Ian Brown's Blogzilla brings us this report on bugs in the British passport system.
Yet surely all is not lost. There are, after all, British politicians with an advanced understanding of privacy and computing. For example, I would hope the technologically savvy Earl of Erroll, with his informed colleagues the Baroness Gardner of Parkes, the Countess of Mar, Lord Avebury, the Earl of Northesk, and Lord Campbell of Alloway, could prevail upon the good graces of Lord Sainsbury of Turville to have Britain move beyond the strange incident Ian brings to our attention.
Remember the huge ID cards report row last year between the government and the LSE's Simon Davies? The Home Secretary Charles Clarke (remember him?) went on the Today programme and accused Davies of fabricating evidence for the LSE's report on the ID cards. Ministers from Blair down took turns inside and outside Parliament to rubbish and defame him at every possible opportunity. It turned very nasty and Davies for the remainder of the year was very much Enemy Number One for the Home Office.
Of course subsequent events vindicated the report. The ID scheme is falling to pieces in exactly the way it predicted.
Simon went to the Passport Office in London yesterday to renew his passport. As he approached the interview counter a huge wasp appeared from nowhere, hovering over his head and dive-bombing staff. Interview officers scrambled for cover and retreated to the back of the room. Overheard was the comment “Where the hell did THAT come from?” followed closely by an accusatory glance at Simon and the remark “It came in with HIM!”
The wasp continued to hold position over Simon's head while staff ducked and weaved to avoid the beast. Three security people were called in to deal with the crisis. For a full fifteen minutes work in the passport office came to an abrupt halt as a fearless security official danced around the room, batting the hapless wasp with a handy copy of Her Majesty's passport guidance notes.
The wasp was finally dispatched to insect heaven but not before some people had formed the view that this was all an ingenious and pre-meditated campaign strike against the passport office.
Interestingly, once all the wasp-induced chaos had settled, the officials refused to renew his passport. They said it was “damaged” because a little of the laminate on the data page was lifting. What a surprise for a ten-year old paper document.
Anticipating possible problems establishing his identity, Davies had with him a dozen identity documents, including his LSE card, bankcards, bank statements and utility bills and a three-inch thick pile of newspaper stories with his photo â€” including articles in the Daily Mail which showed his passport photograph and others from the Sunday Times and the Guardian with his current photo. It was to no avail. He was told that these were all unacceptable as a means of establishing that he was who he said he was. His current passport was not an acceptable form of identity either.
Whether Simon brought a trained wasp into the passport office is something we may never be able to verify, but in the end the Home Office got their own back. He now cannot attend the United Nations Internet Governance Forum in Athens next week, at which he was scheduled to speak.
There may be some who wonder at Ian's complete objectivity. But let's not dwell on minutae. I hope Britain will find some way that the visionary Simon Davies can address the upcoming United Nations conference.