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United States

Driver's Licenses to Become National ID Cards 976

Posted by michael
from the mission-creep dept.
XorNand writes: "Time is reporting that the Dept of Transportation, acting on instructions from Congress, is in the process of linking together states' drivers' license databases. They figure that it'll be cheaper and easier to slip under the radar of civil libertarians and privacy watchdogs. Wonder if Larry is a bit peeved that he's not getting his cut?"
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Driver's Licenses to Become National ID Cards

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  • Excellent! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @05:17PM (#2812638)
    So I just need to stop driving to become a nonperson! Well worth it, really.
    • Re:Excellent! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by s0l0m0n (224000) on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @05:27PM (#2812763) Homepage
      Nice thought.

      Won't work for me here in OR, though.. Already don't drive. tried to explain to cop why no license (car == 2000 # steel + 15 gallons volitile liquid intention caused to combust in a contained fashion) and no ID card.. Told him it's not against the law.

      they told me that THEY could arrest me if I didn't have an ID. I laughed at the time, until I found out it was true.

      end of story.
      • Why was the cop bothering you? And what's the law? Do you have a copy of it handy that you could paste here? That seems a bit fishy to me..

        • Re:Excellent! (Score:3, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward
          In Texas it's not that you have to carry around an ID at all times although many cops interpret it that way. The exact statute states that you must identify yourself to a police officer when requested. Simply telling the policifer your name will suffice.
          • Re:Excellent! (Score:5, Informative)

            by nathanm (12287) <nathanm AT engineer DOT com> on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @10:50PM (#2814565)
            They did pass a law like this at one time, but it was ruled unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court under Brown v. Texas [findlaw.com] in 1979.

            On the grounds of the 4th Amendment, you may not be punished for refusing to identify yourself, unless they have reasonable suspicion that you engaged in criminal conduct. So if you're stopped for a traffic violation, you do have to identify yourself if requested.
        • Re:Excellent! (Score:3, Informative)

          by IronChef (164482)

          In CA, if you cannot produce identification you can be arrested and held until they figure out who you are.

          Luckily I have left CA and I am screwing up WA now with my other Angelino refugees. I don't think that is the law here but I honestly don't know for sure.
      • Although you need ID, in theory it doesn't have to be state issued. If you were to carry around your passport you'd probably be fine (and could always jaunt off to Canada on a moments notice).
        • "If you were to carry around your passport you'd probably be fine (and could always jaunt off to Canada on a moments notice)"


          I know going over the border into Canada thru VT or NH you don't even need a passport, a drivers license or birth certificate will work just fine. I've done it many times myself.

      • Re:Excellent! (Score:3, Informative)

        by Kymermosst (33885)

        I don't know what kind of cop you were talking to, but you don't need a piece of paper to prove your identification. Stating your name and a way for them to check is just fine.

        Either that, or your part of Oregon is different than my part of Oregon.

        They CAN detain you, if they have probable cause, and hold you until they figure out who you are. That is NOT the same as an arrest, and you MUST be released in a certain amount of time, unless you give them good reason to not.

        For those interested, the Oregon Revised Statutes are located here [state.or.us].

    • not quite (Score:4, Informative)

      by twitter (104583) on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @05:39PM (#2812946) Homepage Journal
      There will simply be a blank driver's license space under your social security number. The other information will be filled in from private databases that the federal government can now demand under the Patriot Act (or whatever it was called). Sure enough that Sam's card photo will provide all the information some deranged file jockey thinks he needs for facial recognition software. All the careful records your insurance company has been keeping will go in. The debt collectors have had them for years, as an aquantence painfully made aware a friend of mine who defaulted on a pap smear. Enough data is available is available to eliminate inconsistencies due to errors or intention.

      You have been a number for years. Now it's overt. The technology has made invasion cheap, we can fight it or roll over. Any ideas on how to fight?

      • Re:not quite (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Lumpy (12016) on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @06:18PM (#2813286) Homepage
        This is close to the truth, ut not completely accurate. Insurance information is horribly innacurate (hell they lose my children on a regular basis and have my daughter in twice with 2 different SS numbers. I also have a friend I met in college that has sucessfully created a persona that doesn't exist from simple social engineering over a few years... (Hey it's a hobby) His dog has a credit card, a ham radio technician class license, a legitimate (as in filed with the county) birth certificiate and he recently scored a Forign service record for his dog...

        As soon as the dog get's a drivers license with the dog's actual picture.... I'll be really impressed... but creating a fake persona and hiding your real identity is not that difficult to those that really want to and need to.

        Oh and the credit reporting? that is the worst database in terms of accuracy I have ever seen. After recently cleaning my credit of 5, yes 5 incorrect and plain false reportings and findong out that the rate of incorrect and plain wrong reportings on individuals credit reports and even their criminal reports is horribly high. (my ex wife still has it showing outstanding arrest warrents in different databases, even though this happened 3 years ago it has all been settled and cleared up..... I feel sad for her that when pulled over by police outside her home area she has to carry a court paper stating that the warrent is invalid..... (sad as in .... HAHAHAHAHAHAH)
        • Re:not quite (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510)
          but creating a fake persona and hiding your real identity is not that difficult to those that really want to and need to.

          Which is exactly why real criminals won't be hindered by these new invasions but the rest of us will live with that background fear that "THEY" will screw up our data (with no accountability) and the result will be that we get our lives totally screwed over. I just read that a special collectors edition DVD of "The Net" is due for release soon. The story is weak, but it makes a great cautionary tale.

        • Welcome to America, where you're innocent of a crime until proven guilty, but all I have to do is say you owe me money and the burden of proof is on you to prove you don't and get it erased from your credit report.
          • by nuintari (47926)
            Not innocent until proven guilty anymore I'm afraid. My little brother was arrested, thrown in prison for a weekend, and now has to go to "therepy" where doctor patient confidentiality has been thown out the window because the state needs to know, "why he did it, and if if he'll do it again."

