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Are National ID Cards a Good Idea? 746

Posted by Cliff
from the we-already-have-driver's-licenses-and-passports dept.
Dracophile asks: "The Sydney Morning Herald recently ran a front-page article about a 'smart card' to access government services and that it would double as a national identity card. The article points out that the current Prime Minister of Australia, John Howard, who fiercely opposed from opposition the Australia Card idea in 1985, is now a supporter. The article goes on to say that about 100 nations have some form of ID card. Is your country one of them? What concerns were raised? How were they addressed? Have welfare fraud and other identity-related crimes decreased? Have National ID cards improved or deteriorated conditions where you live?"
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Are National ID Cards a Good Idea?

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  • by iago (4917) on Thursday April 27, 2006 @07:59PM (#15217203)
    http://www.schneier.com/crypto-gram-0404.html#1 [schneier.com]

    I'd throw in my opinion, but I'll defer to Bruce.
  • by NetDanzr (619387) on Thursday April 27, 2006 @08:02PM (#15217235)
    ...I personally don't see what's the big fuss about. Back in Slovakia, we've got national ID cards (called "Citizen's Card"). We use them only for identification; the same way I use a driver's license in the US. the ID cards have five pieces of information: Your picture, name, address, date of birth, and a unique ID number. This makes it no different from a US driver's license, with the small distinction that with the exception of writing personal checks you don't give out your DL number. Instead, you use the social security number as your identifier.

    Of course, I don't dispute that ID cards can be abused, for example by having them carry much more of your personal information. However, that's not the ID card's fault; it's the responsibility of the government to determine which information will be available through an ID card.
  • Uhhh... (Score:4, Informative)

    by Random Utinni (208410) on Thursday April 27, 2006 @08:05PM (#15217259)
    Didn't we discuss the Australian ID card issue this morning?


    Your Rights Online: Australians to Get Compulsory Photo ID Smartcard [slashdot.org]
    Posted by samzenpus on Thursday April 27, @05:05


    Let me summarize:
    - Watch out for Australian Gestapo.
            - That's a bad analogy.
            - No, it's a good analogy.
    - Here's a link to a German film [archive.org] about police powers.
    - We already have drivers' licenses; how are national ID's any different?
    - Here's a humorous comment.
    - It's not compulsory per se; you don't have to get the ID card. You just can't access government benefits without one... putting a *very* big carrot in front of Australians.

    ... did I miss anything?
  • Re:Absolutely not (Score:2, Informative)

    by Fulcrum of Evil (560260) on Thursday April 27, 2006 @08:11PM (#15217308)

    Please tell me you have concrete examples of this, and aren't just talking out your ass.

    The Nazis used this sort of data to round up Jews, Homersexuals and Race Traitors and send them to the ovens.

    On a less shrill note, they won't stop fraud or do anything else they claim to better than what we already have, so all that's left is abuse.

  • Re:Absolutely not (Score:2, Informative)

    by Professor_UNIX (867045) on Thursday April 27, 2006 @08:12PM (#15217322)
    On the other hand, it would enable a secure method of controlling who can have access to your identity. Right now all I need is your social security number, your name, and a couple of details like your address and I can get credit in your name. I'd much rather have a strong smart card that authorized the use of my identity and credentials before any financial transactions could take place. I don't fear my government, I fear the identity thieves.
  • Re:Absolutely not (Score:5, Informative)

    by sPaKr (116314) on Thursday April 27, 2006 @08:37PM (#15217519)
    Here is a recent case law [epic.org] from Nevada. Guess you loose. Yes they can force you to give them your drivers license. Further Drivers licences are often used for things that have nothing to do with driving. Bar and night clubs use them, Movie theaters, stores require them for other age restricted goods aka tobacco and pr0n.
  • Report on Brazil (Score:2, Informative)

    by zanderredux (564003) on Thursday April 27, 2006 @08:38PM (#15217524)
    The article goes on to say that about 100 nations have some form of ID card. Is your country one of them?
    Yes. Brazil has a national ID card.
    What concerns were raised? How were they addressed?
    Can't really tell. National ID cards have always been here, at least since 1930 (that's the earliest speciment I've seen)
    Have welfare fraud and other identity-related crimes decreased?
    Absolutely not. Welfare fraud is rampant as ever and identity theft is way so much easier when all you need is to steal a single number.
    Have National ID cards improved or deteriorated conditions where you live?
    Don't know. Living standards around here have varield wildly over the last 20 years and it is impossible to correlate that with ID cards.

