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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 April, 2004, 11:45 GMT 12:45 UK
Living with the ID card
The debate over the introduction of ID cards in the UK is now high on the political agenda.

Many are in favour of the government's proposals, but others see it as an infringement of their civil rights.

What do Britons living in countries with an existing policy of compulsory ID cards think? BBC News Online asked three readers living abroad to describe life with the ID card.

John Hindley, 49, Bahrain (originally from Lancashire)

John Hindley
I see no privacy infringement whatsoever
Having lived in Bahrain for 16 years where ID cards are compulsory, I think they are a great idea.

You cannot get any access here to public services such as health services, banking, insurance, or paying your telephone bill without the ID card.

We should have the same in the UK.

But similar to here in Bahrain, they should only be given to residents who are sponsored by an employer.

They have been very effective here in tracking down illegal immigrants. This can only be of benefit to the UK.

As far as putting my medical information on these cards, this is currently not the case in Bahrain, but if the government here did so, I would not mind at all.

I'm sure that kind of information already exists in some database anyway.

I see no privacy infringement whatsoever.

Carol Stanier, 27, Frankfurt, Germany (originally from Manchester)

Carol Stanier
It is not 100% effective and some people do fall through the cracks
I am mostly for the identity card as its a lot easier to carry around with you than a passport when abroad, and people with nothing to hide should have nothing to fear.

As a non-German living in Germany I do not get issued with an ID card, which can make life very difficult as everyone else has them and thus they are often requested when making large purchases or filling out forms.

Resident's permits are issued for non-German citizens, and they are there for the purpose of monitoring who is living in the country.

But it is not 100% effective and I know that some people do fall through the cracks.

It would be better to have one ID for all, as is being proposed in the UK.

Peter, 56, Tervuren, Belgium (originally from Cardiff)

It is up to the government to take the appropriate measures to make sure that information is protected
It is obvious that compulsory ID cards will help combat crime and terrorism - but people are concerned with infringements of civil liberties.

I am a British citizen and have lived with a compulsory ID card in Belgium for more than 20 years.

I have only ever found it an aid and never a real hindrance or risk.

It seems to me to be an absolute "no brainer" to introduce such cards in the UK provided that they are accompanied by the appropriate controls to ensure against abuse.

My only concern is that the type of sensitive information stored on the proposed biometric cards would be protected and not allowed to fall into the hands of insurance or marketing companies.

It is up to the government to take the appropriate measures to make sure that information is protected.

The other concern, of course, is the cost.

Do you live in countries with compulsory ID cards? Do they work? What is your reaction to the comments above?

The following comments reflect the balance of views we have received:

The UK needs to move ahead with the times!
Simon Eaton, San Jose, Costa Rica
Carrying ID with you in Costa Rica is an essential part of everyday life. I need to carry my passport around with me which is a pain, where as others similar to me and coming from a different country just need a simple credit card-sized ID card. The UK needs to move ahead with the times!
Simon Eaton, San Jose, Costa Rica

Peter in Belgium states that it is "obvious" that ID cards combat crime and terrorism. Well it's not obvious to me, could he provide some concrete examples? Presumably Belgium is entirely untroubled by criminals and terrorists.
Lyndon Rosser, Caerdydd, Wales

People are focusing too much on the terrorism side of this, although ID cards would surely be an aid in the battle against terrorism. However, there could be many other applications for the cards, such as ensuring that people have a harder time cheating on state benefits, or ensuring that underage children do not gain access to adult items like alcohol. Carrying the ID card would be no more of a hindrance than carrying photo card driving licences, and those have clear benefits.
Andrew Riley, Lancaster, England

I am a British ex-pat living in the US. I have been living here for just over five years and have a green card. Although there was a lot of paperwork involved I only need to have it updated every 10 years unlike the drivers' license which is every four years. Keep your nose clean and nothing will go wrong, do something bad and you're on your way back to where you came from.
Daryl, Akron, OH, USA

It's useless for preventing serious crime
Andrew, Ayerbe, Spain
What a joke. Spain has ID cards for nationals and immigrants and it had the biggest terrorist attack for years (as well as its own, home grown terrorist group). It's useless for preventing serious crime - these people can always get round such things. It ends up being just another bureaucratic control that all governments want to have.
Andrew, Ayerbe, Spain