            He has yet to go to trial, where is his innocence before proof of guilt?
      • Re:not quite (Score:5, Insightful)

        by LoRider (16327) on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @06:23PM (#2813335) Homepage Journal
        Resistence is futile. How can you fight fear? Fear is going to win over liberty and I think everyone knows that.

        Our world changed on 9/11/01 and it will never ever be the same. We are doing exactly what our enemies wished us to do, we are giving in?

        Here's the deal: there have always been businesses and lobbyists waiting in the wings for something to happen that will allow them to get what they want, total control/knowledge of our daily lives. These people, for various reasons, want all this data in one place. They don't care about privacy, they don't care about civil liberties, they only care about their agenda.

        Now that the majority of Americans are scared shitless they are getting their laws passed with ease. And they have the greatest reason in the world to shred the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

        The problem with the average person is that they lack vision. They lack the ability to see beyond their fears and beyond their own problems. They want tax cuts because that $300 will be great for a downpayment on a new tv. They don't mind giving up alittle privacy because they aren't doing anything wrong, not yet.

        What people fail to see is the impact on the country as a whole. They fail to see the fact that once these things start being implemented there is no turning back. Social Security numbers weren't meant to be your national ID number, but it turned out that way. Even if social security were abolished, we would still be issued a number xxx-xx-xxxx

        I really think the terrorists won, it's over. The United States of America lost and it's over. I am truly saddened by this, I really am. Where can I live now, where is there a country that truly cares about it's citizens?
        • Re:not quite (Score:3, Insightful)

          by rho (6063)
          They lack the ability to see beyond their fears and beyond their own problems. They want tax cuts because that $300 will be great for a downpayment on a new tv.

          Uhh... so giving the government more money is a way to recapture our liberties?

      • by tswinzig (210999) on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @06:27PM (#2813357) Journal
        The debt collectors have had them for years, as an aquantence painfully made aware a friend of mine who defaulted on a pap smear.

        Was the repo-man friendly, at least?
    • by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @07:13PM (#2813673) Journal
      Most (all?) states will issue non-drivers a state ID card, typically through the same agency that issues driver's licenses.

      Essentially it's the same as a driver's license except it doesn't license you to drive. Use it to prove your identity, residency, and age, buy booze, cash checks, etc.
  • by Nightpaw (18207) <`jesse' `at' `uchicago.edu'> on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @05:17PM (#2812639) Homepage
    If you don't drive, you're a terrorist, right?
    • Well, you're certainly not a soccer mom. When will somebody get them off the road?
    • Well, you're certainly un-american [pbs.org]...
    • Re:Let me guess... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Purificator (462832) on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @05:35PM (#2812886) Homepage
      The neat thing is that you don't have to be a citizen to have a driver's license, and --as far as i know-- it's not even legal for them to ask for that information when you apply for one.

      so as far as the government will be concerned, there's no difference between citizens and non-citizens in our new national id card system; the only difference will be drivers and non-drivers ("state id card" holders). that will surely fight off the foreign terrorists they're trying to protect us from.
  • by eaddict (148006)
    In MO (and probably most states) you can opt out of having your SSN (Social Secutiry Number) from being your DL number. What if these states overlap (ie I have 666 as my ID from MO and you have 666 from IL)? Wonder who will have to pay to correct this little oversite? This is just one thing off the top of my head...
    • Furthermore - what about all the states that DON'T let you opt out of having your SSN on your license. Imagine having your credit rating linked to your driving record linked to the number of bars you visit linked to your medical records....

      Right now the SSN is the key to a whole lot of information - one of the few things keeping the world from being 1984-like is the fact that the databases aren't readily accessible. The more the SSN becomes a commonplace number, the more someone can track/grab your identity.

      Not to be paranoid or anything...
  • by 11thangel (103409) on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @05:19PM (#2812654) Homepage
    I don't know very many places that don't require a driver's license as the standard form of identification. State sponsored photo ID's are basically the only form of ID that is accepted everywhere (i.e. using personal checks at stores, getting into nightclubs, etc). Making em national isn't going to be much of a change, except for 2 things. 1) Your less likely to be thrown out of a club in another state for having an ID they don't recognize, and 2) You can't get away with speeding in another state quite as easily, because now the state trooper has access to ALL the state databases :)
    • It's already the standard photo ID. It makes sense for the feds to require standardization of state IDs, so that all states have to meet the same requirments. E.g., I've lived in NY for a few years, and my wife has an NY state license...but my 4-year-old Florida license is much higher tech (plastic, digital photo, holograms) than the low-tech laminated paper NY state licenses.

      You already have to show your license or something similar when flying. The chances of fraud will be reduced if we have common standards for all state ID cards.
      • by cryptochrome (303529) on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @07:05PM (#2813628) Journal
        So what if you're being identified by a number. You're already identified by hundreds of numbers - this just gives you a nationwide one. And so what if "They" could use this to track you - you already are. Weren't you ever bothered that just by having your supposedly-secret (and obviously not) social security number that someone could steal your identity? We've never had a way of proving to someone with certainty that we are who we say we are without jumping through hoops - and even then identity theft can still be committed. With a biometric-labeled national ID we can finally have a good way of authenticating ourselves, provided they develop the system right (dual-key encryption of biometrics, for starters). It beats some unlaminated blue card with no picture.
    • Well, the speeding issue might not, since it's based on a state to state agreements.
      What I'm more worried about is the fact that my SSN is on my driver's license, and I want it OFF.
      Lose my walet, and I can lose my idenity. (Yes, I know it could happen already, but when all the states are linked, it's going to be rough).
      I also have to wonder if I'll still get confused with my father? Had a great credit record because I bought a house when I was 5.
      • In TN, it's optional. I opted in because back in the UK, I had to use my NI (Like SSN) number so infrequently that I could never remember it. I even actually wrote it on my (paper) driving licence (which doesn't have a photo by the way) so I would at least have it somewhere that I accessed frequently. But here, I have been called to use my SSN so often that within 2-3 months, it has been burned permanently into my brain.

