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Smile for the US Secret Service 258

Judg3 writes "Apparently the United States federal government began a plan in 1997 to start a national photographic database, digitizing driver's license photos among other things. More details are availible online. " It's being test piloted in 3 states currently, while kudos goes to Electronic Privacy Information Center for uncovering the information about this program. As would be expected the bogeymen are "illegal immigrants and terrorists".
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Smile for the US Secret Service

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  • But seriously though, is letting your government know what you look like such a big privacy issue? They already know that you exist from birth certificates or visas. That coupled with the fact that most photo ID comes from the government makes me wonder why this is such a big deal...

    That's actually the issue. The government would not walk up to someone from, say, 100 years ago and say "we want your name, date of birth, who you are married to, how many children you have, where you live, your picture, and the right to sell all of that information to the highest bidder, or failing that, give it away. We also want to issue you a number, and if we draw that number, you're going to have to join the army." 100 years ago, the average citizen would have started a revolution over less. (140 years ago, a bunch of people DID.)

    Instead, the government said "We just want to start tracking births and deaths. It's important to know how many citizens we have." They had no real use for the information that anyone could see, other than a census - so nobody minded.

    Then they started tracking marriages. There were some benefits, and they seemed to offset the problems, so nobody minded. Except a few privacy nuts - probably polygamists.

    Then they start issuing ID numbers to everybody. "It's just a number; it helps us keep track of where government benefits should go. You don't want to lose out on benefit money, do you?" So nobody minded.

    Then they started licensing drivers. Those new motor cars were dangerous if the driver was unskilled; so nobody minded.

    Then they started tracking income. "We have to know where the poorest areas are, so we know who needs help the most." So nobody minded.

    And now today, the government knows your name, date of birth, who you are married to, how many children you have, where you live, your picture, tracks you by number for taxation and draft purposes, and nobody minds. Except a few privacy nuts. But hey, don't worry - the government says their all a bunch of paranoid gun nuts. Just watch, I'll bet they'll be in a bunker someday, threatening your children, and we'll have to go after them with tanks. But we'll need their pictures, so we know who we're going after, so if you'll just line up here please, and smile...

  • Might as well just strap a camera to my ass. They know everything else I do.

  • What do you need to do to move to the Netherlands? :-)

    I am from South Carolina, one of the States who sold DL photos to this company, so might be able to say something. The US Congress passed a law that banned states from selling DL info to companies. Then our State Attorney General, Charlie Condon (Republican, for what it's worth), claiming that Congress had no authority to pass such a law. You see, we have no Constitutional right to privacy and Congress has limited power over the State governments.

    The U.S. Supreme Court agreed with Condon: we have no right to privacy and Congress can't do anything about it without passing a Constitutional Amendment. Needless to say, the law was thrown out. Shortly afterwards, the SC government sold millions of DL photos to this company for something like $2000 or $5000. It's totally legal and there's nothing anyone can do about it.

    Take care,


  • But the government _does_not_ sell your SSN and related information to corporations. Some company can't just buy a copy of your tax return. Companies _can_ buy copies of your driver's license and related information.
  • They do the exact same thing in Massachusetts. Our photos are digitized and (presumably) stored in a large computer database. Therefore, if they gave access to the photo files to the Secret Service, we wouldn't have to "smile for the Secret Service." Also, our signatures are stored in a database and they are printed on our driver's licenses (we don't have to sign them).

    Of course, this system is good for convenience, but it could certainly be abused by a big government agency that likes to snoop...

    ---- Joseph Bowden
    ICQ: 13709677
    Want to contact me via e-mail?
  • ok let me get this right the fbi , cia ,nsa ,etc... now have a data base of 3 states with the uglist pic known to man , i know ppl know what i am talking about. ever one take out there drivers licence , and take a good look. i noticed on mine the change was very drastic from my long hair down to the short , and no the missing beard . do you think that this thing can be effective in any means on a large scale. on my NC dl i am pissed and become i am at the dmv , but they also digitzed all my info into one of those freaky smart bar code things that are creaping on ups packages , now i stare at it looking for shapes and faces . isnt it nice to know your a bar code now! haha

    hail the great goddess caffine keeper of the scared black been , where there is life there is caffine where there is caffine there is life.
  • Oh, I don't know - you might get away with a decent out-of-court settlement from a lawsuit, provided you agree not to scream to the nationals about their breaching agreed privacy contracts....

    Or you might quietly disappear one dark evening and they wouldn't have to worry about it anymore... Our government has entirely too much power over its citzens. The PEOPLE are supposed to BE the government, not be ruled by the government!! I call for OPEN ARMED REVOLT!! Storm Washington! We have a constitutional right, nay a DUTY to overthrow corrupt government!

  • Same thing here in California. I have to wonder what it is they do with them though. Ive misplaced my license something like 3 times, and every time I go back, they take a new print and picture. Once I inquired about the proper action if a person was missing their right thumb. I was told that they were then supposed to use the left, and barring that possibility, work their way through all the fingers. No order was specified.
  • 1. A weak good government.
    2. A strong good government.
    3. A weak bad government.
    4. A strong bad government.

    A weak bad government can easily become a strong bad goverment. A weak good government can become a weak bad government. So the best option is a strong good government.

    A strong good government is one with deeply-rooted institutions of openness and accountability. This is the most stable. The US government is like this, but of course it could be better. Weak governments are more unstable and can become tryranical due to ongoing internal corruption or as a result of some external disaster.

    The milita types: They fear the government. They want to hide from it as much as possible, even though they are not doing anything illegal. You fear what you don't know. The government is a black box to them. Conspiracy theories abound. They feel threatned by unseen forces. They are at the extreme, but everyone feels this uneasyness to some small degree. The cure for this is more openness.

    Government, like source code, should be open.

    One reason the government is opaque is simply because it has become so large. Knowing what the government is up to today is a more difficult task than it was 200 years ago when government was much smaller. (30MB Windows vs. 100K DOS) Computers and the Internet can help with this. Require public officials, from the highest to the lowest, to document the reasons for their decisions, and make those documents publicly available on the net.

    Another reason for opacity is a legacy of the cold war (proprietary competition). In the long run, secrets are bad for a government.

    Secrecy should be allowed only in exceptional circumstances. Have it so that if a federal agency wants to keep a secret for less than obvious "security" reasons, it must buy an "Indulgence" from the federal treasury, for say $1000. In other words, a government department loses $1000 from its budget for each secret it wants to keep. :-)

    Ideally, government should be like a personal computer running Linux. :-) A very complicated operating system, but one designed by the community itself, to serve its needs, and who's internal workings are completely open and available for inspection and understanding should you care to look. All the benefits of open source development would apply to governace as well.

  • Why is having a photo of you on file an invasion of your privacy? Unless you walk around all the time with a bag over your head, people know what you look like anyway....
  • What can I say, you live in an enlightened country. Perhaps an enlightened continent. This summer I had the pleasure of visiting a string of countries, and was slightly shocked to find that a person could specify on their mailbox that they did not want bulk advertisements. Information disclosure in the US? Well, you can check your own credit information, but you gotta pay. You can refuse to get a state ID, but then you'll find you cant fly on commercial air lines quite frequently. You cant buy cigarettes untill you appear to be 27 in California (you need to be 18). ack, gotta stop this before i realize im really sitting in a cell.
  • I think Calvin & Hobbes said it best in this dialog: (paraphrasing)

    C: Hobbes, do you believe in the Devil?
    H: You mean a vile creature dedicated to the temptation and corruption of mankind?
    C: Yeah.
    H: I don't think mankind needs the help.

