Sunday 16 March 2014

RIP IDA – what we shan't be told on 10 June 2014

No need to say it, it goes without saying, it should be obvious to all but, just in case it isn't obvious to all, IDA is dead.

IDA is the Cabinet Office Identity Assurance programme. And it's dead.


Individual electoral registration (IER) was passed into law last year and will start in England and Wales in a few months time on 10 June 2014. In the weeks leading up to that date the Electoral Commission will conduct a publicity campaign to tell people how it works and to remind us of the benefits we can expect.

What you will read
We may hear that managing our own electoral registration on-line will give us more control. And that it's more efficient. We may be told that democracy will thereby be extended. And that IER is modern and more fitting for a 21st century country than the household registration by post that it replaces.

We may be told that IER will reduce electoral fraud because, for the first time, electoral roll records can be checked against national insurance records. In fact, that's what we've already been told:
The Government’s plan for the introduction of IER includes the intention to compare existing electors’ names and addresses on the electoral registers with records held by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in order to verify the identity of people currently on the registers. This process is known as 'confirmation'.
There might be a few ignorable moanbags complaining that national insurance records are in such a mess that they don't provide the Electoral Commission with much confidence. Some clever dicks may point out that the reliance on social security numbers to identify people in the US has historically been a nightmare. But this benighted awkward squad, incapable of seeing the marvels of modernisation, won't get much coverage.

The Individual Electoral Registration Bill was a Liberal Democrat Bill sponsored by their leader, Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister. The impact assessment revealed that the data-matching above was illegal. Primary legislation therefore had to be passed to allow it – a Liberal Democrat Bill had the illiberal effect of removing one of the protections built into the carefully crafted unwritten British Constitution.

Anyone complaining that the sharing of records, between the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and Electoral Registration Officers, is a dangerous constitutional revolution will be treated as a typical British eccentric. Charming in their way, but not to be taken seriously.

These old gits can point out all they like that democracy's finger has been pulled out of the dyke, releasing the floodwaters of massive data-sharing in which we shall all drown. They will be ignored. Francis Maude has won the day and convinced the administration that the protections afforded by the old laws were just so many myths.

All of those matters may be discussed. That will be the news.

What you won't read
What will not be news and what will not be discussed is the embarrassing point that the identity assurance programme still doesn't exist.

If IDA existed, we would have a reliable way of determining identity and its associated entitlements such as the entitlement to vote.

We wouldn't have to rely on half-baked checks against DWP, whose national insurance number database contains at least nine million records which no-one can account for. That was the figure back in 2007, after the database had been deduped/cleaned up. Before that, there were 20 million suspect records. How many are there now? Who knows.

IDA was "due to be rolled out for initial public services by autumn 2012" but it wasn't and it still hasn't been and it won't have been by 10 June 2014. It should be the linchpin of digital government but it isn't there to protect the new electoral roll at one of its weakest points – the take-on of voter details for the first time. And at the present rate, it never will be there.

At some point the administration will have to admit that IDA is dead. RIP.


Not 10 June 2014. That's for sure.

You'll have to wait much longer than that.

How much longer?

144 hours. Six days. You'll have to wait until 16 June 2014 ...

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