Friday, April 16, 2010

Biometric National ID - The big lie

In an article on fiercegovernmentit.com David Perera tells us more of the claims and controversy surrounding the proposed biometric national ID cards. The proposed cards would have some type of biometric data to make them tamperproof (there's no such thing) and are supposed to help stop illegal immigration. If you read this blog regularly you've probably already seen my opinion on that.

He links to an opinion piece by Senators Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C), the authors of the bill. This piece shows either the duplicity of the two legislators, or their unforgivable ignorance of just what it is they are proposing. Just a few sentences from one paragraph of their article raises all kinds of alarms with me:
Each card's unique biometric identifier would be stored only on the card; no government database would house everyone's information. The cards would not contain any private information, medical information or tracking devices. The card would be a high-tech version of the Social Security card that citizens already have.

Let's look at the two claims individually:

First, if the biometric data is only on the card, there is nothing to check it against. Without a database to check the data on the card against it will be difficult if not impossible to create a card that's really difficult to forge, let alone one that's anywhere near tamperproof. Once someone figures out how to move the biometric data from one card to another a single lost ID can be turned into as many different ID's as they want. The card is only checked against itself, so it will always report that it's legit. In other words, a national database loaded with U.S. citizens personal data is more than a requirement for an even remotely effective national ID, it's an absolute necessity.

Second, it's not supposed to contain any private information. Excuse me, but biometric data is extremely private. Social Security numbers are supposed to be private. By it's nature, an ID card has to have some type of personal data or it can't prove your identity. And don't believe there won't be medical data on it. It won't be there at first, but unless the health care reform bill is repealed, the most logical place for portable health info to go is a chip on an ID card. And don't trust the promises that none of this will happen. "It will not be used as an ID number" was one of the promises used to pass Social Security.

The ACLU and about 45 other organizations sent a letter to President Obama outlining their concerns over a national ID. Along with the concerns I've already noted, they included concerns over cost and enforceability, among others. Regarding cost, they point out that providing biometric ID cards for 1 million transportations workers is expected to cost the Department of Homeland Security 1.9 billion dollars. In other words, it will cost almost $300,000,000,000 dollars to ID the entire U.S. work force. Perhaps more important, they don't believe the plan has a snowballs chance of working:
"Adding insult to injury, this unaffordable scheme will probably never work. Even ignoring the enormous difficulties of creating a system to fingerprint everyone and distributing readers to employers across the country, the truth is that some employers prefer the ambiguity of the current process. Unless significantly greater resources are dedicated to enforcing the law, employers will continue to have a strong incentive to circumvent a broken system. Such enforcement could be accomplished just as easily without a National ID."

If greater resources were dedicated to enforcing the law, there would be less perceived need for a national ID. In other words, this national ID thing is smoke and mirrors to gain more control over law abiding citizens while having minimal impact on the criminals.