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Government-approved Facial Recognition for a Pint of Beer?

Silkie Carlo, the director of civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch, has penned an important op-ed for the Telegraph warning that we risk “emerging like some sort of China-adjunct – a high-tech dystopia where citizens flash their vaccine IDs and biological risk scores to buy a pint of milk, or government-approved facial recognition for a pint of beer.”

Silkie also took her campaign to Twitter, stating:

Today is an important day to say loud + clear: no national ID, no vaccine ID, no voter ID!

69 yrs ago today in 1952, Winston Churchill’s govnt scrapped ID cards. Why? In his words, to “set the people free”. Here’s a story about Britain’s rejection of ID cards.

At the beginning of WW2 in 1939, the National Registration Act was passed as an emergency measure. Every man, woman and child had to carry an ID card at all times. The main purposes were for evacuations, rationing and population statistics. 45 million paper cards were issued.

But like most emergency measures, ID cards didn’t go away after the war. In 1950, Harry Willcock, a 54 year old London dry cleaner, was stopped by a police man who demanded to see his ID. He refused, telling him simply “I am against this sort of thing”. Mr Willcock’s seemingly small act of resistance inspired a movement. Soon after, the British Housewives’ League took to Parliament to set fire to their ID cards - one woman set her card alight in a frying pan.

Mr Willcock was prosecuted and the case reached the High Court in 1951, where he found sympathy from the judges. He was given an absolute discharge for his refusal to show his ID. He was the last person to be prosecuted under the National Registration Act.

The judgment said the 1939 Act was “never passed for the purposes for which it is now apparently being used” and that using the law in this way “tends to turn law-abiding subjects into lawbreakers (…) such action tends to make the people resentful of the acts of the police.”

Silkie goes on to say:

Does this ring a bell? Every word applies to the use of the Public Health Act 1984 today, under which anything from visiting our families to political leafleting is currently deemed a criminal act. Does anyone seriously think vaccine IDs would not also exceed their purpose?

The UK rejected ID cards *again* after, in the wake of 9/11, then Prime Minister Tony Blair told us we couldn’t possibly fight terrorism without them. One @BorisJohnson

rallied against the plans, noting the inevitability of mission creep...

Boris Johnson said “There is the loss of liberty & the creepy reality that the state will use these cards to store all manner of detail about us, our habits, what benefits we may claim & so on.” In fact, in 2004 he said if he was asked to show his ID, he’d physically eat it

So what’s changed? Again, it took public commitment to freedom to overcome ID cards. NO2ID was launched, one of the most successful public campaigns of the decade - the plans were eventually defeated. Ever since, government proposals for ID cards are periodically revived.

Today, the fight could be harder than ever. Because it’s not only the 8 different government-funded projects for vaccine passports we’re up against. The Government is also quietly developing a ‘digital identity framework’ so that, for example people can use facial recognition apps connected to government-approved identity systems to verify our age at the local pub. Govnt is also soon to introduce a Bill to require voter ID, despite only 1 ballot box fraud case in 2017 and 3.5 million Brits who have no photo ID.

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