    Basically, I don't really buy into the typical Christian mythology about the lake of fire, eternal damnation, pie in the sky, and marks of the beast. Man is a balance of good and evil, and unfortunately, those less enlightened have been the ones in power for some time. But avoiding a long theological debate, I think this diverts from the intent of the original article, which is basically that the government will have a picture of you on file. (which they already do, they'll just all be linked with each other state now)

  • Those of you protest that this photo database is "no big deal" are right in a very isolated sense. If this project were a standalone artifact, the first of its kind, and nothing more, then it would be worth watching closely but no threat to any good person. It is not isolated.

    The plan as I recall it, called for digitizing everyone in the USA with instant access terminals spreading throughout the land for customs recognition, check and credit card verification, "terrorist/kiddie porn/undesirable" stopping, etc. You hand over your national ID card, they swipe it, and a few moments later your picture appears probably with a lot of other information too.

    Great. Now "no one can use your credit cards," is the selling point. Just remember that the same folks who proposed this innocent little "convenience" are also proposing registration of all guns and owners with confiscation promised, installing government backdoors on all computers to serve search warrants in advance of their issue, outlawing encryption where it is inconvenient, requiring national ID cards and their use for all government services and many private ones too, requiring banks to spy on your financial dealings, confiscating money and property without filing any criminal charges and then keeping the loot, and that is just what comes to mind right now. Oh yeah, it certainly looks like this same government is not above murdering its own citizens with incendiary devices because some tax agency needed a PR video.

    Do you still trust them? What about the next administration?

    All you European socialists want to chime in? It is illegal to own any encryption device in France or Russia. Russian ISPs will tell you that they can not operate without installing evesdropping software for the FRS (neo-KGB). We used to shudder at the thought of government spying like this. We still laugh nervously at the East Germans and the Stasi. Nearly a third of that country was informing on the other two-thirds. Of course that could never happen in America, and who cares if it does. We do not have death squads...

    Computerization and universal networking are extremely powerful tools and can shape society in unexpected ways. Some folks have argued that this database is meaningless because the government is incompetant. Not everyone working for the US government is stupid, and many of these proposals come out of bureaucracies looking to increase in power or contractors looking to make a buck. Neither of these groups care about privacy at all. Add in large coroporate interests, who see negative value in individual privacy, and you have a recipe for disaster.

    I would rather live in the society which did not feel compeled to track my movements, associates, financial dealings, personal communications, and very appearance. With a little forethought the same computer system which could be a powerful surveilence system can protect its users privacy and identity. The corporate motivation is lacking because provacy guards cost more and deprive them of potential revenue streams in selling your data. Goverment motivation for privacy is lacking because power and control increase with information. It is up to citizens to demand privacy and see that safeguards are enforced.

  • Sadly, there are systems that can id people quite well. When these become cost effective, and hooked into the CCTV systems widespread across much of the UK now, such an image database would let the Government monitor your movements quite effectively.

    And it's already being done (in the UK). Some months ago on television there was a documentary about this issue, and it showed a system that identified criminals. It only had a success rate of 80% at that time, but that might be improved by now.
  • I have to disagree on this point.

    I believe that:
    1. By nature, people are "good".
    2. The more people in power, the less power in the hands of the "bad" people.

    1. This is not to say that people do not do bad things or have bad goals, but I think that people are not essentially bad by nature, they are bad by conditioning. (ie. they have become bad) This gives me hope that good government is possible. (yep, I'm a bit of an idealist)

    2. I think that the number of people around who are bad is going to stay fairly constant, but less than the number of good people (see 1). However, if power is spread through many hands, the likelihood is that most power will be in the hands of good people.

    Without really judging whether or not this picture db will be abused or not, I refer to the original post we are replying to here and again ask, "what exactly is so bad about this?". If we assume that people are good, then mightn't this db HELP the gov't be MORE effective ?

    -The Devil's Advocate

    Ok, you are hopelessly deluded. People are inherintly interested in what is best for themselves at any particular moment. Without any kind of training or conditioning to the contrary they will ALWAYS do what is best for themselves without regard to others.

    When we elect someone to a position in our government we HOPE we are electing someone GOOD. However there are in existence more 'Bad' people than 'Good' people. So the more people we have in our government the higher the chance that we have 'Bad' people in it.

    Also, you can never 'Assume' people are good. In fact, if we are assuming people are good then why do we need this DB? None of us are criminals, people are Good!

    Good government is Possible, but not BIG good government. A Good government is inherently small and efficient, unlike our current government.

    The Government has in place a adequate infrastructure for performing its duties, it is not using that infrastructure properly. The government wastes resources in massive amounts on all kinds of useless things. If perhaps some of that were stopped and redirected towards useful programs that are already in existence we wouldn't be looking at some new and expensive program designed to take up the slack every few months.

  • And what if someone would hack the computer(s) that store all this info.. The movie "The Net" could be a reality..


  • You'll never see a good selection process as long as the vast majority of the public is somewhere between generally uninformed and utterly ignorant. Politicians respond to whatever gets them votes. Right now, the best ways to get votes are by surfing from one "wedge" issue to the next, running lots of negative TV ads, and trying to convince people that your opponent is either socialist or extremist and doesn't care about you. Why do these work? Because most of the population isn't willing to think for themselves. I don't blame politicians for the current state of government. Most honestly believe they are doing what is best for the people. I blame the political apathy of the population.

    I'll have to agree with that. The biggest problem is that the us people keep asking the government to bend them over and fuck them senseless.... We're gluttons for punishment it seems.

  • Just like gun control issues. Are the "illegal aliens and boogeymen" going to register a gun or get a drivers license? You can drive without one for Lord knows how long, if you drive halfway decent. And guns will always be on the black-market. I am all for privacy. But do you remember that national datbase we already have here in the US? It's call Social Security. Dang near everybody born in the US has a number... Maybe they could just tattoo that on us. Grrr!
  • I knew that you're in California. :-)

    Seems you got lucky in Texas- I got scanned and there was no option for not getting it (not like they don't already have it; worked for a defense contractor for a time- they already know me probably better than I know myself... :-).

    Recognition could be possible with some of the more advanced neural net engines, but you're right, it'd be hard. I think all that's on the stripe is an index id for your info in the state database and an authentication key to certify that the card's not bogus.
  • The state of Kansas also has a magnetic strip. In many of the local stores there is a pad that very clearly will erase the magnetic strip on any card (credit cards, drivers lic. etc) so I erase the strip.
  • If you did not vote the Libertarian ticket, or did not vote at all, then yes, you did vote for it.
  • Would this imply that the issuing of a driver's license would be a federal program and not a state one?

    If they are using the guise of "immigrants and terrorists" perhaps they should give an option to "born" citizens to opt out of the program. (Well, we can't be immigrants so do they consider us terrorists until proven otherwise?)
    This should make their database smaller and thus quicker to search.