        Wake up people, you already have a national ID system, now the government is just looking to consolidate it.

        "Land of the Free". Beginning to sound a bit hollow these days.

        Rich
    • by Winged Cat (101773) <<ten.llebcap> <ta> <tacgniw>> on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @05:47PM (#2813031)
      Now all we have to do is mandate that the social security number be printed in cleartext on these licenses, along with a copy of one's signature of high enough quality that even a (good) photocopy could be be mistaken for the real thing.

      "If you lose it, or allow it to be destroyed, you will be subject to immediate de-resolution. That will be all." - SARK
  • Shouldn't it be... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by robbyjo (315601) on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @05:21PM (#2812675) Homepage

    Shouldn't the national ID be uniform across the country? In the sense that the kind of info displayed on the card and the lay out. If it is not uniform, then it's harder to detect forgery on those ID, especially if the ID is out-of-state.

    Then, the question on the on-card security add-on implies that we're effectively getting a new driver's licence ID. I dunno why don't they just enforce a single, uniform ID in the first place?

    Just my 2c.

    • Because we're supposed to be a REPUBLIC of STATES, not a single entity. State lines are more than marks on paper - they delineate between entities that have choosen to band together under a common flag. There's nothing, aside from the Constitution (for as much as anyone pays attention anymore), that says that any one state has to do anything like the others.

      (Ok, spare me the rhetoric about how we're no longer a republic, direct election of senators, yadda yadda yadda)

      • by MaxwellStreet (148915) on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @05:55PM (#2813103)
        This is true - states can choose to play ball, or not to.

        For example, the Feds decided that they'd like the national speed limit to be 55 mph back in the seventies(?).

        They couldn't mandate the speed limit on the interstates, but -could- withhold federal highway funds from states that elected not to enact the limits.

        So you're correct when you say that the Feds don't have the power to mandate this - but they carry a pretty big financial stick to persuade states to play ball.
  • by those god-awful pictures they take of us.

  • by Spamalamadingdong (323207) on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @05:21PM (#2812687) Homepage Journal
    Virginia, if you didn't know, is a state which once required only an affidavit of residency to get a driver's license. If it is that easy to get a DL in even one state, it's a piece of cake to have "legitimate ID" that is utterly bogus in truth.

    The danger is that such a bogus ID will be taken as valid in more places and for more things due to its "national scope", and it'll be easier to get into things and do more damage than it is now (difficult concept, I know).

    • In NY state now, you have to have 6 points of proof of name to get a DL. You get certain amounts of points for each of various docs -- out of state license, credit card, ATM card, etc.

      You also have to have proof of date of birth, which is the tough one. Basically you need a passport, military ID or birth certificate. I have no passport or military ID, so I have to somehow track down my birth certificate (an original, not a copy) before I can get my NY state license.

      I believe all this is post-Sep.-11. It used to be much easier...
  • Don't forget that most (all?) states take a digital picture of you when they make your license, so the government now has an immense database of faces.

    I'll let everyone else debate whether this is Big Brother or healthy law enforcement. But one thing's for sure: buy stock in face-recognition software companies!
  • What about states (like NJ) that don't require a photo on the drivers license?
  • So this means I won't be able to get back into the country if I lose my corrective lenses? ;-)

    Seriously, though:
    "Of course, that could make life easier for you too. What if your state/national ID card was your passport as well as your drivers' license? What if you could do your taxes at an ATM -- and then withdraw your refund? Or what if your national ID card was your ATM card, and your credit card, and your HMO card and your work ID and the passkey to your maximum-security apartment, all at once?"

    I'm gonna wait for the implants to come around before adopting this. Don't need my muggers getting free health care when they steal my wallet.
  • right to privacy? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by zook (34771)
    From the article (emphasis mine):
    Most of the privacy rights - if there really are such things - vulnerable to a nationalized ID card have already been trampled under the wheels of increased security, more efficient law enforcement and better business long ago.

    And there lies the problem.

    It's too bad that the 28th amendment will probably ban flag burning instead of doing something useful.

  • by jbfaninmo (540470) on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @05:25PM (#2812743)
    How incredibly easy it was for them to get fake drivers licenses, SS Numbers and Birth certificates. So now if you get a driver's license in California under a fake name, you can create a person that exsists in every single state. I don't see how this will help.
    • Here is an interesting idea [washtech.com] that some people have on how to stop people from getting real licenses by forging SS cards and birth certificates. They suggest that when you go to get a license, the DMV will query other agency and commercial databases and present you with challenge questions that make you prove your identity. The financial industry is already doing this. I know when I requested my credit report online, I had to answer a bunch of multiple choice questions like "What is the monthly payment for your auto loan with Chase bank?" before they would authenticate me. States could make you answer questions correctly on things like your tax refund, driving history, etc. to prove you are who you say you are.

      Sounds like it would be more secure than the current methods but it does create a huge Big Brother infrastructure by linking all of those databases. Also, I know how hard it was to get an error on my credit report erased. I imagine maintaining the integrity of this would be a mess. Still, the concept is interesting.
  • What if you move from one state to another? Will driving points remain? Come to think of it, what happens now?
  • by 8string (316088) on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @05:28PM (#2812774)
    If he does, his daughters fake ids won't work anymore.

