National ID Card Systems

National ID card systems and personal data-flows

The proposals, experiments and already-existing systems of national identification in the twenty-first century raise large, complex and urgent questions about personal data and their uses. Although the debates tend to be about "ID cards" this is somewhat misleading because the cards have little utility for preventing fraud, illegal immigration or terrorism (their primary stated purposes) without the large-scale databases containing personal data including biometrics on which they depend. And although by definition national ID card systems are intended primarily for use within a given country, their connection with other data that do cross borders, such as drivers' licences and passports, means that with routine record linkage they too could become the source for trans-border personal data flows. The proposed harmonization of European ID card systems is a case in point.

The research undertaken within the GPD project explores comparatively ID card systems in place (Japan, Malaysia, Hong Kong, for example) and proposed (the UK, USA for example), around the world with a view to coming to some general judgments about their common and divergent uses and consequences. Findings from the International Survey will contribute to our understanding of public opinion regarding ID cards in nine countries. The research team of faculty, graduate students and researchers is led by David Lyon at Queen's and has participants from several disciplines, locally and around the world. A major research workshop was held at Queen's in June 2007, the results of which were published in the book Playing the Identity Card (Routledge, 2008).