LET'S assume that everyone who wants to pry into your life has your best interests at heart.

Let's also assume, for surely it's true, that because you've done nothing wrong you have nothing to fear should you share the facts of your existence. In the strictest confidence, of course.

Let's say, to give the matter moral weight, that the system tracking you is doing untold good, that it's aiding the prevention of crime, the welfare of children, and the distribution of public goods to those who need them most. This wonder of the age keeps society functioning more cheaply and more efficiently than anything ever seen.

Do you have a problem with any of that?

Given the internet cliché describing the billions who surrender data freely on request, you can consider yourself one of the minority. Only a handful - and what are their motives? - try to kick up a fuss over the fact that Britain exists under the gaze of (as of 2013) six million CCTV cameras. Most believe the watchful electronic eyes either deter crime or help the police to run down perpetrators.

No-one spares much of a thought, meanwhile, for burgeoning DNA databases save when the science is vindicated and a murderer is brought to justice, sometimes decades after the fact. If sceptics remain, they can be reminded that libraries of DNA might well be the key to curing any number of diseases. Who cavils at that?

Only a minority. Those who campaign against official intrusions on the right to privacy tend, often enough, to lack the support of the public they aim to defend. That much was clear after New Labour launched its National Identity Scheme in 2005 and legislated for ID cards in 2006.

The Coalition scrapped the scheme and the £60 cards, but no-one could have faulted the architects for lacking ambition. Fully 50 categories of information were to be held on the National Identity Register, including all your fingerprints, a facial scan, an iris scan, a list of every place you ever lived (home and abroad), and anything that might be available from other, linked government databases. If opinion polls were a guide, the British public didn't mind a bit.

Even amid repeated scandals over data gone astray, surveys time and again showed majorities in favour of ID cards, with only occasional surges in opposition, usually over cost. In February 2009, one poll - admittedly conducted on behalf of the Home Office - found 59% support for cards with just 24% against. Even the campaign group No2ID, commissioning a survey a month or so before, had managed only a split decision: 48% in favour, 46% opposed.

The Scottish Government must have had the benefit of that doubt in mind when it set out to have regulations covering the National Health Service Central Register (NHSCR) amended in committee. Ministers were quiet about it, but no-one else had made much of a fuss. Even when the argument broke out at Holyrood last week, its focus, strictly speaking, was over the need for properly-debated primary legislation rather than any principle at stake.

That's not to say the opposition didn't voice their fears. Led by Willie Rennie of the Liberal Democrats, they wanted to know why fully 120 public bodies, including such as Quality Meat Scotland and Scottish Canals, should have access to a single register via a "unique citizen reference number". These critics wanted to know how this would differ from an ID system. They asked about confidentiality, consent, and whether such a database could possibly be secure with so many users.

John Swinney, Deputy First Minister, was indignant at the very idea of the SNP reversing its opposition to a universal ID system. He denied that a new database was envisaged. He promised an "unequivocal commitment to the protection of privacy". He swore that no health data would be shared. He sensed, in short, mere opportunism from his opponents.

Mr Swinney's immediate problem is in fact mundane. HMRC has been given the job of setting up a Scottish income tax by next April and has already admitted that identifying every Scottish taxpayer is "the most challenging element" of the reform. The NHSCR has been around since the 1950s, even if it does not cover every Scot, so why not make use of the resource? You could call the question fair. You would then have to explain why 119 other public bodies are getting in on the act.

The Scottish Government has comforting responses ready. Allowing access to the NHSCR might help in the tracing of children missing from education, in identifying foreign patients using the NHS, or in helping people to "access services" securely. In other words: you name it. The appeal to anyone who sits at a keyboard going slowly mad with the number of passwords required to get anything done might meanwhile be plain. But such reassurances are soporific. By no accident at all, they have the effect of putting the public to sleep.

Technology imposes its own imperatives: if something can be done, it should be done. In fact, in order to be modern, efficient, cost-conscious and of better use to the public, it must be done. And how can any such system be of real use if it is not universal?

What's wrong with Quality Meat Scotland knowing that I am who I say I am? Perhaps because the idea that such a fine body should have any use for a "unique citizen reference number" is bizarre - and symptomatic. Even in a benign form, the belief seems to be that anyone dealing with the public must know all there is to know about the public. In this case, however, any thought of individual consent has been overlooked.

But if the majority are better served and happy to surrender their privacy, why should I be resentful? That might be the heart of the matter. The scheme Mr Swinney was defending would dragoon individuals, in the most gentle way, for the greater good. A universal system allows no exceptions, no reservations, no private spaces. Those strike me as worth preserving.

Yet how, you ask, could a few churlish sorts impede services for all? You can't drive legally without a licence. You can't easily work without a national insurance number. A passport is essential for overseas travel. All these are accepted without a murmur.

Leave the ever-expanding war on terror out of it. There are examples enough of what happens when a database culture creates the rules, when it is assumed that no amount of information is ever enough and no-one can be exempt. Mr Swinney was advocating nothing more than improved public services. But that, strangely, makes the entire proposal seem all the more sinister. It's the sense of sheer inadvertence, of stumbling into unanticipated consequences, that's troubling.

Do I believe that the Scottish Government's clever system could never be abused? Not for a second. Do I think it could be made entirely secure? Such promises exist to be broken. Do I wonder why consent was ignored? Most certainly. And do I yearn to become a reference number, unique or otherwise? Not if I can avoid it.