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Global challenges for identity policies

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Book review in Information Communication and Society

Book review in Information Communication and Society

Published in: Technology, News & Politics

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  • 1. Global Challenges for Identity Policies. In the Technology, Work and Globalization Series.Authors: Edgar A. Whitley & Gus Hosein. 2010 Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.ISBN 978-0-230-54223-5 (Hbk). 304 pages. 30 €In spite of the title, this book mainly focuses on the attempt to introduce biometricidentity cards in the UK. The authors cover a time span from the introduction of theIdentity Cards Bill in 2004 to the first applications for biometric residence permitsfor certain non-European foreign nationals in 2008. Due to the very detailed study ofthe UK case, the reader will not only learn about the challenges of implementing anew information system within the field of ICT and identity, but also gains insightinto British political processes.Besides the strong focus on the UK, the authors pursue to map challenges of identitypolicies more globally. Chapter two provides reviews of national identity policies,mainly in European countries, but also in commonwealth countries, the Middle East,Asia and the US. In the concluding chapter the authors give recommendations foreffective identity policies for the British case specifically, but also more generally.Hence there are attempts to establish more global themes in identity policies alsooutside the UK.In spite of the somewhat ambiguous focus, this book is highly recommended foranyone interested in identity policies, regardless if reading it as a detailed study ofthe British case, or as a review of global challenges. The in-depth descriptions of thedebates and proceedings in the UK are also of interest for any scholar researchingpolicy-making and for political scientists specialized in British politics.On an even more general level, this book touches upon one of the most pressingchallenges in contemporary society, namely that of the complex intersection betweendiscourses around the possibilities of information technology, security issues in apost 9/11 world, personal integrity and the role of policy-making. However, readerslooking for theoretical tools to understand and approach this challenge will have togo elsewhere. The UK identity policy-making procedure presented here, with all itstwists and turns, is rather suitable as a case to evaluate theory against.This book highlights the difficulties and complexities in enforcing ICT policies ingeneral and identity politics in particular. A dominant theme is the difficult relationbetween policy-making in sectoral national democratic institutions on one side, andborderless information technology with multipurpose uses on the other. The UK case
  • 2. underlines that the approach to technology among politicians is still dominated by aninstrumental attitude, technology as a tool for achieving well-defined and limitedpurposes. This is unfortunate since uses will be difficult to mold according topoliticians preferences. At the same time, the authors stress that the many purposesof identity policies, from combating terrorism to consumer identity verification,could hardly be obtained in one single policy. The complexities and ambiguitiesattached both to the issue of identity as well as to ICT’s, make it a particularly trickyarea in policy-making. This book is a good example to illustrate this point.Jakob Svensson, Ph. D.Is currently holding a position as Assistant Professor in Media and Communication Studies atKarlstad University, Sweden. He is also directing the research network HumanIT, HumanValues of Information Technlogy, also based at Karlstad University.

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