    This sucks. (IMO)

  • > perhaps they should give an option to "born" citizens to opt out of the program.

    There ALREADY is an way to opt out. Get an IDP (International Drivers Permit)
    Remember that the IDP is NOT valid in the place of issue, so don't go to AAA and ask them to give you one!

    You DO NOT need a driver's license to travel.
    Do a search for "right to travel"
    I've included some links here to get you started.

    WHY does the state want you to submit the MSO for an unregistered vehicle and then give you a title back?
    i.e. tm

    To find the answer, you might want to look up MSO (Manufacture's Statement of Origin) or MCO (Manufacture's Certificate of Origin) tml 5articles/ch625act5Sub3.htm

    Please research these so-called "mandatory" federal/state laws, you will shocked to discover what the laws REALLY say.
  • The barcode apparently includes your home address. Everytime I move I get a different barcode. (this happens often) On the upside, it would make an easy way to send drunks home, just put them in the nearest mailbox. the USPS will do the rest.
  • Warning, long rambling post ahead :)

    I would have to disagree with your premise, as I understand it, on a number of points. I read your post as saying:

    1. Governments can be 'good' or 'bad'.
    2. Good government is desirable and should be sought after and protected.
    3. Bad government is undesirable and should be overthrown.
    4. It is possible for a good government to go bad (implied).
    5. It is better to risk the overthrow of a good government than risk not being able to overthrow a bad one.
    6. Thus, it is desirable that all governments be weak.

    Now, lets take the assumptions in order:
    1. Now, I despise pointless semantic disputes, but what is 'good' and 'bad'? I can answer that question to my own satisfaction, and I'm sure that you, and most others can too. But I doubt we agree on all points. For example, would you call the US government good or bad? I think a very good case could be made that it is a bad government, and that therefore (according to the above assumptions) should be overthrown. Do you agree? If so I presume you are actively engaged in the subversion and overthrow of the US government. If not, why not? Can you honestly describe the US government as being good? Has it always been so during your adult life? If it is, what then consitutes bad government? (BTW, if you are actually planning to topple the US government, I wouldn't recommend saying so in a public forum :)

    2. I agree with the intent, if not the formulation of the intent.

    3. Should bad governments be overthrown? Is a bad government undesirable in comparison with the likely alternatives (and don't forget that good government is only one alternative, and not a very likely one IMHO). Lets take the situation in East Timor for example. I guess you would call the Indonesian government 'bad'. They are also weak, extremely so. Should they be overthrown? Hell no! If it is overthrown the miltary would take over, and a bad government would be replaced with a (probably) much worse one. There is increasing evidence that the power struggle between the military and government is intensifying, and that the military are prevailing. How many governments have been toppled by revolution in recent centuries? How many of the revolutions delivered a better situation than what was there before? Here are a few 'positive' revolutions I can think of, in rough order of the improvement they brought to the lives of the people. Please feel free to add to them:
    The French
    The American
    Romanian, and other Eastern European nations ditching communism (some of which are arguably not revolutions)
    Cuba (OK, just being provocative here)

    I would list some of the more horrible revolutions, but I don't have the time or inclination. Too depressing.

    4. Well, given any reasonable definition of good and bad, this seems inarguable.

    5. The vast majority of revolutions install a much worse government than the one they overthrew. See 3, above. It must always be remembered, romantic images notwithstanding, revolution is a horrible state. It invariably is accompanied by great suffering, and usually great death. Note, I think revolution is the correct action in some circumstances, but those circumstances are pretty damn rare! It should be the absolute last resort, undertaken only in situation of direst extremity.

    Also, I would specifically take issue with this statement:
    Once a government becomes strong, it is very difficult to make it weak again...

    It is natural for all governments to deteriorate over time. Sure, you have to take a longer view than is usual, but eventually all governments weaken and fail, no matter how 'good' or 'bad' they are, no matter how strong or weak.

    For an illuminating insight providing a bit of historical perspective, review a bit of ancient history. For the last four thousand years or so China been ruled in turn by various extremely strong governments (which would also count as being very 'bad' in most modern people's estimation, I suspect), all of which inevitably weakened and decayed, and were eventually overthrown and replaced. Rome would provide a similar example in the West. An incredibly powerful government, arguably the most powerful political entity that has yet existed, but still it weakened and fell. Of course we are talking about timeframes of centuries, which is cold comfort if you are suffering now.

    It would be interesting to examine whether the strength of a government is related to its 'badness'. I suspect that a case could be made that strong government is usually bad government. Anyway, an argument for another day.

    BTW, does anyone else find the similarity between one of the founding principles of the US (ensuring the possibility of revolution), and one of the central tenets of Maoism (perpetual revolution) interesting?

  • That's a pretty long stretch... the movie the net could never be a reality : )
    But seriously though, is letting your government know what you look like such a big privacy issue? They already know that you exist from birth certificates or visas. That coupled with the fact that most photo ID comes from the government makes me wonder why this is such a big deal. However, the Secret Service are probably not the people who should store this info -- i would want to know up front what they store it for and when they have access to the information.
  • Uhhh. Please don't clone him! Like we need MORE Anonymous Cowards... :)
  • Reminds me of a gentleman I saw an interview with a while back. He teaches memebers of a certain group of people (group shall remain anonymous to prevent flamewars; doesn't really matter anyway) to act a certain way, say certain things, etc in order to get elected. When it was pointed out that this meant most of these people would be flat out lying in order to get elected, he basically said "Whatever it takes. It's for their (the general public) own good anyway, they're just too dumb to know it".

    This, my friends, is the reality of modern politics.

  • How did Image Data feel about South Carolina's actions? "The PR, legal, and legislative situation in the pilot State will continue to be evaluated and dealt with," a January 1999 company report says.

    Read that to say somebody will have the shit audited out of them. Nasty visits by guys wearing dark glasses...that kind of thing.

  • The Secret Service is part of the Treasury Department. They have a lot to do with tracking drug gangs via money flow. As far as terrorists, that's pretty obvious as they are responsible for the safety of the President.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Just a bit of technical advice for anybody who thinks a strong magnet will wipe out a data stripe, or a tape or floppy diskette:

    It won't.

    There is the slight possiblity that some of the info will be corrupted, but the info will not be wiped clean.

    A strong 'DC' magnet will bias the magnetic material, but it almost never wipes out the minute changes in the magnetic field that carry the information.

    To wipe out data on a magnetic substrate, use an Alternating Current degaussing coil. They sell them at Rat Shack and many other places as "bulk tape erasers." Power the thing up and swirl it round and round whatever you're trying to wipe clean. Don't be afraid to overdo it, because otherwise you're just fooling yourself, thinking that you've wiped the data.

    The technical background: The change in the magnetic flux density is what carries the information. An AC electromagnet 'scrambles' the change, because it totally reverses polarity 60 times a second (50 in some localities). A DC magnet (a regular fixed magnet) does not scramble the information, it just "biases" it to a different level, leaving the minute changes that carry the info riding on a magnetic charge of one polarity or the other, which can easily be read with well designed equipment.

