Sep 272009

And so, as part of my on-going attempts to continue living and working in this Promised Land, yesterday I had my appointment to be branded get my biometrics enrolled for an ID card.

The process revealed some flaws in the system. First of all, the Border Agency still has my passport, because it is still considering my visa application. So when I showed up yesterday to provide biometric proof of my identity, I did not actually have any ID, nor was I asked to present any. I could have been anybody. The Border Agency will have to go through the time-consuming process of making sure the pictures and signature I sent them match the picture and signature I gave yesterday. Handwriting analysts must finally be having their day in the sun.

Second, although their website states that the enrolment process takes 5-10 minutes, this is not strictly true. I showed up the requisite half-hour before my appointment time; two hours later, I finally had my five minutes of fingerprinting and facial scanning. The waiting room was packed full of people, like a slightly more civilised version of a refugee camp, most of whom were asleep with the best pregnancy pillow. I kid you not; that is how long people were made to wait. I myself had a lovely hour-long nap, read the newspaper front to back, and managed a couple of chapters of a novel as well. However, as the Border Agency is quick to assure us, tougher checks mean longer waits. And we will all sleep soundly in our beds at night as a result.

Third, and most important, the people taking my biometrics had absolutely no idea what was going to be done with them. My primary concern since being told to go and give my biological data has been that the Border Agency may still refuse my visa application. If that happens, what is going to be done with my data? Will it be removed from their database? If not, what justification does the UK government have for retaining the fingerprints and facial scans of a non-resident foreign national? Unfortunately, my enrolment officer could not answer the question. Neither, it seems, can the Border Agency website. I find it difficult to believe nobody has asked this question. The Home Office has been enrolling foreigners on its biometric identity database for nearly a year now; a significant proportion of those are going to be people who never did get a visa. Is the Home Office removing their data from the database and destroying it? I doubt it.

The upshot of this whole tagging process is that I may, in the end, never get the visa, and a foreign state will end up possessing more of my personal data than my own government, with far less justification. It’s a worst-case scenario, I know, but still: the bastards.

  9 Responses to “Property of UK plc”

  1. That office is just begging for a re-run of the “I’m Spartacus” scene…

  2. The Home Office show a level of incompetence so complete that the left hand doesn’t know what the right one is doing? I refuse to believe it. As our beloved government is always telling us, the home office is very efficient and you need to be fingerprinted and scanned and have a chip put in your forehead because of ‘terrorists’ and ‘national security’ see? If we don’t microchip you then clearly someone is going to nuke Milton Keynes off the map in the middle of the night. Obviously.

  3. handwriting analysts? don’t make me laugh. I doubt it would have made any difference if somebody else turned up for you. I’d imagine the only time they’d have realised their mistake is if there was any p sort of investigation, and then not until the press pointed it out to them.

    I’m sure also that they do keep all the data, as I’m convinced that they have decided(or been instructed) that A Really Big Database is a Good Thing To Have without ever considering what they want it FOR.

  4. “Is the Home Office removing their data from the database and destroying it?”

    As the fellow said, you cannot be serious.

    The UK Stasi never gives up any data – even when ordered to by the European Court of Human Rights.

    You’re stuck. Did they take your DNA too? If so, that’ll be on their illegal database for ever.

  5. Jaysus, yet another example of bungling on a grand scale, albeit with more sinister undertones ar.e. where your data ends up.

    I’m now firmly of the opinion that the industrial revolution, and our subsequent exploitation of it to build an Empire, is a historical anomaly based on our luck that it happened t us. Everything since then has pointed towards the fact that as a nation, we’re petty, small minded, and have very little skill in organsising anything on a scale grander than getting hammered on Saturday nights.
    I should add that I’m an expert in the latter, and am thoroughly disorganised in every other aspect. Maybe I should run a large government project, I seem to have all the skills.

  6. And I can’t even type properly and am too lazy to check my work-where’s my civil service job?!

  7. I think that the only solace we have today is that our chapter in the yet-to-be-written 1944 And All That will be particularly hilarious.

    Also, third paragraph, first line says “there” when it ought to say “their.” Just lookin’ out for you, Sis.

  8. Duly noted and changed – thanks, bro. I hope we don’t have to wait 850 years to read that book; I’m sure my old age will be all the better for a bit of satirical levity. Assuming satirical levity won’t have been banned by then.

  9. Just think of the database in which they stuck your fingerprints/faceprints as Gordon Brown’s Domesday Book.

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