Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Revolt against National ID Cards

There is a growing revolt against the "Real ID" act that would, in effect, create a nationwide database and registration for every person.

This bill overwhelmingly passed the NH lower house, and is expected to become law. A coalition of libertarians and rightwing Republicans championed the bill, with ACLU support.

In the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand Six
AN ACT prohibiting New Hampshire from participating in a national identification card system.
Be it Enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court convened:
1 Prohibition Against Participation in National Identification System. The general court finds that the public policy established by Congress in the Real ID Act of 2005, Public Law 109-13, is contrary and repugnant to Articles 1 through 10 of the New Hampshire constitution as well as Amendments 4 though 10 of the Constitution for the United States of America. Therefore, the state of New Hampshire shall not participate in a national identification card system; nor shall the department of safety amend the procedures for applying for a driver’s license under RSA 263 or an identification card under RSA 260:21.
2 Effective Date. This act shall take effect 60 days after its passage."


Dr. Strangelove said...

Do you have any details on what exactly the "Real ID" act does? In principle, I support the concept of a National ID card, but of course the devil is in the details.

For example, I believe the Real ID act requires that one divulge one's true principal place of residence--which makes some unwarranted assumptions about how people live, and may inadvertently help stalkers find their victims. Giving the government an address where you can be reached should be sufficient. Also, I believe the Real ID act requires one's signature to be on the card, but it seems to me--in this day of identity theft--that it is a bad idea to put one's photograph, real address, and signature all on the same document.

Anonymous said...

The Real ID act requires that the ID contain your true principal place of residence, digital photograph, signature, full legal name, and date of birth. The ID must also have all such data encoded electronically on the card and readable. The database must also contain a full driving history of each person. All state ID databases containing all data shall be linked. To get an ID, the state must require proof of ALL of the following: (1) an existing photo ID or birth certificate; (2) proof of SSN; (3) documentation proving address of principal residence; (4) proof of legal status in USA. The state MUST check all SSN against a national database before issuing the ID and limit validity to 8 years of less. Any state ID not meeting all these standards must bear the legend "not accepted by any Federal agency for any purpose" and have a unique design or color that indicates that it may not be accepted by a federal agency.

A copy of the act is available here .

Is it terrible? No. Is it a National ID card? Yes, it is. Will it make identity theft very easy and hard to defeat? Definitely. All you need is to get into that single database and you've got everything. 

// posted by LTG

Anonymous said...

The Brits just passed something similar. I wonder how that is working.

I am curious Dr. S. why you support the idea of a national ID in principle? I am surprised by that.

In principle, I am against a national ID card. I already have one. It's called a passport. I do not trust the government and electronic data. I have already had a problem at my workplace with government misuse and mishandling of electronic databases and private information. Furthermore, I can almost promise you that the US government does not have the technology or the know how at this time to put such a system in motion. Based on my recent experiences with a large government data collection agency for federal employees, I can tell you, if they have it and if it is actually operational, I'd be very shocked.

Contractors will make big promises about such large databases, but because of the tendency of government organizations to take a "Christmas tree" approach to such projects, contractors won't be able to deliver.

Electronic databases already put the wrong people on TSA watch lists. Electronic databases coded voters in Florida as felons in 2000, preventing many from exercising their rights. And when something appears in a database, have fun trying to disprove it to someone on a help line.

Protection is found in desegregation of information.

// posted by USWest

Anonymous said...

Yeah, France has a national ID card that you have to carry with you at all times, and I agree with USWest -- not a fan. Why not just put a bar code on our heads?

I haven't read the act, so I don't know if it would allay my fears or not ... I'll get on that. 

// posted by Bell Curve

Anonymous said...

The British law was proposed by Labour, supported by the Tories and only my favorite, Liberal Democrats opposed it. Good for the Liberals!

This kind of ID card is about helping the government gather information about its citizens. In the context of "total information awareness," blanket internet searches and the NSA wire tapping story, this scares the hell out of me.

Christians will probably oppose this too. Proving that even a busted clock is right twice a day, Evangelical Christians think national ID cards are tantamount to what Bell Curve said, "putting a bar code on our heads." They see that as the prophesized "number of the beast" from Revelations.  

// posted by Raised By Republicans

Dr. Strangelove said...

I have already explained my reservations about this particular version of a national ID card (see above). I should also add one more, responding to Bell Curve: I oppose the idea that one should be required to carry one's card at all times. One should have the right to be relatively anonymous in private life. (Being required to provide one's card to request most government services, however, does not disturb me. This is already the case, in practice.)