    Try some experiments with floppy diskettes and permanent magnets. Don't assume you've wiped magnetic media clean without careful evaluation of good technique.
  • If the government could prove their ability to utilize such technology without abuse, then I'd be all for it. However, as is inevitable in positions of power, individuals become corrupted. There needs to be some sort of check and balance system on such an undertaking. You know the old saying.... "Who will watch the watchers?"

    I, for one, fear what the NSA/CIA/SS/#include favorite TLA can do, especially when they're looking for some dork to patsy on a bust to meet their quotas, further political agendas or whatever cockamanie reason these "agents" have for their intrusions.

    In a perfect world, these sort of systems would only be used by reliable, trustworthy individuals who had only the nation and public's well being in mind. Of course, in a perfect world, these measures would not be necessary in the first place.

    There's always going to be a system, and it's never perfect. Vagrants/terrorists/kiddie pornsters/etc are going to find a way to beat any system that's put into place, leaving those of us who don't bother anybody put under unjustified observation.

    Here's your soap box back.

  • We have those in California too, and assuming that New Hampshire uses the same encoding scheme (almost certainly the case given that it is a credit-card industry standard format) it probably just has your driver's license number and name on there.

    If you erase the stripe, the only thing you are accomplishing is that your are forcing the cop to key in your driver's license number when you are pulled over. These stripes are not intended to have volatile info on them. They are merely a key to a database somewhere, and that key is nearly always on the card, in case the stripe goes bad.

    One reason that I am almost certain the encoding used is that retailers are one of the groups pushing for these stripes on cards. Why? So they can ask for ID, and then grab the name off of it for marketting purposes.

    These mag stripes don't hold as much as most people seem to think. There are generally two sets of info. The first is 37 bytes, and holds the account number and some other control information. The second is 80 bytes and holds the same thing as the first, but with the addition of the name on the card. Some older equipment can't read the second.
  • Roe v. Wade was decided largely on an assumed right to privacy. While there is no explicit 'Right To Privacy' delineated in the US Constitution, the Supreme Court has long held that there does exist a defacto right to privacy. The problem with this is that conservative judges, generally appointed by Republican Presidents don't like this level of constructive interpitation and often reject this argument as grounds for more contentious decisions. The fact is that we really should have a right to privacy in the constitution to eliminate this sort of interpitation.

    Conservatives often like to use arguments like taxation is a assualt on personal freedom - well, it is. But the fact of the matter is that conservatives are also the people who promulgate proposed restrictions on freedom of speech, freedom of religion (and the concept that religous beliefs should become societal norms, but it is MY religion that we use as a benchmark). These are important assaults on basic freedoms, too.

    The fact of the matter is that people need to adopt a more libertarian point of view when dealing with government.
  • What about having installed cameras, identifiying most everybody who walks by (OK, it's a bit difficult...)?

    Ever been in a Wal-Mart? :-)
    Seriously, on the corner by the post office downtown where I live there are two cameras 'hidden' in black globes meant to look like a street lamp. Now are they there for the security of the postal workers or...?
    The Divine Creatrix in a Mortal Shell that stays Crunchy in Milk
  • Probably best it keep it to just an ID on there. That way an online database can always have the latest info (new address, hair color, etc). If you have any info on the card you need to also have a signature by the state to verify the information is correct. A good signature using elliptical curves GF(255) would be around 512bits. Adding another 64 bytes.
  • Isn't there something about the "Mark of the Beast" in the Bible, where there would be something without which you can't buy or sell anything (or do anything at all, for that matter)? This looks suspiciously close. Bible Belters help me out.

    The potential good part (is that possible?!): if identity fraud becomes much more difficult, your rates for things like credit cards could drop, since a company that only allows clients in the ID system to get a card would have less fraud to make up for in their rates. It would also potentially let stores drop prices, since only accepting credit cards hooked to the photo system would drop their per-transaction price (or would it? there would be the added expense of the equipment and such).

    Like it or not, it's on its way.
  • Libertarians are the democrats of third party politics. Reform is the way to go.
  • Ok, perhaps I am a bit deluded. But I'm happy in that state. ;)
    My view from north of the border might also affect my opinions.

    However... I think our real difference here is the old philosophical battle of whether people are good or evil by nature. Much wiser and long dead people have effectively argued for both sides. It is really a personal choice of paradigm which decides which idea is correct. I personally believe that people are good by nature.

    And while I am assuming people are good by nature, I did say that there are bad people by conditioning... thus, OF COURSE it's silly to say "Everyone is good and no one is a criminal and who needs this DB?"

    I do think that a government of many can work, but perhaps not in the US. (I s'pose we could say that a democracy is actually a gov't of many... but that idea probably pertains more to socialism)

    I must certainly agree that the current infrastructure is under-utilised. But that in itself does not necessarily mean that a new idea is useless.


  • I think your confused with Hackers.. although a GUI to the sprinkler system or the Traffic Lights would be nice =-)


  • by edgy ( 5399 )
    This whole line of replies is scaring me.

    Who are you hurting when you're smoking pot? Perhaps yourself, but that's no reason to stop someone from doing it. If we do that, let's keep them from drinking, from looking the wrong way at people, from doing ANYTHING that could possibly endanger them.

    There's something wrong with that kind of thinking, and it leads to more and more people being thrown in jail for crimes that have no victims.
  • by edgy ( 5399 )
    Why stop people from smoking pot? Because it made you more and more stupid?! You can't stop people from being stupid, and putting them in jail for smoking a joint is a big waste of YOUR tax money, and everyone else's, when you could be putting it towards a host of other things that are real problems in the world.

    Scapegoating all of your problems on the pot smokers and on the porn on the net is a sign of living far away from where reality really is, and it's exactly what the government wants you to think. They'd rather you trade your freedom for your security. You'll end up having neither once they're all done.

  • in case you didnt know.
    the FBI has been taking all mug shots and fingerprints and digitizing them. then giving HP machines to local police departments w/ the mugshot and fingerprint databases. the only police departments i know of that have this right now or will have it in the immediate future are las vegas, the state of massachusettes and west virginia [theres a HUGE fbi compound in clarksburg].
  • I don't know about you, but I don't *want* the government to be able to look me up in a database.

    "Lets see, how bout we sign up everyone with a middle initial of ASD or F for the draft for WWIII"

    This fits right in to my plan to *not* get a driver's licence next year when I reach the age of drivers-licence-qualification.

  • David Brin talked alot about issues of privacy and surveillance in his book "The Transparent Society". The impression I took away from the book was this: Due to technological advances in cameras, satellites, and so forth, privacy is probably not going to be maintainable over the next few decades. But it has been the ability of the government to conduct its own business in secret which has allowed it to perpetrate all the abuses it has. Brin points out that if surveillance is uniform and bi-lateral, it can be used to enforce accountability upon the government.

    The danger at the present time is that the anti-privacy technology is advancing rapidly, and the government is learning to use it much more quickly than civilians. The asymmetry in surveillance could continue to grow wider and more rapidly, ending in something like 1984. Perhaps the best thing would be for civilians to start learning about this technology, and using it to track the lives of the legislators who favor abuses of privacy.

