Function Creep is one of the main reasons us libertarians get so narked off with big government databases. The scenario goes like this: A well meaning Government Minister proposes a shiny new database that is going to store A, B and C about everyone in the country. They sternly remind us that they have specifically restricted it's scope to those categories, as to store any more would be an infringement of our privacy. The database eventually gets built, and ends up costing 4 times as much and being delivered 2 years too late, by which time all the ministers and civil servants who commissioned it have moved on. The trouble is that as well as being massively expensive, it also doesn't work very well and the current minister is getting a lot of stick for this in the press. So he announces that he is going to increase the scope of the database, so that it now records D, E and F about everyone in the country. This seems to be a cunning way of salvaging what has turned into a white elephant that he never wanted in the first place. But by the time D, E and F come online there's yet another minister in charge - and this time he's facing an immigration row. So this minster tells the tabloids that the database is now going to store X, Y and Z which will stop the immigration crisis. In actuality storing X, Y and Z will do nothing to stop illegal immigration, but it sounds good in the tabloids. After 10 years what was an innocuous and polite little database has become the greatest invasion of privacy that the world has ever seen - not because of any grand design, just a series of people tacking extra functions on for short term gain. Function creep.
And so it is with the National Identity Register. Even before it's been built, ministers are quietly adding information categories that it will store about you, already breaking the promises previous ministers have made on limiting the intrusion of the NIR. The Home Office has announced that it will be bringing the Department of Marriages, Births and Deaths into the National Identity Register (NIR). This means that the NIR will not only store every last thing about your life and movements, but will now be able to provide any nosey civil servant with your entire family tree (and that of you spouse). So anyone who wants to pay to access to the NIR will be able to essentially see how the entire country is interrelated - all at the touch of a button. This will be perfect for any Tabloid editor who wants to smear someone, as being related to anyone who's ever done anything wrong is already Fleet Streets favourite trick of bringing people down. It will also be the stalking tool of choice for wife beaters hunting their partners who have escaped abusive relationships - all they need do is pay off one of the half million or so people who will have access to the NIR and they will get a handy list of all their relatives names and addresses - genius! Of course politicians and celebrities don't need to worry about private information being stored and potentially compromised - they are thankfully all exempt from the NIR.
However it's not all doom and gloom with the latest terrifying and unnoticed piece of function creep. Someone at the Home Office clearly has a great sense of humour, as this authoritarian move is coming into force on April Fools Day 2008!