Sunday, May 15, 2005

Real ID

There must be a huge debate about this "Real ID" act somewhere, but I've missed it. Seriously snuck in under my radar. Probably that's just because I've been busy. Probably this received the huge news coverage and public debate it deserves. Right? Anyway, C|Net seems to have a nice summary.

What does it mean for me?
Starting three years from now, if you live or work in the United States, you'll need a federally approved ID card to travel on an airplane, open a bank account, collect Social Security payments, or take advantage of nearly any government service. Practically speaking, your driver's license likely will have to be reissued to meet federal standards.

What's going to be stored on this ID card?
At a minimum: name, birth date, sex, ID number, a digital photograph, address, and a "common machine-readable technology" that Homeland Security will decide on. The card must also sport "physical security features designed to prevent tampering, counterfeiting, or duplication of the document for fraudulent purposes." Homeland Security is permitted to add additional requirements--such as a fingerprint or retinal scan--on top of those. We won't know for a while what these additional requirements will be.

You said the ID card will be electronically readable. What does that mean?
The Real ID Act says federally accepted ID cards must be "machine readable," and lets Homeland Security determine the details. That could end up being a magnetic strip, enhanced bar code, or radio frequency identification (RFID) chips. In the past, Homeland Security has indicated it likes the concept of RFID chips. The State Department is already going to be embedding RFID devices in passports, and Homeland Security wants to issue RFID-outfitted IDs to foreign visitors who enter the country at the Mexican and Canadian borders. The agency plans to start a yearlong test of the technology in July at checkpoints in Arizona, New York and Washington state.

Will state DMVs share this information?
Yes. In exchange for federal cash, states must agree to link up their databases. Specifically, the Real ID Act says it hopes to "provide electronic access by a state to information contained in the motor vehicle databases of all other states."

Oh. So, that's scary.

And it's already been passed by the House and the Senate, and Bush has said he supports it...

'Cause, you know, it's so consistent with those Republican principles of small government and limited federal power.

I want to immigrate to 1998. I know some of my Republican friends will tell me about the moral problems of the Clinton administration, but I can't see how Bush and Delay and Cheney and Co. have actually improved any of the situations they've objected to. My Republican friends have been betrayed.

And I'm getting tired of being an advocate for the Devil, with my Democratic friends.



Andy said...

RealID has actually been covered fairly well in Hoy (and, I imagine, the rest of the Spanish-language press).


Eric said...

Much the same is happening over here. Though there has been at least some debate, though largely superficial.

Here they are proposing biometric ID cards.

During the election campaign I bumped into an old friend from the local Labour Party who happens to also be a former junior Hom eOffice minister. He told me that his friends in the Home Office tell him they've currently got 6 different reasons why the scheme will have to be abandoned, they just don't know yet which will end up being crucial.

The entire thing is a nonsense. It's propaganda to placate the people who want to be reassured that "something will be done".

There are several issues as far as I'm concerned. Firstly, in these days of increasing fear of identity theft, why is it better to rely on a single piece of ID that covers everything rather than requiring several separate forms of ID? Who is paying for all this and how much? Finally, what does it actually change?

We keep getting told that ID cards can be used to reduce crime and peevent terrorism and illegal immigration. Yet NOBODY seems to be prepared to actually explain how that will work on a practical basis. I'm reluctantly forced to assume that a large number of people see it as a way of targeting people who look furrin and harrassing them.

That's the trouble, people either have simply adopted a mantra that ID cards will make them more secure without ever thinking about how, or they are refusing to actually explain the real reason they want ID cards and how they expect them to be used.

It stinks to high heaven.

Ashi said...

What's so scary about it? I don't see any reason why it'd be scarier than a driver's license as is or a passport (please note that those contain a lot of information and most can now be scanned, and the info is stored centrally somewhere). So unless you have thought of a real reason to call it "scary" I'll have to view you as having lost intelligence points in my books.

Despite my nasty response to the word "scary" as used here I still think highly of you. I just view this as a sign that you're behaving "sheep" like. It seems like falling into hype of a non-mainstream sheep. Though non-mainstream sheep are still sheep, even if the mainstream ones don't recognize them. If that's not the case with you then I'm glad. And if it is... ce la vie (sp).

"We keep getting told that ID cards can be used to reduce crime and peevent terrorism and illegal immigration. Yet NOBODY seems to be prepared to actually explain how that will work on a practical basis."

I view it as obvious that a federally standardized identification system with central databases would prevent a hell of a lot of fake ID bullshit and I presume that this would help to prevent illegal alien employment. (Though clearly it wouldn't prevent all of it, maybe not even very much of it - though I imagine it would likely make it easier to catch illegal immigrants, and I suppose that catching illegal immigrants would also make the US a little safer from terrorists).

"Who is paying for all this and how much?" Well, I'd like to think they'll have the foresight to make a "driver's license" tag or information slot(s), which the states could use and abandon having their own driver's license, in which case it wouldn't be so much of an "extra" expenditure.

Though regardless, I don't think it stinks. I've always thought it was stupid that we didn't have a mandatory federal ID of comparable nature to a driver's license. One of the primary features of our criminal prosecution system being more successful than those in certain other countries is precisely because each citizen has an identity with the government. It only makes sense that we should have something more than a social security card to verify peoples' identities.

Eric said...

Firstly. I'm scared of any idea that is justified by people saying "it's obvious" without ever detailing precisely how. It isn't obvious to me. The ONLY obvious way that a compulsory ID card scheme can prevent any significant amount of crime or terrorism is if used in conjunction with the police stopping people to ask for ID. If that's actually the idea then I'd like people to be honest and say that they want to live in a country where the police randomly stop anyone they decide looks suspicious. If that isn't how it;s supposed to cut crime and terrorism then I want to be told the details.

The other worry is that at present there isn't a single primary form of ID. I like that. I like that because I've had a wallet stolen, so I know that can happen. I like that because I've had to renew a passport in a hurry. Lose the ID card and you are a non-person in some circumstances until you can get a replacement. There's no guarantee that isn't gpong to be weeks rather than days. That could easily end up being a sacry situation. If the ID card doesn't become the sole accepted form of identification in at least some circumstances then it has no purpose at all. I don't trust any government anywhere to replace a lost ID card fast enough to prevent some people sometimes having a serious problem if their card is stolen or lost. I don't like having all my eggs in one basket. At present I can use a combination of several forms of ID any time I need to prove my identity. It's nearly impossible to get into a situation where you can't prove who you are.

I can see a lot of downsides to it and almost nothing that's an advantage to me.

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