    :)
  • You know, Single Identification Number, from the Gibson books. IIRC, it wasn't impossible to be SIN-less, it just made your life very difficult. The main SIN-less character was in Mona Lisa Overdrive, and she had a pretty lousy existence. So, everybody line up for your original SIN. Or become a homeless, drug addicted hooker. Your choice, really. And that's freedom, right?
  • The scary part (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rgmoore (133276) <glandauer@charter.net> on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @05:30PM (#2812802) Homepage

    I'm not sure which is the scarier part of the article- the way it blythely assures you that this isn't really a significant step because the civil liberties damage is already done, or the fact that this is probably true. As they point out, all this involves is linking together data that's already kept and making it a bit easier to access. The problem is that making it easier to access will make it that much more tempting to access it for more and more trivial reasons. If it's really possible to check any driver's licence just by scanning it, how long will it be until you have to scan your license to buy alcohol or tobacco, rather than just showing it (or here in California not bothering to show it because nobody seems to care)?

  • What if I... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by gillbates (106458)
    Copyrighted my name, address, and other personal data, and sued everyone who maintained my personal data without my permission for copyright infringement?

    Just a thought...

    But seriously, though, if information is property, how long will it be before everyday citizens claim their personal information as IP? How long will it be before we get a right to privacy? How much of Big Brother and Big Corp invading our lives does it take?
    • Go ahead. Claim your name, DOB, SNN, address, etc. as IP. Tell people who try to collect it that they're violating DMCA or the UCITA or something. And watch them laugh in your face. Because you'll be going up against big corporations, which have infinitely more money than you, and against the government, which has not only money but also guns. Lots of guns.

      "Big Brother and Big Corp" run the game. They set the rules. There is effectively nothing that private citizens can do to change this.
    • Small peices of information can't be copyrighted (eg. numbers), and excerpts of larger copyrighted peices can be freely passed around (eg. a paragraph of text, 30 seconds of music). I'd imagine that a paragraph of text that wasn't even created by you (post office/telephone company) couldn't be copyrighted.
    • You can't copyright facts. One of the necessary qualifications for copyrightable material is that it be "original", and facts fail this test. For example, if you copyright a map (of a real place, that is), it covers the coloring, symbols, etc., but not the actual factual meaning of the map (locations of things).

      This was the subject of a lawsuit over phone books. One phone book produced sued another for copying the contents of the book, claiming copyright infringement. The court dismissed the suit, saying that the names and numbers in a phone book are factual in nature, and thus not copyrightable. If there were some novelty to the ordering, organization, or selection of the names -- some piece of "original" work -- then it would be copyrightable. But alphabetic ordering certainly fails this test.

      Your name, address and personal data are all factual. So your idea doesn't really work. Cute, though.
  • My driver's license became my Natl. ID as soon as the State of Iowa started using digital cameras to capture (and no doubt store) my image for the license, and probably before.

    Try doing much of anything that matters WITHOUT a form of state issued ID, and for the most part, you will be SOL. National ID's are here, and have been here for quite some time. Get over it OR get used to it.
  • Watch your tone (Score:4, Insightful)

    by the_rev_matt (239420) <slashbot@rev m a t t . com> on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @05:31PM (#2812823) Homepage
    I particularly like the tone of the article. "Give up, don't fuss, it's just too hard. Life will be much easier if you just conform." The Disneyfication of the Corporate States of America continues....
  • by Krimsen (26685) on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @05:32PM (#2812834) Homepage
    Right now, driving is considered a "privilege" (If you ask me, it's pretty much a requirement nowadays), which makes it real easy for states to take away your driving "privileges" for accumulating too many points, etc... If this becomes a national ID card, what is going to happen to that "privilege" philosophy?
    • My foot that it's a privilege! Most rednecks considered it a right! That's why the license is so easy to get and that's why there are so many accidents caused by morons!

      Here in the South, some people considered that blinkers are for girls only. And those rednecks thinks that they own the left lane just because they have an expensive car or a red pickup....

      This is the end of the civilized world. From now on, I am staying home!
  • From the article:

    The plan, Congress hopes, will be cheaper and easier to implement, and less likely to incur the talk-show ire of civil libertarians and states' rights purists (the same type who squawked in 1908 when the FBI was born).

    I'm not one to usually "squawk" about bias in journalism, but what kind of sorry excuse for objectivity is this? "Congress" hopes? since when did congress think all alike? "Talk-show ire"?

    I feel genuinely ill.

  • So, we will get even more bad drivers going rampage on the roads? What a wonderful idea!

    The current situation is already terrible. Most americans think they have the right to have a driver license, and that's probably why the license is so ridiculously easy to get. But now, even the failures who couldn't pass the driving tests will have access to a driver license...

    Insurance quotes will go up, up, UP !
  • ...this sounds like a good idea to me. In fact, I'm surprised all the databases weren't already linked together. I mean, you've given this information anyway, what's the difference if all the DMVs have access to it?
  • Thank gawd the author, Frank Pellegrini, is there to assure us that there's nothing to worry about. Its not a problem until the tool being created becomes mandated. And, of course, anybody with privacy concerns are "the same type who squawked in 1908 when the FBI was born."


    Whew. I can go back to sleep now.

  • Case in point.

    I had a nasty no-no on my driving record (and lack there of for 3 months after it was revoked) in one state and moved away in 6 months of it happening. (it was because I graduated college .. not because of fleeing the police)

    Nevertheless, in the new state I arrived in, they did a run of "my license" to see if I had any bad marks on it. Guess what .. I was clean as a whistle. Cheap insurance for me.

    Now with this "new" systems, they will probably be able to back track all your offenses from state to state.

    "Sorry John Doe, you received a speeding ticket 10 years ago and we consider you high risk."

    Another thing .. will this "information" now allow insurance companies to go back and collect "past dues" that they felt they deserve?

    We are screwed .. just inject the id chip in my arm get it over with.
  • I am peeved to no end that the government attaches so many strings (Trackability) to the services/priveleges it provides (Roads). The government should serve the people in a nearly transparent manner. We already sacrifice income taxes to pay for those services. At what point does a service or privelege become a right? I'm seriously wondering. Must I retreat to a 19th century standard of living to maintain my privacy?
  • Great! Now all those in prison (lack reason for having a drivers license) or have had their license taken away from them for driving crimes, and all the pre-driving age, and old and handicapped beyond drivable people are....
    • Just because YOU don't have your driver's license doesn't mean that They don't have you still loaded up in their database with your picture and all your information. You aren't getting away THAT easy.

