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Interrogation centre set for Reading

Reading Chronicle | November 12, 2006
Annabel Williams

THE government is coming to Reading to snoop into your personal life by opening one of its "Big Brother" interrogation centres in the heart of the town.

The Home Office will set up an "interview and administration" centre - one of 69 across Britain - in the town centre's Kings Reach building in King's Road early next year.

Government private finance initiative (PFI) contractor Mapeley Abi Provider Ltd applied for planning permission to use the first floor of the building for 10-20 minute interviews for people applying for a first passport.

But civil liberties groups fear the Big Brother office is the thin end of the wedge, with the centres becoming a treasure trove for criminal gangs eager to get their hands on criminal data to sell to a host of salivating marketing men.

Ian Darling, contact for the Reading branch of a national anti-ID card organ-isation, No2ID,said: "While the office on King's Road may initially be for handling first-time passport applications,it is intended for a far more sinister purpose.

"That could technically mean the interrogation of anyone in the Reading area so their personal details can be linked together on a massive database, the National Identity Register (NIR).

"Some time next year or in 2008, people applying for passports will be entered into this database.

"The NIR will be accessible to some 500,000 public employees.

"Nobody in their right mind would give copies of their house or car keys to the government, given such huge scope for abuse, and they shouldn't hand over the keys to their identity either.

"Criminal gangs have already targeted call centres and government offices to get at people's information, so what makes anyone think they won't go for the juiciest target of all?

"What damns the National Identity Scheme further is that there are plenty of better approaches to improving personal security and reducing fraud that a number of IT groups and companies are working on - privacy enhancing technologies that reduce the opportunity for personal details to get leaked or stolen through malice or incompetence.

"These are what need to be implemented in this country,and not the privacy-eliminating systems that are being forced on us"

Home Office spokesman Owen Bassett said: "90% of applications are currently made via post, and this does leave scope for fraudulent applications.

"The Identity and Passport Service detected some 1,700 confirmed frauds last year,and 74% of those originated in the first-time adult applicant category.

"Interview offices will need to be easy to find, with good parking and public transport access,with 99% of the population within an hour's travel of an office.

"The number of locations in the network is intended to enable IPS to offer a convenient service without raising the fee more than is necessary."

 

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