    Now, some random details. ID cards here only gives a little more certainty over someone's identity, since it's an offical (think notarized) document with a photograph. It's legal for anyone to ask for the ID card on a commercial transaction, for instance, and that makes ID verification processes go much more smoother (due to the non-repudiation.) There's a lot of other numbers we have to deal with on our daily life: social security, financial operation and tax ID, voter ID, passport, driver's license number, work permit number, professional syndicate ID. Therefore, the ID number by itself is the least of our problems.

    OTOH the number hell is our final line of defense. It raises the cost of a successful ID theft or a welfare fraud. But the same mess make it easy to fraud as well, since some numbers do not have standard formats across city or state borders.

    I conclude that, while the national ID thing is not a bad thing by and on itself, the concentration of many different government services on a single point of failure can have catastrophic results.

  • Re:A terrible idea. (Score:3, Informative)

    by shorti9 (307602) on Thursday April 27, 2006 @08:51PM (#15217626)
    I agree that they'll likely be forged, but it won't be as simple as you make it out to be. Smartcards are usually just crypto processors [google.com]. That is, they don't just emit a sequence of data, but instead respond to a challenge with a unique hash of that challenge.
  • by rg3 (858575) on Thursday April 27, 2006 @09:04PM (#15217708) Homepage
    I have never lived in a country without a national ID card so I'm not sure what are the advantages of having or not having such a document. In Spain, we've had national ID cards since before I was born, and I have one, of course.

    My general feeling is that they're a good idea if used right, which I think is the situation now. National ID cards are used mostly in situations when they want to establish exactly who is going to participate in a given event. The national ID number is a private data, like your phone number. Nobody knows which is your national ID number and when you're requested to give it, you have the impression you are going to establish a formal and serious relationship/business with something or somebody.

    For example, it's usually requested in contracts. Let's suppose you buy a house. Your contract says the amount you are going to pay, the conditions, etc, *and* your national ID. So it is *you* who is buying the house and not somebody else. And the house will belong to *you* and not somebody else. And it's also requested for the company to have a similar number that will be in the contract. So it's *that* company. But, for example, you are not requested to give your national ID when you buy a PC.

    I was requested to give my national ID number (and show the card, of course) when I started my studies at the university. While not a common practice, some teachers requested the cards at the final exams. They have a list of people who has paid to assist their classes and go to the exams, they bring that list to the exam and ask people for the card to enter the exam room. That way, they make sure it's really *you* who is doing the exam and not somebody else in your behalf.

    Another usual situation in which you are requested to show your ID card is when paying with a credit card at some supermarket or shop in general. Instead of checking that your signature matches the one in the credit card, which is a loose relationship IMHO (and easy to fake), you show your credit card and your ID card. The shop assistant holds both cards in their hands and checks that you are the one in the ID card by looking at the picture and that the name in the credit card matches the name in the ID card. This way you couldn't use a stolen card unless your name and the owner's name match. Note that in Spain you have one name and two surnames (one from each parent), making coincidences slightly more unusual.

    And a final word about the cards themselves: they have the typical security measures used for bills and other "official" documents (probably on a higher paranoid level I'd say). Of course, they can be faked, like everything, but it's not easy at all for a common individual to do it. Currently it's made of plastic, with special ink and your picture, of course, it not attached to it, it's printed on the card itself.
  • Worse than that. (Score:3, Informative)

    by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Thursday April 27, 2006 @09:07PM (#15217723)
    Why? Because real Terrorists can get fake IDs regardless.

    I do recall the 9/11 highjackers all had IDs that passed basic inspection.
    It's worse than that.

    Some of those hijackers had LEGITIMATE ID with their REAL NAMES and paid for the tickets with credit cards issued to those names.

    We can't even stop known bad guys using ID we've issued in their real names.

    There is no way we can stop bad guys from getting fake ID's and using that. And the more "national" an ID card is, the LESS it will be questioned.

    The ENTIRE system hinges on the worst idiot working in the issuing office being 100% resistant to bribes and threats.
  • Re:Absolutely not (Score:3, Informative)

    by Atanamis (236193) on Thursday April 27, 2006 @09:16PM (#15217769)
    Perhaps. But if you *are* carrying a form of identification, a police officer in the US is allowed to ask you to present it with no justification whatsoever, and failing to do so is a jailable offense.

    Can you provide support for this statement? Even in the case cited above, a person can only be jailed if there is "and reasonable suspicion--though not probable cause" that the person has committed a crime. This makes sense since I person who refuses to identify themselves cannot be located for future questioning if needed. I am unaware of any law requiring a person to identify themselves to an officer "with no justification whatsoever".