      If you REALLY want to disappear without a trace get yourself a sitcom on the WB network. Both you and your career will not be heard from again.

  • by Masem (1171) on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @05:43PM (#2812984)
    I saw mention of this yesterday with some comments from EPIC, but I can't remember where, but in general, while these groups would rather not have a national ID card in the first place, agree that the proposed method for standardizing the drivers' licenses across states. Reasoning included:
    • Decentralized database. States would be the only repository of the information associated with the DL. This as opposed to a large federal database (and at much added cost).
    • Standardizing the info on the cards. This would include a photo id, signature, and a magbar for quick input into a computer. Instead of the mess in which some states don't have photo IDs, some require SSN, etc. This still leaves enough up to the states as to not trample their states' rights.
    • Improved communication between databases. Because the system would be decentralized, there would need to be an easy way for government officials to request info from such DBs; because states would be required to at least store a minimum of information, it would be simple to define a query standard. This way, rules can be put in place that if information is requested without a warrent, only specific pieces could be sent. If the database was centralized, then this would be much harder to enforce.
    The groups are not completely at ease; this plan would suddenly give several DMVs near-absolute power, and unless regulations are put in place, this might be abuse. They also do worry, as many have posted, that there are both legal and illegal reasons not to have a DL; those that legally lack one may be forced to get one despite not having to drive -- this may cause states to have to provide DLs with "No Driving" restrictions to be issued in general for those currently without one.

  • Interesting (Score:2, Troll)

    by matth (22742)
    Some states already require you to give your SSN when you get your drivers license. I've been fortunate to live in PA where we didn't need to. But I need to renew my license next month, and if they change something, I'm going to have a bit of a hissy-fit. SSN for #1 is not a form of identification, and it should not be used for such, even though everyone asks for it. If you tell them you either don't have one or don't want to give it, you normally won't have a problem because they can't require you to give one!
  • I worked once on linking together 11 years of a SINGLE database. Each year the exact roster of columns was a bit different, and the possible values would change slightly. Merging all of these into a single database was very difficult.


    The challenges in combining 50 states databases, all in different formats, containing different information, stored in different formats, etc. will be a very difficult and time intensive challenge.


    And, I wonder if they will even be able to get many states to give up their databses?

  • I'm not entirely sure what driver's liscences look like in the states right now, but here in Ontario we already have . We also have health cards(for the national health care system that us socialists have) that look identical to the drivers licenses, only they're green. [inforamp.net]

    All cops have a little computer in their cars where they can swipe your lisence and bring up your criminal and civil record. It's gotten to the point now where some dance clubs swipe licenses in order to check ID for age. There is already significant talk of uniting both of these card into a one piece that also contains the Social Insurance Number(Social Security for you americans).

    Anyways my point is that this all managed to slip under the radar in Ontario about five years back and there was almost no public resistance to it(probably because the old two-piece driver's lisence was so damn ugly and inconvenient), and there is almost no public knowledge as to what kind of information is actually stored on that magnetic strip.

    Don't let it happen if you can avoid it.
  • It's a pretty blue book that says "Passport" on the front.

    But yeah, not everybody has one of those like they do those blue cards that say "Social Security" on the front with a name and a random nine-digit number...

    -JDF
  • It was clear a few years ago that they were setting up a national ID via the drivers' license databases.

    That happened when they changed the law to require the states to collect social security numbers and link them to the licenses in their databases.

    (I believe the excuse used was tracking down absentee fathers who were delinquent in their child support payments.)
  • by dackroyd (468778) on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @06:00PM (#2813145) Homepage
    If the U.S. domestic response to terrorism starts to resemble Zimbabwe's, which passed a law in November making it compulsory to carry ID on pain of fine or imprisonment, well, that's something to worry about.

    But until Congress passes a law like that -- and until you can't enter a movie theater without the usher checking you for priors -- there isn't all that much to get exercised about.


    Er, no Frank, that's when it's too damn late to start doing anything about it.

    Once you get to that stage people start becoming afraid of resisting goverments attempts to be Big Brother in all aspects of life, as it becomes a lot easier for the government to make otherwise innocent peoples life difficult by 'accidently' putting false information on the cards.

    Oops. We accidentally put that you've got a criminal history on your card...oh well better luck at the next job interview.


    Most of the privacy rights -- if there really are such things...


    Yes, Frank such a thing does exist in the rest of the world. Here's [dataprotection.gov.uk] the government body that protects my privacy and data.


    For some, the real problem with smarter, more centralized ID cards is that they give bureaucrats a better chance to screw up more of your life


    No there are lots of people who don't like the idea of either government or companies being able to see anymore information about them, than is absolutely necessary.

    With the growth of the Internet it is getting far too easy for companies and governments to trade information about their citizens.
    • by dackroyd (468778) on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @06:42PM (#2813465) Homepage
      Having had a few deep breaths and calmed down a bit, I'd like to add that despite 30 years of terrorist attacks (sponsored by US citizens), the UK hasn't seen it necessary to introduce ID cards.

      In fact the only time there was a widespread to detain possible terrorists was the internment in the 1970's, which cause so much hatred of the UK government, that it recruited a whole new generation of terrorists for the Republican cause.

      To prevent terrorists striking against you, a country has three options:
      1) Stop the terrorists hating you so much that they will risk their lives or commit suicide to hurt you.
      2) Have focussed intelligence agencies that can actually gather and act on intelligence data, rather than destabilising other countries.
      3)Kill _everyone_ who might not like you.