I have lived in both Hong Kong and Singapore where ID cards are compulsory. For law abiding citizens they provide a convenient form of identification for opening bank accounts, filing tax returns, obtaining driving licenses, registering with hospitals, renting cars etc. I have never received more junk mail than when I lived in the UK. Private business has always been more industrious than the public sector. It already has most of your personal data and is profiting from it. The government will use this data to crack down on benefit fraud, illegal immigration, and smuggling and may indeed save the taxpayer money. Those on the wrong side of the law, watch out.
Alexander Draper, Singapore (formerly Sussex)

I'm all for ID cards as long as they are thought through. Surely holding an ID card should mean an end to needing driving licenses and passports in Europe, maybe even your bank card and gym membership. If it's secure then why not!
Graham, London, UK

I fail to see how this is relevant. I'd happily carry a card with my picture and fingerprint on (biometric data) as these people apparently do. I will not, however, carry about a chip and I will not be catalogued on a centralised state database.
Mark, London, UK

They open doors and assist one to get on with life
Wyatt Bell, Einsiedeln, Switzerland
It really is difficult to see the issue of the libertarians in the UK against ID cards. I have lived for some years now in the Netherlands and Switzerland where these things are taken for granted. No one sees them as an infringement on liberty; in fact in many ways they are quite the opposite, opening doors and assisting one to get on with life. And, by the way, to help allay British concerns, continental Europe is not an oppressed, constrained place. It's probably more relaxed and safer than most of the UK, I reckon.
Wyatt Bell, Einsiedeln, Switzerland

ID cards in the US normally take the form of a driving license, but non-drivers like myself can easily get a state ID. They are not compulsory, but you find life very difficult if you don't have one. In Hawaii they tend to be relied upon too much - often I forget to carry my card and this can cause problems with obtaining services.
Andrew Box, Honolulu, Hawaii

As an ex-pat living in America, I have a US driving licence with my picture on it. As a visa holder every time I re-enter the US I have to provide fingerprint scans and have my photo taken - and I have no concerns whatsoever, why - because I don't do anything that infringes the laws of the country I am living in. I would be very worried if I thought that this information could be used against me - if I were involved in some form of activity that would lead the authorities to consider me a threat in some form, but as this is very unlikely I have nothing to fear from ID information about me being stored by the authorities.
Simon Salt, Austin, Texas, USA

Everyone had to reapply for their cards every year
John Collins, London
I lived in Morocco for about one year. There, visitors of more than 3 months to the kingdom were obliged to apply for the compulsory carte-de-sejour, a hybrid of the more common carte-d'identitie that the locals all used. I found the system there to be bureaucratic beyond belief. Everyone had to reapply for their cards every year and it took the Moroccan authorities months to process claims. In the end I was given my card on the very day I left!
John Collins, London

If ID cards help combat terrorism and crime, how come those areas using ID cards still suffer from it? Regarding biometric data, iris scanning is useless if the user wears coloured contact lens. Is there going to be a law against contact lens next? I wish politicians would talk to real experts in this field rather than technological spin doctors who are more than willing to extract 3 billion in funding from the government for this system.
John Doe, Bristol

As a British ex-pat in the US, I have a Green Card that has my picture and thumbprint on it. Isn't that biometric measurement? So I keep my nose clean as any honest person does and have never had any problems.
Paul, California, USA

I come from Hong Kong and have been living here in London for 8 years now. We are all accustomed to ID cards in HK and I have never found it in any way an infringement to my rights of liberty.
Shirley Leung, London, UK

Most national IDs are accepted in place of a passport when travelling around the EU. For example, my Spanish friends are able to come to the UK without needing to carry a bulky passport; instead they simply have a photo-card that fits neatly in their wallets.
Paul Maunders, Madrid, Spain

In Japan they have the charmingly named "alien registration card", a compulsory ID card for foreign residents that must be carried at all times. Although it does have its uses, asking for your alien card is frequently used as a pretext for police harassment as legally you must produce it even if they have no other reason to stop you - the fact that ethnic Japanese have no compulsory ID card also reinforces the feeling that you don't really belong, so it's not terribly pleasant. With a universal ID card system like in the one being suggested for the UK, I can't see that being a problem though - an ID card can be a useful tool if employed for the people, not against them.
Liam Sato, UK


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