    So maybe there needs to be a web page that shows recent candid photos of all these legislators, and their home addresses, home phone numbers, travel itineraries, tax records, police records, where they eat dinner and who they meet, and all the other fun stuff they would like to know about the rest of us.

    In the worst case, the government would use its monopoly on privacy to secure so much power for itself that it no longer requires the process of popular elections. This would remove the last means by which the people constrain the government. Consent of the governed would become an unnecessary hindrance.

  • Were we even asked if we wanted this? I don't remember being asked.

    Yes, you were! At the last election. But you either did not give your opinion, or you voted for the lesser of various eveils instead of what you really wanted.

    What do you really want? To control the lives of others? Or to live your own life with abundance and in harmony with your fellow humans?

    Lots of things are happening that I am not comfortable with.

    Its not anyone's job to make you feel comfortable.
    You have to fight for what you want!

    Maybe an email campaign should be started to let these folks know how we feel.

    That's what general elections are for! Seriously, elections are your one chance. You're pissed and you didn't vote - the politicians are laughing at you!

    Somehow these losers got elected without telling the people what they were all about and thats not how the system is supposed to work. I say, these politicians sign a *contract* at election time, that says they get the f*ck out if they stray from their stated goals. They can't be trusted at their word any longer.

    Well the leftists here like to slam Libertarians, but at least with them you know exactly what you're getting - like open source - no hidden agendas or trapdoors, no last minute flip-flops on issues because of payoffs or kickbacks. No highways to nowhere or other pork for their friends. Read the platform and you can accurately predict how they will vote on nearly every issue. Very refreshing!

    Liberty - the more you give away, the more you get back.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Here you all go talking about how the government shouldn't keep more information about it's people, the very day after you all were talking about what additional information Malda should keep on SlashDot regulars.

    Yea, well, it's OK for SlashDot to do it, but not the US Government? ... Hmm... *whisper* Rob Malda Works for the CIA *

  • You are forgetting something verry important. There are many sets of different opinions, and if the people of the USA (or any other country) let laws get passed that *reduce* their rights, then these laws will reduce *everyone's* rights.

    What you consider to be a good thing, someone else might consider to be a menance to society.

    Do you smoke tobacco?
    Do you like to hunt?
    Do you have a pet?
    Do you believe in sexual freedom? (As in being able to engage in sexual activity of any form with another consenting adult)
    Do you think that people should be able to decorate the exterior of their house however they want to?
    How bout being able to have your favorite color car?
    Do you listen to music?
    Watch movies?
    Nearly every one of these things is ether currently legally restricted/banned in places, or could verry easily become restricted/banned in *your state/town/country*.

    The only good way to prevent restrictions on what *you* like to do, is to not try to restrict what *others* like to do.

    I believe rather strongly that if someone wants to do something, and it doesn't majorly harm *me* they have a right to do that, wether it be smoking pot, painting their house bright red, walking around without clothing, practicing some form of christianity, *whatever they want to do is fine*!

    Just because I don't want to smoke pot/paint my house red/be christian, doesn't mean that other people shouldn't be allowed to do it. And they shouldn't be allowed to force those practices on me eithor.

    I also believe that all surperfolus government laws/programs/etc (With the single exception of NASA) should be terminated. It is the governments responsibility to *implement and inforce such laws as are nessisary to allow people to live their lives*, as well as to build and maintain public resources like interstate highways.

    It is not the responsibility of government to provide health care! It is not the responsibility of government to keep alive those who cannot get jobs! These people have families. These people have friends. And realy, if a person has no family/friends/aquantences or a job, do they realy need to be kept alive by the govtment?

    The government doesn't need to store a picture of my face, and to keep a record of my doings to perform it's nessisary tasks. Even the effort required to do that is a waste of valuable tax dollars that could be spent on something worthwile. (Like NASA)

  • No no no, The problem is that they *can* and *do* commit the "serious fraud", and in a good percentage of cases, they get away with it.

    Why give them the power to mess you over. I could care less if the guy next to me smokes pot or crack, I want to be able to feel safe that I'm not going to get tagged for something that I didn't do that shouldn't be illegal in the first place!

    Laws should be minimal. Just because there's a spot where something *can* be regulated/taxed doesn't mean that it *should* be regulated and taxed.

  • I appreciate the point about the nature of US administrations, and to a lesser extent all western governments since around 1950.

    Nonetheless, I do believe they are *relatively* well-behaved, especially when you look at the alternatives. I don't live in the US, so maybe I underestimate the degree to which are behaving badly, but I do still think that limiting the informational resources of even only slightly benign government might increase the chances of the public supporting one that will turn out not to be benign at all.
  • You can see their web page at

    They are trying to raise some money, and put together a lawsuit.

    According to what I know, while Texas had the fingerprinting statute on the books for some time(which only allowed but did not not compell DPS to collect the prints) it was only recently that DPS had the technology to do it all over the state efficiently, as opposed to the larger DPS offices.

    While Texas and a few other states do fingerprint, thankfully those states are in the minority, and hopefully it will stay that way.
  • Reguardless of wich one of you is correct, a *less complex* government is better than a more complex coverment.

    The KISS priciple pretty much applys to everything, especially to law and government.

  • Come on, the US Government is rivalling Microsoft Windows 98 and Office 2000 combined in level of bloatedness!

    The evidence I present is that there exists a department of government with the spare time to compile a database of people's faces/SSNs.

  • I'm currently going through the motions of applying for a US immigrant visa (sigh) & have been asked to submit a number of 3/4 profile mug shots to fairly precise specs. *Now* i know why..

    Other funny questions on the application form:

    "Are you:

    b. An alien convicted of, or who admits having committed a crime involving moral turpitude or violation of any law relating to a controlled subtsance; ... [or] who is coming to the United States to engage in prostitition or commericalized vice..

    c. An alien who seeks to enter the United States to engage in espionage, sabotage, export control violations, terrorist activities, overthrow of the Government of the United States or other unlawful activity; who is a member of or affiliated with the Communist or other totalitarian party; who participated in Nazi persecutions or genocide; or who has engaged in genocide. Are you a member or representative of a terrorist organization as currently designated by the US Secretary of State?



    i. An alien who is coming to the United States to practice polygamy;..

  • Hi folks, About May this year the New Zealand government introduced photo id licenses. This may make some go "so what?", but it's the process you have to go through to get one of these licenses that makes you frown. 1) Photo's are stored on a national computer 2) Your signature is SCANNED and also kept on a national computer 3) (NOT PROVEN) You have to do an eye test with a special machine that some people believe with good cause retna scans you. New Zealand traditionally gets tech about 3-4 years ahead of the USA (EFTPos was first here by 3 years) because we're small (3 million people) yet up with the play with Technology etc. and so alot of things are test cased here first. The scary thing about these licenses really is the fact that they have your photo, signature and maybe reta scan, basically they have YOU on computer, just hope your never framed by the govt ;)
  • I agree completely about the risks of strong bad government. Overthrowing such beasts is almost impossible - look at Iraq.

    I agree with what you say about most effort in many liberal regimes (and most especially the US) being directed at keeping government weak. I think this has been an unspoken bu longstanding principle for some time - not only must we forbid that the government take certain powers, we must ensure it remains weak so if it does take them, we can overthrow it.

