Civil liberties, twitter debates and dissemintation of misinformation

April 30, 2012

As observers of this blog will know, Odessablog tweets.  A twitter feed is to the right of this page.  It doesn’t tweet much, it doesn’t follow that many people or organisations and not that many people follow @Odessablogger.  That said, those who do follow are academics, think-tanks, Ukrainian politicians, Ukrainian civil liberties groups, journalists from Ukraine, the UK, Germany and USA as well as diplomats past and present both UK, Ukrainian and from the EU.

None too shabby a list of followers.  Small, influential, educated and interesting.

Amongst the Ukrainian MPs who tweet are Andrey Shevchenko and Vadim Utkin.

A tweet appeared with me from @vadimutkin stating this:

Россия, Украина, Израиль и Сев. Корея выдают внутренний паспорт. Во остальных странах паспорт существует только для выезда за границу

It then arrives with me again via @ashevch (Andrey Shenvchenko) via a re-tweet seconds later.

To save you dear readers the effort, in a nutshell, the tweet relates to the on-going debate over passports in Ukraine and Mr Mutkin is stating that the only nations in the world who have an internal passport system are Russia, Ukraine, Israel and South Korea.

This is of course absolute rubbish.  It may be they are the only nations that have an internal passport that takes the form of a little book that looks like the standard international passport we all recognise, but that it because many nations now use a national identity card rather than an internal passport.  The principle though is exactly the same.  A national ID system.

Now the debate is a civil liberties debate over internal ID as well as a debate over the changes to international passports and biometric data, data storage etc as mentioned in yesterday’s post (required in the EU road map for Visa-free).

However, Messers Mutkin and Shevchenko are being more than a little misleading.  If they care to look West and to the EU, a large number of EU nations have national identity card schemes.  In fact there are only a few that do not, my home nation of the UK being one.

Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Hungary, Italy, The Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, and soon to join Croatia, all require the ownership of national ID cards (some simply to posses and other to always carry).

That leaves the Brits, Danes and Swedish pretty much.

Now these national ID cards do not look like a standard passport because, well, it is less hassle to carry a credit card sized ID, but they serve exactly the same purpose as the Ukrainian Internal Passport which our two Deputies are trying to highlight as an unusual encroachment on civil liberties that Ukraine should get rid off or seen to be oppressive and backwards.

This is absolute misinformation they are spreading.  The only difference is the size and style of the internal identification document between Ukraine and all the other nations within the EU I have listed.  If Ukraine swapped the passport book for the ID card, it would be no different from the majority of Europe, however that little snippet of apparently irrelevant information is not being passed along.

Is it any wonder the Ukrainian public have so little faith in their political classes (of any party, and they are all old hands at telling half-truths, outright falsifications and fabricated nonsense) when they won’t even tell the truth about the nations surrounding Ukraine and the systems they employ that can be easily corroborated by anybody with access to the Internet?  Considering you need the Internet to read their twitter, surely they must know such nonsense will be exposed as nonsense within a few clicks of a mouse!

Alas, the truth must be perverted for other motives by some, and thus several thousand Ukrainians who follow these two MPs on twitter are now under the impression that it is only former Communist nations trapped in a bureaucratic time-warp, or nations with large external threats against them, that have such civil liberty invading practices.

Utter cobblers!   (And yes I did send a reply tweet about spreading BS.  The thing about twitter is it a platform for a “quick hit” or for sending out information via attachments, but a blog is a platform of more permanent and more permanently findable content.   Hence I use both and use both in the manner I think more fitting for each medium.)

When it comes to solutions to the current debate, if some form of State generated ID is (still) required, you would think that an international passport would be as good as an internal passport (or ID card) for the purposes of identification within Ukraine and that in fact, an either/or situation would be good enough.

Reinventing the wheel over issues other neighbouring nations have accomplished so many times seems a quite pointless exercise.  The decision is whether to continue to require the possession of State generated ID (as most EU nations do, despite the inferences that they don’t) or not.  Thereafter it is a matter of what form it will take only.


  1. I think what you may be seeing stems from the fact that during the sovok union, everyone had to have a propiska – an internal passport – and you could not leave town without approval on your propiska. Travel was severely restricted.

    Quite often in Zookraine, people don’t articulate the exact reason for their concerns, so it seems like they’re coming out of the blue somewhere.

    But travel restriction through an internal passport system is a legitimate cause for concern.

    • This debate has been on-going for months.. Hardly out of the blue. It is a deliberate manipulation of the truth. Simple.

      • But in Zookraine, everything gets repeated a million times, over and over and over again.

        And, in fact, travel has been previously restricted in various ways – suddenly, buses become “unavailable” for protesters.

        The fear of restriction of travel is not unfounded.

    • Having been to many political rallies, I have neither be stopped and asked for ID or prevented from going.

      Now it is no doubt true that some buses have been stopped but they have not been stopped on the pretext on internal identification, it has always been other reasons.

  2. In the U.S., we have I.D. cards … we call them Driver’s Licenses. For the most part they are almost the only I.D. we need. It has of course your photo, your current address, and in many cases a thumb print scanned in and viewable via special light. On the backs are data strips and in some states, DNA information. The whole system is locked into a giant database and almost any policeman in the U.S. can find out nearly everything about you with a quick scan. For this who don’t drive, we have I.D. cards exactly like the driver’s license. Each state has their own design, but the data is pretty much standard. This card is universally the size of a credit card, made of plastic and is pretty much a pain to forge. Actually forging a passport to day is rather simple, given scanners and Photoshop.

    The U.S. has had this system since before I was driving, and I have been a licensed driver for 45 years, between California and Oregon. Little Passport books are rubbish and old school. They are a pain to carry around and serve absolutely no purpose other than to make you look lame. Get with the rest of the world and go for the plastic credit card sized identification system. I am not trying to be mean, just an observation for someone who has come from a more modern identification/tracking system. Here is a bonus, this also will eliminate the home registration office you have in every city, the driver’s license doubles as home registration for purposes of, voting or serving on a jury in court…yes I know, you don’t do compulsory jury duty…but you could eliminate wads(buildings full) of paperwork if you went to a computerized system.

    Now, rather than reinvent the wheel as Ukraine is almost always apt to do. Take a hard look at all the current systems in Europe and the Americas. Pick on you like and ASK them how to implement it, use the same software and hardware that they do and you will find that it is painless in the long run. Try to come up with you own system and you will more than likely mess it up. Remember ASK someone who already has a system in place that has been working. Worried about financing this project? I am pretty sure the hardware/software company will come up with terms that Ukraine can live with.

    just sayin’

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