    From article linked above:
    # Supreme Court Upholds Constitutionality of Arrest for Refusal to Identify. In a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court has narrowly upheld a Nevada law allowing law enforcement to arrest an individual when he refuses to identify himself, and reasonable suspicion--though not probable cause--exists that he has committed a crime. (June 21, 2004)
  • Re:One word: (Score:3, Informative)

    by tomhudson (43916) <barbara.hudsonNO@SPAMbarbara-hudson.com> on Thursday April 27, 2006 @09:16PM (#15217770) Journal
    We have a nationally-mandated medicare plan, administered by each province. Move to a different province, the old province is required to cover you for a period of time (1 to 3 months - it varies) while you enroll in the new province's plan.

    Part of the bitching by the provinces has been the feds reducing their historic share of the costs.

    I didn't say there was one id card for the whole country.

  • Re:Absolutely not (Score:3, Informative)

    by HUADPE (903765) on Thursday April 27, 2006 @09:44PM (#15217902) Homepage
    It specifically violates my right against "unreasonable search and seizure." If I am required to provide an ID upon arbitrary request of a government official, absent any suspicion, then peoples' "right to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures" has indeed been violated.

    These rights can be looked up in your handy-dandy fourth amendment.

  • by Qbertino (265505) on Thursday April 27, 2006 @09:55PM (#15217954)
    Germany is a federation aswell. Where do you draw the line?
  • by ccmay (116316) on Thursday April 27, 2006 @10:03PM (#15217994)
    Things are getting a might bit scary under the Republicans in the US right now.

    Why do you think this is a Republican issue? There are plenty of statist scum in both parties who support internal passports.

    All this national-ID shit started under Clinton [hispanicvista.com], and Hillary still wants a national ID card [phxnews.com] encoded with biometric data.

    You owe freedom-loving Republicans like Rep. Ron Paul [lewrockwell.com] an apology.

    -ccm

  • Re:Absolutely not (Score:5, Informative)

    by ipfwadm (12995) on Thursday April 27, 2006 @10:04PM (#15218002) Homepage
    Income tax was a temporary measure to fund World War 1.

    Well, I got to here, and I almost stopped reading. Sorry, but the income tax in the U.S. has been around since the Civil War, which was more than 50 years before WWI. There were some issues with constitutionality for a while there, but the 16th Amendment, which brought about the income tax for good, was ratified in February 1913, a year and a half before WWI started, and four years before the U.S. got involved. Wikipedia [wikipedia.org].

    But I decided to keep reading, until I got to:

    The 65 mph speed limit began as another temporary measure to reduce gas consumption during an oil embargo by Middle East producers in the 1970's.

    (a) That was 55mph, not 65.
    (b) It was kept around for safety, because there was a drop in highway deaths after the limit was lowered. Correlation not causation, perhaps, but that was the rationale.

    Didn't read the rest of your post, since I figured with such glaring mistakes in the first three sentences the rest of it would be pretty suspect.
  • Re:Absolutely not (Score:3, Informative)

    by sadler121 (735320) <msadler@gmail.com> on Thursday April 27, 2006 @10:31PM (#15218124) Homepage

    Above and beyond that. The US Supreme Court said that you only have to provide your name to an officer, not a driver's license.

    As we understand it, the statute does not require a suspect to give the officer a driver's license or any other document. Provided that the suspect either states his name or communicates it to the officer by other means-a choice, we assume, that the suspect may make-the statute is satisfied and no violation occurs. Justice Kennedy [cornell.edu]
  • Re:Absolutely not (Score:3, Informative)

    by rkcallaghan (858110) on Thursday April 27, 2006 @10:33PM (#15218128)
    Please tell me you have concrete examples of this, and aren't just talking out your ass.

    Whenever this comes up, someone says exactly what you just did. It's really starting to hurt me, so I will provide you with a concrete example:

    Me. Yes, me, Rebecca, personally. No third hand relay.

    Even our limited "National ID" known as a Social Security number has been enough to ruin my life right now. Long story short, my birth records were all kinds of fucked up. The state of Arizona heard my case, and I had a slew of people speaking up for me, from doctors to my bank manager and of course friends and family. The state agreed to correct my records, and issured a court order that amounts to "Do everything you have to to fix this.".

    However, the Social Security department won't act without a federal order, saying they are not under the jurisdiction of the State of Arizona. Federal court won't hear my case, saying identification of citizens is a state issue. I can't get a job, because Social Security tells them my ID doesn't match and that they aren't allowed to hire me. I have no money, due to having no job, and cannot hire a lawyer. Despite my sincerest efforts, thus far, no lawyer wants my case on contingency. All this new anti Terrorism ID madness has them scared shitless and they aren't gonna touch a case like this for "free".

