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Updated: Feb 7, 2022

Nosedive is a disquieting episode of Black Mirror where (Netflix) one’s socio-economic status is determined by scoring each other’s daily activities with stars ("likes") via mobile phones and eye implants.

In a Pandemic exiled world, which relies more and more on remote and digital communications, we are encouraged by the UK govt to embrace a digital wallet which will contain our UK digital identities and “attributes” . It will exist in cyberspace within a federated (non-centralised) and "trusted framework."

Where once a passport or driver’s licence was used to open a bank account or to provide ID for a job, from 6/4/22 we would “have a choice” to present our UK digital IDs and wallets instead, when we need to prove our right to work for a job or our right to rent to get a flat or our standing to obtain a mortgage to buy a house to a lender or to an estate agent. Over time the "transactions" for which it can be used will no doubt expand.

One must join the dots...

As a part of the non-discriminatory Right to Work/Right to Rent checks we must check ALL potential employees and tenants. This means we must check the right to work or rent and right to open a bank account etc by examining the nationality and immigration status of everyone even those who "appear" to be British. Until now a British/Irish Passport or a combination of documents were enough to prove that as a British or Irish national you have the right to work/rent in the UK to provide oneself with a "statutory excuse" from being liable to a hefty civil penalty.

From 6/4/22 we may do this right to work etc. check online using the UK Digital ID but there is a cost, which may be anything between £1.45 to £70.

Given that this applies to all UK citizens who apply for a job/try to rent and even who buy a home, each time there is a "transaction" it correspondingly improves the income of the Home Office. It becomes a kind of a discreet tax for the employer/landlord etc. for hiring even a British Citizen.

What are the real costs and what are these "attributes"?

The attributes are described by the DCMS (Dept for Digital Culture Media and Sport) as:

Attributes could be related to:

· physical or digital documents such as a bank statement

· devices such as a mobile phone

· credentials such as a university degree

· someone’s health condition

Some examples of attributes are:

· the number of children someone has

· someone’s bank account number

· someone’s National Insurance number

· someone’s NHS number

· the number of people that work for a company

· a Companies House company number

· that someone is over 18”

DCMS hard sell goes on:

"Using digital identities will mean users do not have to rely on offline channels (such as by post or over the phone) to interact with organisations or access services. Making these sorts of interactions and transactions available online can also:

· save organisations time and money

· reduce the risk of fraud to organisations and users

· be easier and quicker for users to complete

· reduce of the risk of errors that come from managing data manually

· encourage innovation by helping organisations develop more services

The government is committed to delivering these benefits digitally and “without the need for a national identity card”.

And the hard sell goes further,,,

“Attributes are created, collected and checked by an attribute service provider. An attribute service provider could be an organisation or a piece of software, like a digital wallet. Attribute service providers can share the attributes they keep with other organisations or individuals, as long as they have the user’s agreement.

Sharing attributes means:

· users can share information about themselves to access services more easily

· users and organisations do not have to update information in more than one place whenever something changes”

Most things in life begin as a choice… Later it could evolve into a requirement and later still, it may become so intrusive to the point of becoming alarmingly obstructive of ordinary, anonymous, peaceable life.

In certain cities in China a social credit scoring system not dissimilar to Nosedive already exists with people being blacklisted and barred from access to basic facilities.

An Orwellian vision of being watched by the Big Digital feels mildly disturbing.

If we are to upload our degree certificate, as well as the CSE certificate for needlework and detentions from Mr Brown for being late for Maths in Year 6, along with our vaccinations, prescriptions for this and that, so that a variety of scheme participants could log in and scrutinise our digital wallet, even with our permission, questions of privacy and security of data sharing do arise in one’s mind. Might adverse inferences be drawn if we refuse access?

DCMS attempts to reassure us:

In most circumstances, users will be able to choose which organisations can see and share their personal data, and how long they will have access to it for. They will not have a choice in specific situations, for example if they’re the subject of a police investigation”

Our medical records, parking fines, daughter Lucy's pet gerbil’s toenail clipping bill on our bank statements, would be accessible and could be questioned by potential lenders, employers and medical insurers? The ICO has some reservations but believes, on the whole, that the Digital Infrastructure Ministry has got it right.

Article 8 European Convention on Human Rights: The right to respect for private and family life, home and correspondence.

The Human Rights Act 1998 which translated this into domestic law protects one's right to respect for private and family life, home and correspondence. This right provides minimum standards that public bodies must adhere to in protecting individual freedoms.

Article 8 ECHR protects private information, including access to personal information and to have that information confidential.

However more efficient these "transactions" become because of a UK digital ID and wallet, are these surreptitious intrusions into our Right to Privacy acceptable?

Some are disquieted...

Author: Nilmini Roelens

France 24 report on China's social credit system:

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