on 1 March dealing with digital identities in the UK, notably draft legislation to support identity verification. There are a number of reasons why citizens of the world – not just UK citizens – should take note now that the UK, under Rishi Sunak’s premiership, is apparently keen to be a leader in the global digital ID race:
- Identity cards were previously used during both World Wars and it was under Churchill’s premiership in 1952 that they were abandoned. This happened after a High Court ruling brought into question the continued use of government powers that were granted during the national emergencies (i.e. wars) when the emergencies no longer existed.
- While a number of legislative initiatives to create a voluntary identity card were made between 1996 and 2006, the Identity Documents Act 2010 passed by the then Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition cancelled ID cards and forced the secure disposal of personal information.
- The Conservative government led by David Cameron (2010-16) indicated it had no plans to re-instigate an identity card.
- While we are clearly emerging from a “state of emergency” triggered by the circulation of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the declaration of COVID-19 as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) under the International Health Regulations (2005), it is of considerable interest that the World Health Organization continues to argue that this status should remain despite clear evidence that the COVID-19 pandemic is “at a transition point”. Is it because such a continued and clearly deliberately engineered, but now unfounded, state of emergency allows more prospects of control over citizens?
>>> A detailed history of identity cards in the UK up until end-2015 can be found in the House of Lords Library Note “Identity Cards in the UK”, dated January 2016.
Ways in which you can respond to the consultation
While we think it’s going to be nigh on impossible to stop the process of transition to digital IDs as the AI-driven fourth industrial revolution forges ahead, it is, in our view, crucial to the preservation of freedom and liberty that digital IDs neither become mandatory nor end up becoming a repository of data that is shared with parties without the knowledge of the individual. To protect these freedoms, it is of prime importance that we stand up for our rights and voice our concerns.
It is, after all, the voicing of concerns over the misuse of people’s personal information, including by Churchill himself in 1952, that caused physical identity cards justified by the emergencies of war to be dropped some 70 years ago in the UK.
As you will see on the UK government’s webpage devoted to this consultation, there are two main ways of responding:
- By answering a questionnaire as part of the consultation on the GOV.UK website
- By sending an email response to [email protected], that should ideally reference the list of consultation questions.
Some suggestions for responses by free-thinking, freedom loving people
We are concerned by many of the knee-jerk reactions to this consultation. That is not because we disagree with their sentiments. In fact, it’s the exact opposite – we endorse them entirely. However, we’re concerned that blasting back stock responses and ignoring the specific questions that have been answered could lead to huge numbers of responses being ignored.
More than that, people who send a rapid-fire response to this consultation on digital IDs may not fully realise this is part of a long process in which authorities will try to take control of more and more of our data until they are in a position to control us by denying us rights and privileges that are provided only to those who ‘play ball’ with the system – Orwell’s ‘Party’ in his 1984 novel. It is time for all of us to channel our inner Winston Smith.
We have a great concern about the way GOV.UK has decided to run this consultation, without at any point crystallising which pieces of personal data are fodder for sharing between different government departments. If it’s your name and national insurance number, that might be OK for most, as we know such data are already widely shared. But if it’s our religious or philosophical beliefs, or our medical or genetic data, many of us might feel very differently. We do for sure.
So it is these kinds of concerns that we think need to be flagged most strongly in consultation responses.
In that sense, some suggested ideas for responses to some of the main questions in the online Smart Survey questionnaire are given below:
The notion of giving any government department the unconditional right to share any information it chooses with other departments, without the knowledge of the individual, is a breach of an individual’s privacy.
We have to argue strongly against agreeing that governments share data for ID verification when the precise nature of personal data has not been disclosed. This goes the heart of the GDPR that has been attempting to protect personal data. Does it include a name, gender, geolocation details (address), a driving license number – or might it include (now or in time) more or highly sensitive data, such as ethnicity, sexual orientation, genetic data, religious or philosophical beliefs, biometric data, etc.
It’s important to answer “No” to this question.
It is entirely wrong that this question is being asked without clarifying exactly what kinds of data might be shared.
Given that the data attributes have not been clarified in any kind of detail, it is not possible to support any data sharing.
The Likert options are entirely inappropriate for the question being asked as people who might be very concerned about individuals or households losing benefits might well answer “strongly disagree”. We strongly agree that there is a real risk that data sharing will lead to such losses, especially given the nature of personal data has not been clarified – and this opens the possibility of this becoming a very slippery slope to authoritarian or even totalitarian control over citizens.
As above. If it is determined that a government department does not support an individual’s choice – such as, for example, an informed decision to avoid vaccination – there is a risk that benefits may be withheld and this would be at the discretion of the department and may not be negotiable.
It’s important to answer “Yes” to this question.
Unconditional sharing of personal data and information could lead to direct conflicts with the Equality Act 2010. This would be of particular concern if this would lead to discrimination against people who had exercised their right to refuse specific medical treatments (especially vaccination), genetic testing, surveillance, etc.
The objective may be acceptable to many, but is the mechanism of achieving this objective that is so problematic, particularly the lack of clarity as to exactly what kind of personal information is liable to be shared.
UK citizens and residents – please stand up and be heard!
Time is very short. But we ask that you share this as widely as you can and ensure that you help to ensure that as many UK residents and citizens respond to this consultation as possible.
Thank you in anticipation of your efforts over the next 24 to 48 hours to preserve democracy and freedom. In living memory, both have never been at such grave risk. A response by the UK government to this consultation exercise is due to be published by 24 May 2023 on GOV.UK.
Please share widely by email, social media and through any other mechanism you might use to share information with others.