ID Cards At Their Worst

The biggest trouble with national ID cards is that if you have an evil government, they make bad things easier.

Shanghai monitors Internet cafes: SHANGHAI'S INTERNET cafes and bars are being plagued with video cameras and hi-tech logging software, put in place by authorities to make absolutely certain no “forbidden sites” are viewed.

According to yahoo.com and the Shanghai Daily newspaper, Yu Wenchang from the Shanghai Culture, Radio and TV Administration said monitoring will begin in all 1,325 of Shanghai's geek centres by the end of June.

Banned websites include both pornographic sites and sites with “superstitious content,” such as Falun Gong, the site of a spiritual group.

A number of people have already been sent to prison for downloading and uploading banned material, and it looks like with the new system in place even more will get busted.

The newspaper report also says that all people in Internet cafes will now have to enter the number on an identification card, as proof that they are over 16 years of age. Cafes allowing underage users to surf the web will be fined at first, and if caught again they will have their licenses revoked.

It doesn't follow from this, necessarily, that ID cards make bad government more likely, or that they necessarily have the same bad effects under decent governments.

I'm certainly prepared to believe that if you have a government that wants to engage in thought control, you have much bigger problems than a little card. On the other hand, governments and indeed everyone, tend to go for what's cheap and easy. If an ID card regime makes some choices cheaper and easier than they were formerly, surely it increases the odds that people will advocate them?

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