So you want to know about ID cards ...

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The Independent Online
So, how are these new ID cards going to work? Very badly.

No, but seriously, how are they going to work?

Well, first of all it's going to be an entirely voluntary scheme, like income tax or having a driving licence.

Oh, come ON! Income tax isn't voluntary! Nor is having a driving licence!

You're wrong. They are both entirely voluntary. You can easily get out of income tax by not earning any money. You don't have to have a driving licence except in one exceptional circumstance: that is, when you want to drive a car.

Hmm. Maybe, but everyone will have to have an ID card, surely?

Not at all. Not if you never go out of doors, for instance. So obviously agoraphobics won't need one, nor housebound people, nor kidnap victims ...

Nor people in prison serving life sentences ...?

Oh, no, prisoners will all have ID cards. Michael Howard insists on this.

Why?

Because the microchip on the card will send out a beacon warning, and if they escape, prison officers will be able to get a fix on their position.

But surely the escapers will leave their ID cards behind?

They'd better not. Michael Howard will send them back to prison if they do.

I see ... So how are they going to work?

They will be little plastic cards containing a microchip on which will be coded all the details which The Guardian newspaper would not like to be revealed about you.

Such as?

Your prison record, your voting record, your driving record, your credit rating, your disposable income, your favourite newspapers, your marital record, your family record, the new Blur record ...

Hold on! Hold on! What do they need all this for?

They don't. But there is so much available space on this chip that it would be criminal not to fill it up.

But what are they going to do with the information?

Who are "they"?

Them. The people in charge. The faceless people who are running it all.

Oh, but they're not faceless at all. They've all got ID cards too, with their photos on.

This card will have our photos, too?

Sure.

People won't stand for this.

They stand for it already.

Do they?

Sure. We all have an ID card mentality already. When people are asked to produce their driving licence or some form of identity, they never demur. When we flash a Visa card or a Switch card, we are letting people into the secrets of our money supply. Nobody objects to that. Well, an ID card is just all that rolled up into one. People won't object. They never do. A passport is just an international ID card, isn't it? Even a BT phonecard performs the function of an ID card in a tiny way.

Oh, yes? And just what information about you is encoded in a BT phonecard?

The information that you can afford a phone call.

But if all the functions you describe are already being performed by various cards, what is the point of duplicating it all with a new, expensive ID card?

So that it can all be privatised later, of course. And, don't forget, there'll be many different kinds of ID card.

How can there be different kinds of ID card?

Well, the members of the Royal Family will all have a special, royal ID card, which will tell you how near each one is in line to the throne, how much money they are currently bleeding the state for, and so on. There will be a special ID card for Northern Ireland.

What will be special about it?

It will have a tiny hologram on it which, if looked at from one angle, will show the Pope's face, but which, if moved slightly, will reveal a portrait of King Billy.

I see ... What would be the point of privatising the ID card?

The potential for advertising on the ID card is enormous. This card will also be IBM-compatible, so you can feed information into it.

It's a floppy disk as well?

Yes. Didn't I mention that?

So you could theoretically hack into someone's ID card, to get information or leave it?

Or wipe it? Oh, yes.

So how is it going to work?

In the same way as all government initiatives. There will be a period of teething problems. There will be enormous discontent. There will be general agreement that it was a bad idea.

And then it will be abandoned, like the poll tax?

No, it will be retained, like the privatisation of the railways.

Thank you very much.

Not at all.

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