    My concern with this is that weak bad governments, being unscrupulous, have a very easy time turning themselves into strong bad governments, especially if people are angry or not particularly aware of what is going on.

    The situation the US is in now, where it has a moderately strong government with a widely questionable record, raises the question of what to do to make it at least a good government, if not a strong good government. If people set out to weaken governments on the ground that they are not particularly good, I think its quite possible large portions of the electorate will get upset because certain tasks they think the the responsibility of the state are not being filled. That increases the risk of unscrupulous, and probably bad, governments being elected by promising to clean up the mess. This is what looks like it might happen in Russia.
  • Um, anybody ever hear of a place called East Timor?

    First off, this is already part of States' databases. I know KS and MO already have the images in a database, and I belive that most states that don't use the "real" photographs for their licenses have some form of database. All US passports are also in a database. That is what they are for! Have you ever looked at the little computer the guy has at the immigration booth when you come into the country?

    While we all have stories about how the government screws up, wields their power a little too strongly, and is grossly innefficient, fundementally, there are checks and balances that prevent any arm/organization of the government from being able to change things too quickly, or to exercise too much power.

    While the idea of a smaller, more efficient government sounds nice, it is good for governments to not be too efficient... it helps keep them from doing too much.

    Conspiracy theory... look at what is going on in the world around us... the real demons should be your first concern; the make believe ones will still be around a long time down the road.
  • The secret service doesn't have jurisdiction over terrorism, I believe that's an FBI function. INS controls immigration. So exactly what kind of dumbass excuse is this?
    The USSS does have jurisdiction over treasury matters, like counterfeiting, and over matters relating to the security of the President (and other high gov't officials, cabinet rank mostly). So the only way they could legally justify something like this is to claim that they were doing it to protect the president, and I don't see how a database of pictures is going to do that. Not that the plutocrats in Congress are going to object strenuously, they are just as scared of a common man having freedom as the President is.
  • The New Zealand government recently introduced a photo-id drivers liscence scheme here to replace the old paper ones we've had for years.

    They're charging people $25(NZD) from memory to obtain one of these new liscences by the end of the month of their birthday or their liscence expires.

    All of the information on these liscences is being forwarded to the NZ police dept and added to a central database.

    Fortunately in NZ we have some (partially) sane privacy laws and they can't give the info out to people unless we've specifically given them permission to do so. Of course then there's the clause at the bottom of the form that says "We can give this to whomever the hell we like for whatever reason".


    I guess the US doesn't have a monopoly on idiocy after all.

  • Exactly what do you mean by "authoritarian government"? Are you anarchist, or simply pushing for smaller government? Personally, I am strongly in the second category.

    Anarchist, but smaller government is obviously a step in the right direction.

    You are completely right about the whole convenience for freedom thing. Except the "government" as an entity is just protecting its own existance, which is very defendable. The population is all to blame.

    /. is like a steer's horns, a point here, a point there and a lot of bull in between.
  • That "Mark of the Beast" bit is a bit ridiculous when applied to this context, but it could prove useful.

    Consider: although free speech is constantly under attack in the US, no one dares question freedom of religion (no one regarded as a sane person, at any rate). Therefore, you can always refuse to be added to the database "for religious reasons" and the government cannot stop you for fear of word getting out (hell, phrase it that way and this would be an issue that would likely have every activist group in America, from the Christian Coalition to the ACLU, from People for the American Way to the Citizens for the Ten Commandments, all agreeing for once; that'd be kinda cool).

    If I remember correctly, this is even precedented on a couple of military bases, where "MARC cards" were becoming popular for matters of security clearance. The name has since been changed to "SMART cards" and they're not as pervasive as they might have been. Someone posted that on Slashdot once; I forget who.
  • In New Zealand the government said phoey at a Life Time Licence and brought in a digital driver licence mostly for the reasons of disqualified drivers using friends licences. []

    They're protecting us from them

    Unfortunately the old licence had no photo (just name/address/DOB/eyecolour) so they had a perfect excuse for the photo (and thus the choice to record it in any media). Maurice is Minister of Transport and IT... we have a combined Police/Traffic force.

    In my town i've seen the current police surveilance camera's, their resolution is scary. Some facial recognition and they could get all those bad guys. []

    9/9/99 and i'm moderating, huh.
  • Your posts always have that choppy didactic quality.

    Big words that seem like professional power tools that somehow have wandered into the posession of someone unsafe with anything more than a rather blunt screwdriver.

    It's something I've noticed a lot with people who think they're underground, but it's just their head down there.

    10 to 1 this was directed at me, but since nothing was qouted I can't be sure. My posts are choppy because I get phone calls in the middle of my paragraphs and have to run across a plant to fix things, by the time I get back I have to reform my thought processes and continue. If you want to judge people on the quality of their paragraph structure I'm afraid you won't find many people here that pass your test.

  • There's a difference between the preview and the final submission, uh, why?
  • Isn't there something about the "Mark of the Beast" in the Bible, where there would be something without which you can't buy or sell anything (or do anything at all, for that matter)? This looks suspiciously close. Bible Belters help me out.

    Yup, Mark of the Beast in the back of the right hand or on the forehead. Mentioned in Revelation.


  • Gosh, would that be Jim Carvill? (might have spelling wrong)
    He was Clinton's campaign manager, and recently
    went over to Israel to make sure Barak got elected.
    It's kinda sick, how blatant the political "spin machine"
    can be about it's attitudes about all of the "sheeple". 8(
    Many of the people in that position have forgotten one very
    important thing: not everyone is part of the herd waiting
    to be controlled and slaughtered.
  • {shrug} I still think mandatory sentencing like that is a tad silly, 'tho, given that it drastically reduces, or even negates, the discretion of the judge...

    Legislators usually aren't experienced judges, and they sure ain't being paid to be judges. All that for a few percentage points?
  • by rde ( 17364 ) on Tuesday September 07, 1999 @11:12PM (#1696596)
    To sum up one Irishman's impression of the US based on recent news stories:

    You can get 25 years in jail for stealing pizza

    The government has a back door into every windows machine

    It's damn-near illegal to use software that the government can't crack

    The us government spies on the world, and passes secrets on to us companies.
    Am I missing anything?
    (I should point out at this juncture that, MS-hatin' linux-usin' zealot that I am, I don't believe the NSAkey story).

    If you've got a congressbeing, write to it now (irony: listening to Manic Street Preachers as I type. Like they say, if you tolerate this your children will be next).

  • WillWare writes:

    "David Brin talked alot about issues of privacy and surveillance in his book "The Transparent Society". The impression I took away from the book was this: Due to technological advances in cameras, satellites, and so forth, privacy is probably not going to be maintainable over the next few decades."

    Remember the furore Scott McNealy of Sun (Or was it Oracle's Larry Ellison?) caused a while ago, with a remark that went something like "Privacy? There is no privacy any more; get over it, already!"? It just struck me, wouldn't it be kind of ironic if he had been reading Brin, found his thoughts to be reasonable and agreed with (most of) them, and in whatever context the subject came up, he just gave a somewhat too compressed summary of them...

    "But it has been the ability of the government to conduct its own business in secret which has allowed it to perpetrate all the abuses it has. Brin points out that if surveillance is uniform and bi-lateral, it can be used to enforce accountability upon the government."

