Bye privacy… welcome totalitarianism

The government is going to introduce a national ID card next year that will further control our lives, expose our most private details: any and all financial transactions, every time we travel, obtain health care, work, rent or buy a house yet no one asked us, the people, if we support such a totalitarian measure. They didn’t even explain how information is stored and retrieved from the card nor who is authorised to view our private details.

For example, when one uses the card, is all the information contained in it exposed or will there be sub-levels of access? That is, will the doctor only be able to see our health record? The bank our financial transactions? The traffic police our traffic related offenses only? Or will anyone with an appropriate card reader be able to drill down every conceivable private detail stored on the card? Giving our consent to whoever is going to read our details by scanning our thumb-print is not enough if that will result in an unrestricted view of the contents.

The government from what I’ve read so far is selling the concept of convenience. I don’t buy it. To me, this looks much more like total control of an individual’s life.

Consider the case of using a credit card for instance: when this card is used, the authorisation software does much more than merely check the identity and available credit. Before getting an authorisation number a credit card number is transmitted to a central computer which performs a large number of transaction: is the card on the system? Has it been reported lost or stolen? Does the account have adequate credit for the current transaction? It goes further: it checks the transaction history, the nature of the current transaction and compares it with the current proposed transaction to see if this transaction fits the customer profile and compares all of that with profiles of fraudulent transactions stored on the system. Once this operation is complete it assigns a “core”to the prospective transaction which it uses to determine whether or not to authorise the transaction.

I can see the national ID card to follow the same path should strict controls not be specifically introduced.

Say you go to a doctor and some software glitch happens in the myriad of equipment and software, will you be satisfied by the rejection of provision of medical aid because of this glitch? What if you want to buy a ticket for a concert and you give your ID number to a distant clerk on the phone who then taps your number on his terminal and not only knows your full home address, but now also when you’re NOT going to be at home? Can the government vouch for the honesty of every clerk? Or will the information be restricted for that type of transactions? If so, what will that clerk have access to?

The proposed card is a huge invasion of privacy, and privacy is one very basic human right. Do we give this away as citizens without question? Why is the government so insistent on knowing every detail of our private life when we see a whole continent like Europe almost doing away with passports? Why does the government want to track every aspect of our lives?

We should at least let Parliament examine these issues closely before even starting such a pervasive scheme. What I’ve heard so far is everyone applauding a clearly “big brother” scheme without any thought given to the real effect that such a card will introduce, whether we like it or not.

  • anonymous
    18 September 2003

    Kingdom of Bahrain National Personal Smartcard

    The new “Kingdom of Bahrain National Personal Smartcard” (a shorter name will be adopted!) will by late 2004 be a very convenient replacement for three existing ‘paper based’ cards already used within the Kingdom of Bahrain:

    1. The “CPR” Card
    2. The Driving License
    3. The Immigration Card (Bahraini’s only)

    These cards (and their associated records) already exist, and have done for many years. I struggle to think of any country that doesn’t issue a driving licence, or a passport, and the CPR card is very logical way of allowing citizens and residents to access government services. These cards are also used by other organisations (e.g. Banks) for their own purposes, but the Government can’t accept any responsibility if the cards are used for purposes that they were never originally designed or intended for.

    However fraud, misuse, and forgery of the existing cards are factors that the Government of Bahrain has had to address. E.g. if your car is stolen with records in the glove compartment, the thief currently has a good chance of being able to sell it with a little “hi-tech”, but the new smartcard with its “chipped data” and eventually PKI, biometrics and e-certificates will make that far far more difficult for him to achieve.

    The Central Informatics Organisation and other stakeholders have been inundated with requests to use the new Smartcard for additional functions; some will be adopted (particularly in “e-government” areas), but please don’t believe everything you might read in the newspapers, there’s often a considerable difference between a press release and the resulting headline.



  • mahmood
    4 November 2003

    Bye privacy… welcome totalitarianism

    Thank you for explaining that Richard. I am not against the “smart card” per se, what I am totally against is that there are currently no laws in Bahrain for the protection of information.

    There are legitimate concerns here that will partly be addressed if there are laws protecting information from mis-use. We all agree that not all government staff are Einsteins, and some will use this data for their own personal profit one way or another unless they know – and it is demonstrated through the legal structure – that they will be severely punished if they infringed upon the information in their hands.

    The other concern is that the smart card’s software is being developed by a private company, how are we to know that through their code there are no loopholes? How can we be certain that they didn’t impregnate the code with biases?

    The Australian government for instance has introduced eVoting systems after a lengthy study, after public scrutiny of the processes, open sourced solution which was available and peer reviewed and only then did it go into trials. Bahrain should do something similar at the very least but ONLY AFTER enacting laws of privacy and protection of information.

  • billT
    9 September 2006

    You can always use cash if they dont make it an offense to use cash. Here in the US if I take 10K out of the bank and pay for something with it I can be investigated by my goverment for using that much cash.

  • Fatima
    11 September 2006

    To comment on the privacy issue, in the UK, they are also suggesting a National I.D card, peoples profiling, people are against it saying that it is violation of human rights ? Human Rights and Democarcy come hand in hand, so Bahrain is taking steps towards democratization, I want to end with this statement:

    Mr. Nader Fergany, the Co-coordinator of the UN Human Development Report on the Arab
    World recently stated, “If I had to single out the Arab countries that come closer to western
    democracies, I’d point to Bahrain and Morocco.”

  • billT
    11 September 2006

    Break out the “I love my country but fear my government” bumper stickers Mahmood. Although putting one on a Porsche seems obscene some how 🙂

    The national ID card is only meant for one purpose control. Maybe government can be trusted to not abuse the system but maybe they cant. I go with they can’tbe trusted. The one thing you can be sure of is that the criminal element will figure out how to crack and abuse the system.


  • mahmood
    11 September 2006

    Thanks for the laugh Fatima, especially this early in the morning! You have corrected the mood I woke up with 🙂

  • mahmood
    11 September 2006

    Bill how right you are on both counts! She’s going to the dealership for regular maintenance and removal of a few scratches, I shudder to think of what the bill would be… probably double what my bathroom cost to repair 😉

Dissing a customer does your soul good!