As for the principle of a national ID card, my thought is this: how is this really different from a State-issued ID card, like my drivers license? As a California resident, I am already part of a database for 35 million. What is the practical difference between that and being part of a database of 300 million? I am also not opposed to demanding stronger proof of identity before issuing an identity card. The good reasons why one would want to be able to obtain a fake ID--and yes, there are some--do not seem to outweigh the reasons against it.

I agree with USWest that, "Protection is found in desegregation of information." I think that is a good way to say it. I have argued similary on this blog before. To my way of thinking, a properly implemented national ID card (again, I have concerns about this particular act) would only break geographic segregation. And I do not feel my privacy is threatened by joining the California database with that of Hawaii. What really threatens my privacy is the merging of information not from different States but of different types.

I would rather fight hard to keep national criminal, financial, tax, etc. databases separate than fight to keep State databases separate from each other. I think we have a better chance of stopping the merging of information types at the national level than at the State level where integration of smaller, local databases can appear less threatening.

Anonymous said...

The "practical difference" is checks and balances. Madison said that Federalism was the most important check. Let there be some state agency aware of (and, if necessary able to refuse) federal prying into our personal affairs.  

// posted by LTG

Dr. Strangelove said...

LTG: interesting argument about State agencies vs. Federal agencies. If I read you correctly, a couple of assumptions underlie your thinking: (a) that it would be more threatening to my privacy for the Federal government to have access to my personal data than for the State governments to have access--or at least it would be worse if both the State and the Federal governments had access, (b) States can and will resist Federal attempts to acquire my data.

While giving the Federal government access cannot give me more privacy, it would not necessarily reduce my privacy either. In my view, the Federal government is more open to public scrutiny than State governments simply because it is so much more visible. If the Federal government adopted a policy on appropriate use of my data that was as good as the best State policy, I cannot see how my privacy would be measurably reduced. (Admittedly, that is a big IF.)

As for (b), I understand the general bureaucratic turf style of thinking that would encourage States to guard "their" data jealously (of course it's not theirs, it's ours--but let that pass.) But do you really think that is sufficient encouragement for States to keep our data "safe" from the Feds? In other words, I agree with you in principle, but does it make any real difference in practice? I suspect what prevents the Feds from getting access to State data is more of a technological problem than a bureaucratic one.

In the end, I see it this way: having greater access to my personal data is not just a nefarious plot... it also permits government to do some good in terms of increasing our safety and security. This needs to be weighed against the marginal difference in privacy obtained by restricting my data to State control and occasional Federal intrusion.
When I weigh it, I think a national ID card could--if properly constructed--do more good than harm.

As a practical matter, I happen to have greatly reduced privacy anyway; the Feds have better records on me than I have for myself. A national ID would not reduce my personal privacy one whit, so in my greedy little world, having a national ID card is basically all upside.

Anonymous said...

>The Brits just passed something similar. I
>wonder how that is working.

It starts to take effect in 2008, so other than some heated commentary, there isn't much actually happening on the ground that I can tell here in Bristol.

>I understand the general bureaucratic turf
>style of thinking that would encourage States
>to guard "their" data jealously (of course
>it's not theirs, it's ours--but let that
>pass.) But do you really think that is
>sufficient encouragement for States to keep
>our data "safe" from the Feds?

No. I think if the Federal government starts pursuing policies that most of the people in my state vigorously disagree with, that is sufficient encouragement. If the Feds start asking for the addresses of everyone who's performed an abortion, I expect my state to say no.

(Of course, my state might become corrupt instead, in which case I expect the Fed to restrict what it can do to me. Federalism is having one to play off the other, because the chances are low that they'll _both_ go to the dark side.)

This is an exaggerated example, but that's what privacy concerns, and really most fundamental freedom issues, are about. If you have faith that the gummint's always going to be nice and on your side, you don't _need_ freedom.

Apart from National IDs (which I think we have enough of already), there's a lot in this bill to disapprove of. (The link given by LTG seems to be of an earlier draft of the bill, which didn't pass; for example, this one lets the Secretary of DHS waive whatever laws he deems necessary, without _any_ judicial review. See omniscient Wikipedia  for various links to various forms of the bill.) 

// posted by Anonymous

Anonymous said...

I have no problem with setting some type of national standard for what information a state issued driver's license should contain.

However, I am not in favor of database sharing with other states or of having my information merged. I am already nervous that people in India are looking at computer screens with my credit card data and my tax informtaion. Yes, there is a lot of information out there about me which the government may be able to attain. But they have go through a lot of legal channels to get it (Perhaps not enough anymore) and that makes it just that much more inconvenient for them. I am not in favor of making that any eaiser.


// posted by USwest

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