    So yea, fuck national ID. Wait until YOURS is fucked up and come back and tell people they are talking out of their ass.

    ~Rebecca
  • Re:One word: (Score:3, Informative)

    by Takumi2501 (728347) on Thursday April 27, 2006 @10:36PM (#15218144)
    Plus (if you're talking about Ontario) we're not allowed to use our health card as identification, or even show it to anyone who isn't a health care provider.
  • by morto (525092) on Thursday April 27, 2006 @10:59PM (#15218236)
    Hi, If you are referring to this post [slashdot.org] I think the author may be mistakenly considering the ubiquous R.G. id card as a national ID.

    As I've mentioned R.Gs (Registro Geral), are NOT guaranteed to be unique. They are issued regionally. Most people don't know that.
    I only learned that when I had to deal with patients identification due to software requirements not long ago.

    The new eletronic R.G. are unique digital signatures but these are expensive (you have to pay yearly fees to the certification authority, something like Verisign) and still very very far from wide adoption.

    Anyway I think we are talking about ubiquous free unique national IDs.
    In Brazil we have national driver's licenses and CPFs (our tax id document). They are unique, they are national, they are almost free but they are not ubiquous because they are not mandatory documents.

    We do not have a national ID at least as defined here.

    Best regards,
    mau.

  • Re:Absolutely not (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 27, 2006 @11:24PM (#15218345)
    Oh what amazing timing!

    Because yesterday was also the 10th anniversary of Australia's very aggresive gun control laws coming into force, that completely ban the ownership of assault rifles, ban most ownership of handguns, and limit rifles to farmers etc.

    Since the ban came into force, there have been ZERO mass shootings in the last 10 years, compared to 7 in the 10 years before the ban.

    Assaults or attacks involving guns has been very slightly decreasing before, but fell at a rate 700 times afterwards. Gun crime is down enormously. Because of their high "completion rate" there's also been a fall in successful suicides.

    Overall murder rates have fallen at a slightly higher rate, but generally suggest that gun control has only limited effectiveness against multi-modal murders (where they have the opportunity to prepare any number of different options for killing them).

    So yes, gun control works, and it means the non-elected criminals often don't have access to guns.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 27, 2006 @11:41PM (#15218437)
    I don't quite understand why the perception of personal freedom is so high that it should override the ability to garauntee personal identification. Nor do I understand why having seperate or no forms of identification somehow means a person cannot be traced/tracked by centralized forms of government.

    As a canadian citizen I currently carry the following information attached to my name (not all of these things are on me at all times)
    (Fed)Social insurance #
    (Prov)Drivers License
    (Fed)Possession and Acquision License
    (Prov)Health Card
    (Municipal)Library card
    (Educational/Prov)University/College ID
    (International)Credit Cards
    (Municipal/Prov)Bus Pass
    (Gov)Birth Certificate

    Now at any one time I carry identification from 3 seperate forms of legislative bodies, one of whom does not report anywhere in my governmental system. Each one of these items can be used to track my day to day movements in and out of various areas, using public transit, recieve pay cheques, and purchase items. Now why do I believe that having a centralized form of ID would remove another layer of privacy, when in reality it just confirms the fact that the government can already track ALL of my daily activities if they wanted to and already have FULL information on my persons. Hell, they know when I was born, and assuming I die in canada they will know when I died. So why would I want to slow down the process of almagamting these forms of identificaiton into a singular organized, tracked, punishable entity which could more acurately protect my information.

    But maybe I just don't understand. PS for those of you keeping tabs there is one piece of info I didn't mention (International)IP Address.
  • In France... (Score:2, Informative)

    by jthom (971462) on Friday April 28, 2006 @01:16AM (#15218823)
    ... we have had ID cards forever. One consequence is that I didn't even know what "Identity theft" meant until I cam in this country. And even now, I have to explain what it is to my French friends.
  • Re:Absolutely not (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 28, 2006 @02:44AM (#15219065)
    The Nazi regime also enacted strict gun control laws, including banning Jews from owning them to ensure they could not resist them from fighting back.

    The strict gun laws in Germany were introduced before, after WWI, since at that time a lot of soldiers were coming back from the war, taking their weapons with them. Funilly enough, the Nazis actually relaxed the gun law in Germany. At some point in the Nazi era, the law was changed so that everybody (well, probably not Jews) was allowed to buy rifles (but not handguns). Before you needed a permission for everything.
  • Re:A terrible idea. (Score:3, Informative)

    by otmar (32000) on Friday April 28, 2006 @03:21AM (#15219162) Homepage
    Firstly they will be able to be forged, just because it will be a smart card doesn't mean that you will not be able to make another one. All that you would need to duplicate the smart card is to read all the current data off the card then to program an emulator on your own card to spit out those values whenever they are requested, this is the way that a GSM card can be copied.