    Interesting thought, and I'd kind of like to be able to believe in it, but I can't help it -- it still feels kind'a creepy.

    Christian R. Conrad
    MY opinions, not my employer's - Hedengren, Finland.
  • Seriously people, could cracking be justified in a case like this: A company without my consent makes copies of my photgraphs for a purpose I believe is illegitimate, and refuses to remove the copies at my request. Argh....

    When will humanity stop trying to screw itself over in its endless quest of the almighty dollar?
  • So, realy, what *is* the problem with Joe Random Pothead dying in his apartement. The death of someone incapible of taking care of themselves, and with no friends or relitives willing to take care of them, is realy probably a Good Thing(tm), especially if this person is not/does not wish to contribute to society.

  • by smkndrkn ( 3654 ) on Tuesday September 07, 1999 @11:13PM (#1696600)
    I live in New Hampshire and our new drivers licenses have a magnetic strip on the back that keeps track of all kinds of information. So when you get pulled over they can just swipe your card. But who is to stop them from keeping information other than Height Weight and criminal history. I'm not sure about the latest ones but the license I currently have has a digital image as well. I wouldn't be surprised to find that there is a list like this in NH or on a state level.
  • There is currently a bill before the U.S. Senate that will prevent states from receiving federal funds if they allow distribution of personal data from driver's licenses or any motor vehicle record without express written consent of the individual which would prevent this invasion of privacy. The bill is S. 1143 and the privacy section is Section 339.

    For more info and to send your senator a free fax in support of the bill (assuming you are a US citizen) see ml [].
  • by _Spirit ( 23983 ) on Tuesday September 07, 1999 @11:14PM (#1696602) Journal
    Are there no privacy laws in the U.S. ? I'm from the Netherlands and we have fairly strict laws on privacy. Organisations always have to inform the people involved that they are/will be registered. Organisations even have to show you what they've got on you if you request it. (This does not apply to all information, criminal investigation stuff for example is different)
    When these laws came into effect all organisations had to inform you what info they had on you and for what purpose. This opened my eyes a bit. I never visited a church in my life and found out I had been registered there as a member all my life.

    Could someone tell me how this works in the U.S. ?

    Message on our company Intranet:
    "You have a sticker in your private area"
  • Actually it's not that ridiculous at all. Having done my seminary stint, here's my worthless opinion. Imagine being John in early A.D and being shown an image of the future. You are shown an apache helicopter but you don't know what a helicopter is. The words you describe it with are "flying locusts with crowns of gold and faces like man" Makes sense to me. You see images of people with barcodes on them and you see that it is requiered to buy and sell. Being that revelation describes the future from both the spiritual and physical planes, John might have seen people being controlled by a spiritual puppeter who in the spiritual level was giving them the mark of the beast but on the physical, it was just a barcode for conducting business.

    Then again I could be full of it. But I like to think I'm right about some things.

  • Top 7 Most Surprising Facts about Driver's License Photos

    7) Illegal immigrants and terrorists segment of population most likely to get legitimate driver's licenses
    6) Uncle Billy-Bob now more likely to stop bumming rides; learn to drive
    5) Privacy concerns overstated due to overwhelming public appeal of having complete strangers gawk at your license photo
    4) Police officers will continue to mistake your photo for your evil twin Volkar.
    3) Criminals less likely to steal your particular identity if vast number is available in one place
    2) Government less likely to raise taxes thanks to revenue gained by selling image database
    1) Unflattering license photos show how people really look

  • by fable2112 ( 46114 ) on Tuesday September 07, 1999 @11:15PM (#1696610) Homepage

    Illegal immigrants and terrorists AGAIN? Can't they come up with something original?? :)

    "We're making a national database of driver's licenses to crack down on underage drinking!" Yeah, that's it!!

    Unfortunately, that might actually get someone's attention. Most people aren't illegal immigrants or terrorists, but I'd say most of us had a beer or two hundred before reaching the magical 21st birthday. And unless DWI was involved, I somehow doubt most people would want to turn a 19-year-old trying to buy some alcohol into a federal criminal.

    Is this the real reasoning behind the program? It might be a component. Who knows? It could be an easier way to track "subversive elements" (like I've posted on other threads, the FBI probably has a good-sized file on me, but it hasn't interfered with my life YET).

    Or here's another interesting and somehow frightening thought: IIRC, strict followers of Islam do not believe in taking pictures of anyone or having any pictures taken of them. "You're not in our photo database, and you look Arabic ... you're obviously a terrorist." NOT good.

    Anyone else got any to add to this? :)
  • Here you all go talking about how the government shouldn't keep more information about it's people, the very day after you all were talking about what additional information Malda should keep on SlashDot regulars.
    Yea, well, it's OK for SlashDot to do it, but not the US Government? ... Hmm... *whisper* Rob Malda Works for the CIA *

    I'd say the key difference there is choice again. We can choose what info to give Rob, the Gov can just take whatever it wants.

  • by Hobbex ( 41473 ) on Tuesday September 07, 1999 @11:18PM (#1696619)

    If your going to let this government rule over you, tell you what do to, how to live, what you are allowed to do freely and what you aren't, send you to prison, and even kill you, certainly they should be entiteled to having photographs of you.

    I believe we already have something like this here, and while I'm against the whole idea of authoritarian government, if you are going to have one, it might as well know what you look like.

    Lifting the Crypto restictions is SO much more important to your future as free men than this is, but I guess these sorts of issues tend to get spotlight because it doesn't involve mathematics. Sigh.

    /. is like a steer's horns, a point here, a point there and a lot of bull in between.
  • It seems to me that this project could lead to an over reliance on computers. There are a couple of concerns that imediately comes to mind.
    • What happens if some clerk puts the wrong personal information with your picture. A friend of mine got screwed over after having a son, he was given his sons first name and they took 3 years to fix it. It seems to me that a wrong picture can do a lot of harm.
    • If you have plastic surgery, are you responsible for updating your picture?

    It seems to me that it boils down to a question of use. Will people treat this database as a tool or as an authorative information source. The latter can be very harmfull to individual freedom.

    "The future is already here,
    it's just not evenly distributed yet"

  • by BradyB ( 52090 ) on Tuesday September 07, 1999 @11:21PM (#1696622) Homepage
    Down here where I live in Texas there are someplaces that make you put your thumb print on a check to cash it. And you have to give up a thumb print digitally to the Drivers License place to even get one. I saw a guy in front of me refuse and they refused to give him a license. National ID card is kinda what this sounds like just twisted differently
  • what you guys didn't know is that the secret
    service was actually working on the
    world's largest personals and dating service ever!!
    they were going to use your pictures and personal information to match
    the whole country up with their prospective
    soulmates. *hurt look* and you, rob malda and your damned
    Electronic Privacy Information Center cohorts,
    have ruined their birthday surprise!
    a plaugue on both your houses!

    ...i can see it now:

    453-28-7539! you will now procreate with 886-91-1027!

    ...double plus ungood indeed brother.

  • Okay. Seems our "Land of the Free" is very quickly becoming the "Home of the Brave" *New World*.