      The US is having a good go at number 3 (3,800 civilians [indymedia.org] so far and counting), but in the long run methods one and two are cheaper in dollars, lives lost and liberties given up in the name of freedom.
  • Fake Licenses? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sterno (16320) on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @06:00PM (#2813146) Homepage
    Great! So you get a fake driver's license. I mean, wasn't the whole point of a National ID card having a reliable way to identify somebody? What the hell makes them think that driver's licenses are a reliable method? You slip your friend at the DMV a few hundred and you can get a license no problem. Hell, in Illinois they'll even let you drive a truck!

    It's all about trust relationships. At some point down the line you have to trust that somebody has verified who a person is and has done so accurately. As long as the system is dependent on trusting an underpaid, overworked, low level bureaucrat, people who want to get false identification will continue to do so. Heck, even if they are a well paid bureaucrat in a cushy position, they can still be bought, it just costs a bit more.

    Ultimately the only people who this will effect is law abiding citizens who don't get fake ID's. Anybody who honestly wants to conceal their identity will continue to do so in any number of ways that are nearly impossible to prevent.
  • by mdecerbo (9857) on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @06:06PM (#2813194)
    Once biometric, SSN-linked driver's licenses are in place, we'll be on the slippery slope and ready to roll. It'll be so convenient to require the ID, that just about everyplace will require it... ballparks, trains, stores...

    And once there are nifty little networked readers in all these places, it'll be incredibly trivial for Big Brother to track your movements-- hey, you had to give your SSN when you bought that prepaid cell phone after the PATRIOT II passed in 2003, right?

    And, of course, Big Brother has lots of annoying minions working in the IRS, local law enforcement, and collections agencies, all of whom are going to have much easier access to records than the law would suggest.

    This isn't the America I want to live in. I want to live in a country where the long arm of the law doesn't have the resources to pursue anyone but the real baddies, by conventional means like the ones we had five or ten years ago.

    I want this for your sake. I want you to be able to escape bad debts, a warrant for your arrest on drug charges, the ex-spouse with an unfair judgement against you. Right now you could change your name, move to another state, pay cash, and live quietly, and thankfully, never screwing up again.

    But once all this is in place, you'll be sickly aware that you'll never manage to avoid the little red light on the ID-card scanner that'll bust you in a moment. Then you'll be more prone to a violent solution to your desparate situation, once escape and disappearance are no longer a realistic option. That's worse for my own safety.

    (Of course, it'll please the Feds-- more of an excuse to clamp down on gun rights!)

    I want to live in a country with a little breathing room, without an omnipresent electronic nanny state.
    Doesn't anybody else, in the country of Patrick Henry and Tom Paine? Isn't anybody going to fight this?

    I know that some of you, for your "safety", want to have a national ID card, national ID number, surveillance cameras, and face recognition everywhere. But isn't there a place, actually otherwise a really nice place, that you could move to? I think it's called "Europe".

  • by Ian Bicking (980) <ianb&colorstudy,com> on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @06:20PM (#2813301) Homepage
    The real problem with a national ID isn't the ID. Every state has IDs -- drivers license and otherwise -- and it's currently reasonable to expect nearly everyone will have some form of ID. Foreigners will always have a passport.

    Unifying the ID isn't really a big deal in and of itself. There's no danger to civil rights that people could more easily verify the validity of identification. The particular set of information they choose to standardize on is likely to be innocuous.

    The danger of a national ID is in the way it is used. In particular, in the use of a magstrip or other machine-readable common format. Most states seem to have something like this -- Illinois has some sort of 2D bar code, for instance -- but because there's no standard you cannot reasonably expect to scan every person's card at some given point. So I've never seen anyplace where they actually use a machine to read the card.

    If you have a national ID, then this would no longer be the case. It makes it very possible -- and likely inevitable -- that IDs will regularly be scanned in all sorts of locations. Courthouses, airports (whether or not you are flying), privately secured locations (office buildings, etc.)... and the next thing you know there's random road blocks (to catch drunk drivers, drug smugglers, terrorists, or whatever other justification they choose) and they'll scan your ID.

    If these systems were one-way, even this wouldn't be too terribly bad. That is, if such scans only checked to see if there was an outstanding warrant or other legal restriction placed on you. However, this is unlikely to be the way these cards would be used by the government, and certainly not the way they'd be used by private security. It is all too easy to record every time you pass such a checkpoint, and in that way coming up with an extensive profile of every person's movement and associations.

    Of course, much of this already exists with credit cards. And who knows... maybe they'll join them together.

  • Is this really new? (Score:3, Informative)

    by foonf (447461) on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @06:49PM (#2813507) Homepage
    I recently got my drivers license. In the process of doing so, I was told that someone in Alabama with the same name birthdate as myself had multiple DUI convictions. So it seems this information is already national available to government agencies. I don't think we need to be really worried until they start talking about tying it to biometrics or something ridiculous like that. I mean, its worrisome, but only to the extent that systems like this have been worrisome since their introductions in the previous century. Not a new, or necessarily worse, problem.

    As though no one possessing a valid ID has ever committed a terrorist attack...
  • by BSDevil (301159) on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @06:52PM (#2813527) Journal
    I beleive in Civil Liberties and all, but is a national ID card that bad? Before you mark this as 'Flamebait,' consider much of Europe (France and Switzerland spring to mind). Every French and Swiss person legally has to have a national ID card and carry it with them at all times, on pain of arrest. They're a little larger than a credit card, and have a strip along the bottom that you could pass through a passport reader (somthing like <<<CAN<<<NAMEGOESHERE<<&lt ;), so if it wanted the Man could bring up your entire immigration record in one go. That's the theory: in practice, no one carries them or is ever asked for them, and if you are, you can just say "I forgot." Many of my French friends have never been asked for them in their lives, even when arrested. All they use them for is to travel within Europe without carrying their passports (yes, they can even fly with them on intra-Europeen flights).

