Sunday, February 24, 2013


 If you still have your original Social Security card, take it out and look at the bottom of it.  It says it is not to be used for purposes of identification.  How did that work out?  Refusing to give your Social Security number can prevent you from renting a car, flying, or buying underwear at Macy’s.  Even though federal law prohibits it from being used as an I.D., it has become the de facto national identification number for Americans.

     If you aren't careful, it's going to happen again on an even larger and more intrusive scale.  The Wall Street Journal reports key senators, who are working on a comprehensive immigration bill, are entertaining the idea of creating a national identification card, which every U.S. worker would be forced to carry.  According to the Journal, this high tech card could use fingerprints, or biometric markers, to prove whom you are and whether you had a right to work.

     4th amendment defenders, and those concerned with the increasing loss of personal privacy in America, are worried such a card could be used not just to establish legitimacy to work, but also could be used to track Americans at airports, or hospitals, and every other place in their lives, where such a card could be required to be produced.  It is a very valid concern given the history of the Social Security card.

     The creation of such a card would necessitate the building of a national database by the government to confirm the identity of someone using the card.  This database does not currently exist.  What do exist are government, and private, databases that already are too intrusive and have eroded a host of privacy protections.  Those various sources of information are disparate and have to be searched individually.  A whole industry has sprung up to aggregate personal information about you.  Every time you post to Face Book, send a tweet, search the web or write something on Tumblr, you are exposing more of yourself and losing privacy.  At least it takes time to aggregate and there are still options if you would like to keep some aspects of your life private.

     A national I.D. card would take all your personal information and collect it in one place.  This data vacuum would suck in items about everything you ever purchase, what movies you rent, library books you borrow, places you travel or visit and much more.  It would contain all of your personal health information including anything about mental or psychological treatment.  All of your financial records and transactions would be stored.  (those proposing this will deny any of this, of course, and promise the scope of such a card will be limited, just as they promised the Social Security card would not become a national I.D.)  It is a virtual one stop shopping place if you wanted to investigate someone or look into what they are reading or whom they associate with.  Add this to insurance companies who want to you to put a device on your car so they can monitor how you drive, various On Star services which can track where you drive (along with that little transmitter on your windshield which automatically pays your toll on the bridge) as well as federally mandated little black boxes on all new cars, and George Orwell seems to have underestimated the reach of Big Brother.

     You and I know exactly how this would work.  Every business would require you to let them scan the card before you could buy anything.  You would have to show it to board an airplane, train or boat.  Your bank would require it, as would any government agency.  Almost anything you regularly do, even buying gas or fur-lined handcuffs, would be scrutinized.  All of this information would be on a government server.  It is estimated it would cost as much as $25 billion to build this system and another $1-2 billion per year to maintain it.  Money well spent?

     Where this gets real interesting is if the system screws up or fails.  What happens if it says you aren't you?  What if it says you are dead or what if it can't find you?  Since this is the government, you know it will fail and make mistakes and mis-identify.  What do you do then?  This also gives government this massive treasure trove of information.  The same government who illegally wire tapped and spied on you, wants to fly drones over your house...the same government which can secretly bug your home and computers without having to tell you....the same government consistently being hacked and losing data which exposes your personal private details to strangers, and would, to save money, sell your information to private corporations as long as they were willing to pay a good the government which now wants to make you carry a national I.D. card.  Right, no reason to be concerned.

     This immigration legislation is still in its infancy.  You can crush this idea of a high tech, biometric I.D. card.  If there is enough of an outcry from average Americans to their representives, this idea will be abandoned.  If, however you are quiet and roll over and say nothing, you will have ended any possible use of the 4th amendment and your right to be free from government intrusion into your personal life forever.

1 comment:

  1. I think that in France, everyone is required to carry a national ID card, and the police have the legal authority to stop you and ask you to present it to them at any time.

    I don't know how that works with foreign tourists and residents, however. That is, if they have to have their passports on them at all times, for example.