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The identity crisis: how much should the government know about you?

PUBLISHED: 16:35 12 February 2010 | UPDATED: 16:45 07 September 2010

THE ARTICLE Every move you make, they ll be watching you on page 18 of this Ham&High edition is an important contribution to the debate about the individual s right to privacy in the face of the enormous information explosion we all live in. Is the gover

THE ARTICLE Every move you make, they'll be watching you on page 18 of this Ham&High edition is an important contribution to the debate about the individual's right to privacy in the face of the enormous information explosion we all live in.

Is the government bent on exploiting our willingness to give up more and more personal information in order to build up Orwellian-style dossiers on who we are and what we do?

The author of the article, Stephen Taylor, believes this would be the inevitable consequence of the ongoing but seldom discussed Transformational Government programme - the name itself conjuring visions from Orwell's seminal 1984.

This week the Home Office made a great deal of fuss about a young man who notionally at least became the first young Londoner to shell out £30 and sign up for a National Identity Card. If the government's plan is to use young people as a wedge to create a national identity culture, it is on to a winner. The cards will become the de facto passport to a hassle-free social life by, for instance, opening the doors to clubs and pubs and all forms of travel with the minimum of fuss, by confirming their status as responsible young persons. The cards will be snapped up by the under 25s.

And if their elders are sucked into the identity web because it is so much more convenient to live your life on the national register and extremely awkward if you choose to exclude yourself, then the dreadful prospect of 1984 moves significantly closer to becoming a reality of modern life. Will you even have a choice?

Is fear of this a form of illogical paranoia? It all boils down to how much we believe the government is entitled to know about us. Are you comfortable with this scenario, or is there a part of you that wants to yell No!

Either way, the incentive to sign up may eventually become overwhelming, even for people who are deeply uncomfortable with the concept. Imagine having to be on the register to avail of the NHS, or to travel to your holiday home, or to take out a bank loan, or even to have your bins emptied by the local authority. George Orwell's fiction is becoming uncomfortably close to fact, for everyone.

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