    The point is, just because they have a possibility to be used for evil, dosen't mean they will be. Look at Napster: it (in itself) is not illegal, it just has the possibility of being used for illegal purposes, yet we support it. Now switch the word "illegal" with "bad" and the word "Napster" with the phrase "National ID Card" and instantly our opinion chanages. Well-legislated IDs can be useful, and besides, most of you already have one; it's called a Passport (and if you don't have one you should). They can be well used in such things are preventing identity theft, reducing fraud, and miinimizing travel pains. The key to them is well-written and concrete legislation, crafted without the input of lobby groups or vested interests. In France, no bartender can ask for your National ID card, nor can an insurer, a municipal police officier, or a private company. In fact, I htink it may be a constitutional right that only the Feds can (not sure about that). Do they have a problem with it? No, because only (theoretically) responsible people have access to the card. Legislate well, and National IDs (be them in Driver's Licence form or whatnot) can be a Good Thing(tm).
  • by DaveWood (101146) on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @06:56PM (#2813563) Homepage
    Whether we generally acknowledge it or not, we have an excellent system of government here in America. Some of this is based on the forethought and intention of the various people who helped found our country, and some of it is based on chance, or, if you prefer, luck. Things happened in many cases because of compromise, accident, and caprice.

    One of the most important unintended features of our government is the amount of play between law and enforcement. It is widely understood (among law and philosophy students, anyway) that no society enforces its laws perfectly. Laws are usually written with the inherent limitations of the state in mind.

    In many cases, a poorly or selectively enforced law is good for society - and I will take copyright as an example (albeit a hot button one). We currently have an impossibly strict and protectionist set of laws protecting authors (of books, software, etc). Yet these laws are rarely enforced at all, and when they are, typically against companies or large organizations doing what we would call "bootlegging" or "piracy" and hardly ever against "informal" violations. Person to person breaches of copyright happen with astounding frequency and, looked at objectively, constitute a massive act of civil disobedience, with just those acts we know about totaling millions per minute (napster, etc). This state of affairs, where enforcement lags behind the law, has two important effects it would have been difficult to achieve "head on:"

    1) Artists do get paid, and they get paid quite well. Copyrightable media is a worldwide business estimable in the trillions of dollars. Most people who can pay the author, do.

    2) Conversely, lower-income and disadvantaged users gain access to books, software, and other media for free (by violating the law without consequences).

    Should this be stopped via systematic enforcement, a massive chilling effect would occur across all aspects of our society, as children, students, and low-income users could no longer learn on stolen $1,000 compilers, or depend on hundreds of "stolen" texts. Programmers lose their (illegal) access to the latest tools and work of the industry, slowing feedback and development overall. As copyrighted material represents our intellectual heritage, properly enforcing the tollbooth in front of it stymies our intellectual development.

    Surveillance technology such as a national ID is dangerous because, aside from the obvious potential for abuse, it allows for enforcement which is too effective. Many of the laws in our country were written as copyright law is - to be enforced using traditional, 20th century law-enforcement techniques. In some cases these laws (copyright, taxes) have extravagant penalties by way of "intimidation" - since enforcement is expected to be difficult or impossible. While new technology may be effective in improving enforcement against violent criminals and other laudable activities (for which improved enforcement actually is better), it will have numerous negative effects as it surpasses legislative intent on good laws and reduces the "containment" of bad laws.

    Of course, no discussion of federal or quasi-federal surveillance or information-gathering technology should pass without further acknowledgement of the general "chilling effect" on free speech and free expression these technologies create.

    When people are aware that they are being observed (even in abstract, highly specific, or systematized ways), their behavior is altered - whether it is no longer stealing a kiss on a dark street corner for fear of the mute eyes of the surveillance camera on the traffic light, or altering the way they write their correspondence, choosing not to share an opinion in a debate, or choosing not to travel. This is an implicit and often unconscious reaction to authority, and it represents, collectively, the psychological weight of being observed. U.S. Courts have acknowledged that this kind of tacit "intimidation" sometimes constitutes a breach of our first amendment rights, as it makes us self-conscious and we work to avoid an implicit judgment. It is political dialogue on a primitive level - and where those in power are actively observing, "dissent" is stifled.

    Common sense can tell you that to live in a state of "freedom" we must be free of the specter of observation.

    The story of government is the story of uneasy compromise between freedom and conformity necessary for a healthy society. America has had its success on the foundation of personal freedom's default supremacy; here, our homes, our persons, and our daily business are meant to be sacrosanct and immune from invasion by both each other and the state, as evinced by many of our strongest legal edicts (the Bill of Rights is preoccupied extensively with personal sovereignty, and it is - theoretically - the highest legal doctrine in our country). Our lives were meant to be lived outside the view of the government, which must be absent unless it has "probable cause" - and by and large, this is true... at least for the moment.

    This is not an accident, but by design. Our government's success is based on its distrust of itself. We could still have a monarchy if we believed people in power always know what's best, or do the right thing. Instead, we have a complicated, subdivided, cynical democracy; one which, even now, functions in spite of itself, its wheels greased with millions of illegal yet necessary actions every moment. In all of human history, Government has never, ever walked it's talk, but with new technology, it might soon be ready to try.
  • by markj02 (544487) on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @07:57PM (#2813939)
    A card that you can use to prove that you are you is very useful to you and it doesn't hurt you. Furthermore, a globally unique "identifier", which should really be a collection of different digital signatures, is useful to you for all sorts of things. How else, for example, do you expect for your bank to do business with you and not run afoul of impostors? Ultimately, it comes down to biometric IDs and secrets, whether implemented by the neighborhood clerk you have known for 20 years or by a machine.

    Problems arise when the "card" isn't just a card, but a set of back-end databases and records that are exchanged in non-transparent ways and that you have no control over. Problems also arise when the "cards" and ID numbers are designed and used poorly (e.g., when knowing your semi-public social security number potentially can be used to get access to your bank accounts).

