Identity at the Royal Society

At the Foundation for Science and Technology Meeting last night the topic of Identity Management (for which read ‘the UK National Identity Card Bill’) was debated. Held at the Royal Society, the invited speakers included Home Office Minister (Des Browne), Ian Watmore (UK Government CIO) and Ed Mayo (Chief Executive of the National Consumer Council). However, Des Browne had to drop out at the last moment, replaced by Katherine Courtney, Director of the Identity Cards Programme from the Home Office.

It was good to hear a recognition that they realise identity is more complex than as currently represented in the Bill and that mechanisms need to be found for enabling the legitimate separation of identity relationships where necessary. For example, I wouldn’t want my medical records to be accessible off the same identifiers as my council tax (or worse, associated with some e-commerce site). There are good reasons why we have historically separated out aspects of our identities with the State and we need to find ways of balancing this legitimate need with the ability for government to deliver services in more joined-up ways – and for the legitimate needs of law enforcers and investigators to have appropriate access to necessary information when it’s needed too (children at risk/child protection being an obvious category). The main conclusion was that there had not been sufficient consultation across the public and private sectors yet – and that we should pull together our best ‘identity brains’ to really help ensure that developments around this Bill are as well designed and implemented as they can possibly be.

This was better than previous sessions I have been to and all the speakers came across as open and candid, which helped foster a good level of debate and interaction in the main session and over the dinner that followed. It was also good to see old acquaintances such as Lord Renwick: and to find myself seated with Sir Robin Ibbs. The “Ibbs Report” was one of the most influential modernisation catalysts when I worked at the Houses of Parliament and one of the main reasons we managed to get the whole Parliamentary data and video network rolling in the first place.


This blog post originally appeared when I hosted NTOUK on SimpleBlog. It’s one of several I’m retrieving and posting here to bring together my posts in one place. The content and date shown for this post replicates the original. Many links are, inevitably, broken: where I can, I’ll substitute ones that work, particularly where the Internet Archive Wayback Machine has captured the content originally linked to.

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