    Hello? GSM SIM cards cannot be copied by just monitoring them during operation. They use challenge/response based cryptography. You don't get the private key of the card by monitoring its communication. And without that key, you can't produce correct answers to further challenges.

  • states = sovereign (Score:3, Informative)

    by SonicSpike (242293) on Friday April 28, 2006 @03:24AM (#15219170) Homepage Journal
    You forget that each individual state is essentially its own country. And now most people don't think of it like that, but crossing a state line is really like going into another country. Europeans do it all the time on a very similar but different scale.

    Therefore, if someone violated NY law, then why should PA care? Even if they flee to PA? It doesn't matter because the person did not violate PA law. Now the states often have reciprocal agreements in order to assist with this type of activity, which often leads to extradition.

    If it is federal law however that was broken, that is an entirely different situation because then the feds have jurisdiction.

    If you break US law and go to Costa Rica, do you think the Costa Rican's will care? NO! Vice versa. It's the same with the states.

    And having a government issued ID from ANY level of government isn't part of a libertarian philosophy.

    Perhaps you had better study libertarianism a bit more by reading these two pages first:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Libertarianism [wikipedia.org]
    http://www.lp.org/issues/issues.shtml [lp.org]
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 28, 2006 @06:22AM (#15219537)

    Here in the UK we have credit card sized driving licences. It's a form of ID but we have the bizarre situation where it's not sufficient to hire a rental car. To do this you need your paper licence too or have the office call the DVLC and have you authorise them to confirm your identity. This is nothing to do with anything but is irritating. (Especially as this telephone confirmation incurs a charge). Cynically, it might be this awkward to make ID cards look attractive.


    The proposed UK ID card will contain biometric data and fight terrorism.


    Presumably the application process will be flawless and it will be impossible to obtain multiple cards to support different identities. Presumably the IT systems supporting it will be delivered on time and to budget.


    There are objections to this because it's thought that it will be personally expensive and ineffectual. It may also be mandatory - there's been some to-ing and fro-ing between our elected House Of Commons and the unelected House Of Lords (which continues to resist its implementation) - when applying for, or renewing a passport.


    There are other, liberty based, objections. The counter-argument is often that the government is at some level basically trustable. It wouldn't do anything nefarious with its information, after all. We're a civilised country that's benefited from a fairly turbulent history and respects the individual. Against this it's argued that civil liberties do not disappear overnight but are eroded, gradually, day by day.


    So although in the UK we live a top-five economy in a free democracy over recent years the following have occured:


    Before the allied invasion of Iraq >1 million people took to the streets of London (as elsewhere around the world) to protest: the "not in my name" demo. The week before this a government minister suggested it shouldn't go ahead on public safety grounds. Nothing to do with reducing the right to protect, obviously.


    The current government introducde tough new laws to control demonstrations and protests. Again, if public safety is a concern, what to complain above. However, they then tried to retrospectively apply this to a longer running protest in Parliament Square. Sense prevailed and the legal system rejected this, which is reasonable given it's one man and some banners.


    At the party conference for the current government an elderly gentleman takes issue with the Home Secretary's speech. He mumbles - unheard by the speaker - that the justification being given for the invasion of Iraq is nonsense. He's immediately bundled out of the conference by security. There's an apology later for this - overkeen stewards, etc. However, the chap was detailed under the prevention of terrorism legislation by police for a few hours and barred from reentering the conference. The apology doesn't excuse the fact that this happened in the first place: a quiet heckle by an elderly - and lifelong party member - is a threat to national security?


    And there's more: an increasing number of cameras monitoring traffic flows, with no real indication how vehicle movements are monitored or how long data is kept; fingerprints being kept by police where no charge or caution is issued.


    On paper, a single unified ID has benefits. But under some circumstances it's seen as the no longer thin edge of the wedge. We may have no privacy because many busy streets are camera monitored but this doesn't mean everything else should be tacitly surrendered.

  • by CraigoFL (201165) <slashdot@NOsPam.kanook.net> on Friday April 28, 2006 @09:49AM (#15220373)
    Check out your RICO score.

    Uhhh, I'm pretty sure I don't have a very high RICO [wikipedia.org] score... but I do know that my FICO [wikipedia.org] score is pretty good. Capice?

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