    The problem with using driver's licenses and all the other bogus ID documents and numbers that exist in the US is that they don't work well and are being used for things they were never designed for. Self-proclaimed civil libertarians are at fault here: we won't get any good, secure ID cards and numbers as long as any such effort is immediately torpedoed.

    What we should do to protect our civil liberties is to design a robust, secure system of identification, and create privacy legislation that lets us get control of who stores what data about us. Or, in different words, the complete opposite of the agenda of the libertarians and the conservatives.

  • by Ethelred Unraed (32954) on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @09:15PM (#2814261) Journal
    Take, for instance, the German system.

    All German citizens are required to have a national ID card. The card is about the same size as a passport (see below for why). It has a photo, place of birth, ID number (which is not the Social Security number -- since the national ID has its own number, there is no need for using the pension fund number for everything as in the US), physical description and city/state of current residency.

    The ID card also is used in the German passport (which is why the size is what it is), thus killing two birds with one stone.

    The card must be renewed every few years, with a new photo and so on; any time you move, you must also get a new card or have the current one updated with the new place of residency. You have to show proof of residency -- a rental contract, a lease or a deed for land, for example. (Foreigners have to do a lot more -- proof of right to work, proof of employment or place of study, proof of income, statement of renouncing of rights to social services, no prior criminal record, in some cases an affidavit from a German sponsor, etc.)

    The thing is, the whole infrastructure of making this work is missing in the US. Not only is there a lack of legislation regulating the use and defining abuse of the ID card (privacy is actually strictly protected in Germany, at least against private individuals), but a lack of people to manage that information.

    Every German city and county (Landkreis or Gemeinde) has a residency office, or Einwohnermeldeamt, where all residents (citizens and foreigners) are required to register (and unregister if you move), along with showing documentation for previous places of residency, next of kin and so on. It is a serious offense to lie on any of those forms or to have a false ID; it is a minor offense to not carry an ID at all times (driver's license doesn't count).

    Because the national ID is not directly linked to the retirement system (or anything else), there is a greatly reduced danger of identity theft WRT the pension or health insurance system. (Cashing checks almost never happens in Germany -- checks are rarely used -- and for an ID at the bank, you use your bank card anyway.)

    The information stored is decentralized -- meaning, while the authorities can quickly access it if need be, it's not all in one spot waiting to be abused; and no one but the government and the inidividual may access that individual's information. Anyone caught trying to misuse or hand over that information to third parties is in deep doo-doo.

    What I want to know is, why not have such a system in the States, rather than this half-arsed idea with driver's licenses? As many have pointed out already, it's vastly open to abuse or chaos and won't do a thing to identify people out-of-state...

    Anyway...

    Cheers,

    Ethelred

    • I can think of a few reasons, but first and foremost, everytime you have to provide identification you are being "searched", not your person in a physical sense but your "person" as in "who you are".

      Thats whats really going on.. you have to carry this German ID and present to a government offical if they ask. If not you are going to jail. They can inspect it, check it, double check it, etc.

      The problem with this, of course, is:

      The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

      Walking down the street, being stopped in the car, moving from one city to the next is not grounds for a "reasonable search".

      Any cop in the US who comes up to you on the street and asks for your ID without probable cause to believe a criminal act has been comitted by you will be sadly shocked to find that in court any evidence resulting from that "search" (as in the search of the persons identity) will be tossed on 4th Amendment violations.

      In the United States we, the citizens, have decided that we cannot be searched by the government at will. We have decided that they must have proof of a specific crime - supported by actual testimony and proof, or else no search warrants shall be issued. This applies to all persons, their houses, papers and "effects".

      So this system where you must produce ID at any time, where you must register and prove your residency, all of that - its simply not legal by our Constitution.

      The real question is: if we are going to do this national ID thing, why not do it right? At birth all citizens will be tatooed with a serial number on the palm of one hand. It is your Unique Citizen ID (UCID) and can be asked for, verified (easy with the tatoo), and checked against a database at any time. You may think I am kidding. But why waste our time with this electronic bullshit and gay crap. Pictures? Plastic cards? Lets amend the constitution and force this on people starting tomorrow. We could have everyone "concentrate" into a big line and then elite government guards could tatoo people nice and neatly.

      Cheers.
  • by defile (1059) on Thursday January 10, 2002 @03:41AM (#2815243) Homepage Journal

    Own a credit card? How about a driver's license? A checking account? If you answered yes to any of these, you have already sacrificed a significant amount of your privacy for the sake of convenience.

    None of these things are mandatory. You don't have to get a credit card and no one is holding a gun to your head making you drive. Any (and especially all) of those 3 things gives the state an enormous amount of information. They know where you get your money from, what you spend it on, probably where you live, what kind of car you drive, where you got this car, what you do with it, and can practically learn everything about you without ever meeting you in person.

    So, why do we do it? Simple. Try to survive without a credit card. Pretty doable, but it rules out most e-commerce, and makes staying at hotels pretty difficult. No driver's license? Sure, but if you don't live in a city, you're probably fucked without a car.

    No checking account? You're going to have to go far out of your way just to perform basic life functions. You expose yourself to great personal risk by mailing cash (and many companies will flat out refuse it). You have to get money orders for everything, and you could never accept money orders because cashing them requires ID. You'll probably fail most credit checks (which are done for everything nowadays; mobile phones, apartment leases, etc)

    Beginning to see a trend? To function in society, you need to have some degree of accountability. You forfeit quite a lot of your freedom just so you can function. It's no coincidence that many ultra-privacy/paranoid people are drifters.

    Being unknown is entirely your right, but fat lotta good it'll do you. A National ID card is entirely voluntary, so if you want the convenience of speedy airport checkout, you'll do it. And if not, no biggie. Get on the other line.

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