New Driving Licence? Or The Introduction of an Identity Card by the Back door?
Every time a government decides to “simplify” things, it seems we lose a little bit of freedom, and a little bit of our private life goes public. Is that what we have here, or am I just looking at the dark side of a common sense improvement?
Despite the driving licence changing to the two piece photo card and paper thing some years ago, folk like me have decided to hang on to the tacky held together with sellotape thing that we were given years and years ago.
Well guys, that’s all going to change as the government has signaled its intention to “bin” the paper licence from 2015 and introduce a kind of “Euro-Licence” based upon standards agreed with the EC. The licence will be on a “smartcard” so that it can hold absolutely huge amounts of data about you, but can’t be read by anyone looking at the licence, but its going to include your iris and fingerprint biometrics all stored on a fancy little microchip.
Personal data, your photograph and details of any endorsements you have will all be included in the stuff that’s going to be stored on this new licence and perhaps many of you out there, might feel like me, that this is, for a large part of the population, the introduction of an identity card by the back door and they are not even going to have to ask us if we want it!
Presently, I don’t think my fingerprints are logged anywhere? Maybe I’m wrong and indeed, maybe I shouldn’t worry, because as I am a law abiding citizen, what have I to be concerned about? The data exists to prove I am the guy that’s on the licence, that’s all and so that’s OK? But is it?
Realistically, do any of us really believe that once this great huge bunch of data exists, that other authorities are not going to get their hands on it and because of the European aspect of this, it means that organisations that we’ve probably never even heard of will get to know much more about our private details. So, if that’s the case, maybe we should get to know exactly who will get access to our personal data. Let me give you an example of how random that might be.
Presently, many fleets or employers make regular driver licence checks of its employees, but with the new smart licence, that’s not going to be possible as the penalty points will not be shown on the licence. The DVLA already acknowledge they are working with the insurance industry to provide access to driver information for the purpose of enabling more accurate insurance quotes, whilst even hiring a car, a daily rental company they might ask to see your licence before they let you take the vehicle and again, they can’t see your penalty points to judge the risk. These people are just some of those who absolutely need this data and that means that it’s going to be stored somewhere and it’s going to be made available to them and what confidence does that give you that the “bad guys” wont be amongst those that get to find out all about you?
So there are lots to consider here and it seems this is going to happen, although as yet, I don’t remember hearing it be discussed, when this is potentially such a huge intrusion into our civil liberties.
The happy jolly side of this is that from 2013/14 a drivers address will no longer appear on the existing photocard licence , which will mean that when you change address, or unfortunately, get penalty points on your licence, it will not have to be returned to the DVLA. So that’s good…..(wow)
At this moment, the DVLA are saying that “the UK is yet to decide” if the UK version of this licence will have a chip or not, but then said it was “continually looking at ways to improve the security of the driving licence”. It has however an acknowledged smart card strategy and has outlined that recently to representatives of other European countries and admitted that it was hopeful that chipped UK driving licences would be being used in the UK by 2014. Yes, it sounds like “the UK yet to decide eh?”
Vehicle sub-categories, and how long a licence remains valid along with checks to make sure that no one can hold more than one EU issued driving licence, along with new standards for driving examiners are all part of the directive and the government would also argue that it would satisfy the aims of the government’s red tape challenge in cutting bureaucracy.
Europe has been messing with this for quite some years now. Current law relates to what’s called the “second directive” which was actually agreed in 1991, whilst the changes we are talking about here relate to (you guessed it) the third directive which dates back to 2006.
The official line is that the changes are being made to comply with the European Driving Licence Directive which takes effect in January 2013 and requires member states to adopt a common licence format and a harmonisation of categories on the licence which should ensure a common standard of competence to drive.
The Association of Fleet Car Operators has said that they think the paper licence could be gone by mid 2014 and that a data-base could be in place even earlier.
As for the DVLA, well the governments Red tape” challenge has already decided that 39 regional offices will shut by the end of 2013 and even things that we’ve always had such as the vehicle log book, (V5C) could be a thing of the past, with them only being provided and issued when specifically asked for.
So in summary, we are talking about the implementation of a card carrying a massive amount of data about you and me. We are looking at this against a background of governments who have already acknowledged in the past that they want us to carry identity cards and frankly, had it not been so damn unpopular with the public and such a “political hot potato” we would already be carrying one now. We are looking at allowing your personal information to be available interested parties such as employers and insurance companies and numerous others (and perhaps some we don’t want). But it appears the government has got us by the short & curlies, because if we want to drive, we are going to have to have this card……call it a licence if you wish, but it’s a card. We are looking at this at a time where identity theft and fraud is a huge and virulent major problem that’s basically out of control and costing many of us both money and heartache. So I go back to my original question and ask you is if this is a great idea, or a first step to bringing that identity card in by the back door without even asking us?