Orwell Would Be Proud

You think we’ve got it bad, civil liberties-wise, here in the States? You should try living in the UK. As if being constantly monitored by video cameras wasn’t bad enough, now they’re in the final stages of evaluating whether to mandate that all British subjects obtain a national identity card.

The government over there, moreover, seems intent on giving the effort as many Orwellian overtones as possible. First off, they’re not “identification cards”, you see — they’re “entitlement cards“. There’s even an Entitlement Cards Unit within the Home Office that’s responsible for managing the study. (Boy, there’s a name that doesn’t sound sinister, eh?) And don’t worry, the cards are not compulsory, they’re just “universal”. What’s the difference? As the ECU’s FAQ helpfully explains:

universal – where everyone would be required to register and obtain a card but there would be no compulsion to carry a card.

Ah, I see — you have to get one, you just don’t have to carry it. But you will, of course, be asked to produce it on demand. As Privacy International notes, under this scheme, “[y]ou will not be required to use a card unless you wish to work, use the banking or health system, vote, buy a house, drive, travel or receive benefits.” See? That’s not so bad! Move along, citizen!

(And somebody should tell the Home Office’s Webmaster to get with the program, jargon-wise: he’s titled the document that explains how “entitlement cards” are not at all the same thing as identity cards “Identity Cards Frequently Asked Questions“. Oops!)

It’s a good thing that they’re taking public comment on the plan before rolling it out, though — surely the British public will bury all this doublespeak in a torrent of condemnation…

10 Downing Street: “Public support is growing for the government’s proposals on entitlement cards. The response so far to a public consultation on the scheme shows a two-to-one split in favour of the plans.”

Oh. Never mind then — even though the comment period doesn’t end until January 31, it looks like Downing Street’s got all the data it needs. At least it’s gratifying to see someone else beating us in the race to go from land of the free to home of the slave.