Now, of late, the Guardian Money’s obsession with demonising “buy to let” landlords has been more than a little annoying. However in Saturday’s paper, the Capital Letters section had a bit which was quite interesting. Capital Letters is a sort of consumer rights thing, where people write in following problems with various companies and Tony Levene sorts things out for them. Very interesting reading most of the time.
Basically, this week, some one wrote in saying that HM Customs and Excise (Now properly known as HM Revenue and Customs) was threatening to take them to court over non-payment of taxes. The person was complaining because they did not owe any tax and they were on the PAYE scheme where tax is deducted from wages at source. The unfortunate correspondent had tried to convince HMRC about this but was unsuccessful.
Now following the Guardian’s intervention it transpired that the person writing in, having the initials JPE had been confused with someone called PJE over a tax offence at a totally different address (where JPE had never lived). It seems that JPE had been unable to convince the Revenue office of the mistake, and it was only the actions of a national newspaper which caused it to self-audit and discover the mistake. In addition to this, the HMRC provided JPE with a quantity of personal information on PJE, breaching its own confidentiality and Data Protection regulations.
This may seem reasonably trivial and it is true that mistakes like this happen all the time. The point which concerns me, is come the day all law abiding British citizens are forced to carry ID cards (criminals will not be forced to carry them…), similar mistakes will still occur, but will have the potential to be much, much worse.
When we have a “Gold Standard” ID document, which will be used by national security and law enforcement agencies, what happens when the a “computer mix-up” (as the HMRC blamed the above incident) occurs. How will some one be able to prove the government agency has made a mistake? Worryingly, the HMRC have shown there is a presumption of guilt based on a computer identification (which was massively erroneous) and the person trying to prove their innocence was pretty much unable to do so with out the newspaper’s assistance.
It is, obviously, impossible to know how many other people are in this situation, but it seems reasonable to assume “JPE” is not the only person who has suffered in this way. Some people will, undoubtedly, have paid the HMRC not realising (or not having as much proof) they were not really at fault.
Come the day where criminals are determined remotely on DNA registers and from the ID card database, how will Citizen X prove a computer mistake has placed them at the scene of a crime?
[tags]Society, Culture, Law, Rights, Identity, Identity Cards, ID, ID Cards, HM Revenue and Customs, Law Enforcement, Civil Liberties, Guardian[/tags]