    Anyone wanna run over a list of countries with better privacy/crypto laws? I've heard Netherlands mentioned on this thread already...
    We'll just have a Slashdot vote on the best country, and we can just pack up and leave for the number-one voted. (The real life /. affect on some country's immigration services would be pretty funny.)

    It's getting to the point where I don't want to be stuck in America when I am 30. *sigh*
  • by SimonK ( 7722 ) on Tuesday September 07, 1999 @11:37PM (#1696636)
    There's something I don't get here. I know its a long standing conviction of Anglo-American civil libertarians that this kind of thing is Bad News. I am more or less in agreement with that, but thinking about it a bit more, what exactly is wrong with it ?

    It seems to me that measures like this increase the ability of the government to enforce the law, regardless of what that law actually is. That makes the assertion that this will help to catch drug smugglers/terrorists/child molersters/people with green hair/tomorrow's public enemy number one, reallistic. It also, of course, means it can be used to implement arbitary and stupid laws, such as, for instance drug prohibition (just to pick a nice uncontroversial example).

    However the problem is not the databases and so on themselves, but the laws they are being used to implement. If the US had the sort of utterly minimal libertarian code of laws that many people here probably favour, would measures like this still be a problem ?

    I'm concerned about this, because I do believe that if we stop relatively (note thats relatively) well-behaved governments from doing their jobs effectively, we may well be increasing our chances of getting larger, more unwieldly, more tyranical and more expensive governments in their place.

    Oh, and please don't reply with some stupid platitude and privacy and freedom. I know that's what is believed, I want to know why it is necessarily true.
  • Sadly, there are systems that can id people quite well. When these become cost effective, and hooked into the CCTV systems widespread across much of the UK now, such an image database would let the Government monitor your movements quite effectively.

    See: htm


    and also have lots of info on CCTV and privacy concerns.
  • Are there no privacy laws in the U.S. ?

    A few, not many. There are some trivial ones (video stores cannot release records of your rentals, for example). The medical ones are amusing - you have to sign a form releasing your medical history every time you do anything (presumably to let insurance companies pass it around), but you aren't allowed to look at it. Credit companies hand out their records with reckless abandon. The Government thinks privacy should be driving by initatives of industry, which to my mind is like putting the fox in charge of the hens (witness the conflict between the European data privacy laws and the U.S).


  • could be real only when buildings have a GUI interface to their sprinkler systems available online.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Well, I am Danish, and as any Dane I have a number. I like it. Anytime you wan't anything from the public, just use the number. No need to give address, name etc. And the number is used all over the place (tax, health insurence etc). I moved to the Netherlands, and here I have a couple of numbers (foreign police, tax, health insurrence etc). I am not completely convinced that they are actually aware of if all numbers match the same guy. And if it's mixed up, I can guess who will end up paying for it, and it's not the Dutch state!

    The number doesn't really give them more than they have from your name and address, it's just a lot more efficient. Yes, it makes it easier for them to catch the people who brakes the law. Great, I try to follow the law, I don't see why other poeple should get rich breaking it! Of couse we have less stupid laws over here, and freedom of speech actually means freedom of speech, even if you are a nazi sending a 1024 bit encrypted message to a guy in another country. Either you have freedom no matter how stupid you are (even the nazi guys) or you don't. There is nothing in between!

    If you are afraid what your government will do with the data, here is a tip: Change the government. Even if we doubt it sometimes here in Europe, I think USA is supposed to be a democracy! But I know, you don't have the money to lobby for a new president... Great democracy right.:-)

    But maybe it's just becourse I'm Scandinavain. I see the government as somebody who supplies me with the stuff I have the right to get (no I am not on wellfare and I am paying tax, and I am not even voting on a left wing party), opposed the guys who just takes what I have to give!

    Hmm. Maybe one day I should actually create an account on slashdot.... But I'm lazy!

  • There's something I don't get here. I know its a long standing conviction of Anglo-American civil libertarians that this kind of thing is Bad News. I am more or less in agreement with that, but thinking about it a bit more, what exactly is wrong with it ?

    It seems to me that measures like this increase the ability of the government to enforce the law, regardless of what that law actually is. That makes the assertion that this will help to catch drug smugglers/terrorists/child molersters/people with green hair/tomorrow's public enemy number one, reallistic. It also, of course, means it can be used to implement arbitary and stupid laws, such as, for instance drug prohibition (just to pick a nice uncontroversial example).

    However the problem is not the databases and so on themselves, but the laws they are being used to implement. If the US had the sort of utterly minimal libertarian code of laws that many people here probably favour, would measures like this still be a problem ?

    I'm concerned about this, because I do believe that if we stop relatively (note thats relatively) well-behaved governments from doing their jobs effectively, we may well be increasing our chances of getting larger, more unwieldly, more tyranical and more expensive governments in their place.

    Oh, and please don't reply with some stupid platitude and privacy and freedom. I know that's what is believed, I want to know why it is necessarily true.

    This in and of itself is not a bad thing. It is a bad thing however, because we have an increasingly inefficient government which collectively knows that there are a lot of people who believe it is unneccesary. If the government were small and efficient, and performed its tasks well then we may perhaps be more lenient with them, but until they get their current programs in order and operational the last thing they need to do is create more things to consume resources with. This database will be abused by petty government underlings for their own ends, even though it isn't intended for that purpose.
    The bottom line is that our government is NO Well-Behaved, nor even realtively well behaved. We in the US have a bloated, inefficient, abusive government that doesn't respond to the will of the people for anything more than minor things that don't inconvenience them. Our government is made up of PEOPLE, by nature people are not good. So the fewer people that you have in power the fewer bad people you will have. And given a good selection process there will be more good people in office. Sorry for the rambling post, but I think it mostly sums up our government.

  • It's simply that the government does not care about them. It's somehow gotten the impression that it is above the law somehow.

    Look, once again their cover story is almost legit. But the fact remains, someone will abuse this. It's simply the law of averages; when something is ripe for abuse, someone will eventually come along and do so. Look at Germany in the 1930's and 40's; severe depression, extremely low confidence in the government, and other such factors. Along comes some unknown artist named Adolf, and suddenly you have one of the most hideous examples of abuse of power in history: the Third Reich.

    So it will be with this. The nature of the abuse will probably be much different from the Third Reich (I seriously doubt the Secret Service is going to kill people based on race, though when you consider the Japanese internment camps of WWII I suppose it's a possibility), but the effects will be every bit as real. It's only a matter of time. I doubt its creators will abuse it; most people actually do start this kind of hideous obscenity with good intentions (hell; even the pro-censorship people mean well for the most part, not realizing just how selfish/lazy/deluded/evil their reasons for wanting it really are). But someone will come along. Who? I don't know. The most likely candidate in today's admistration doesn't have enough time left in office to do it (seeing as the database isn't even finished).
  • I used to live in US and I honestly couldn't understand
    why there was not FAR MORE terrorist activity than there is.

    It's not as though the US has not made a few enemies over the
    years. For instance the IRA may cause the British government
    a few problems, but Irish catholics have received wonderful treatment
    over the years compared to American Indians.

    Then there are large sections of Muslims, various central american
    countries, not to mention miscellaneous crackpots who don't
    really have a legitimate excuse, but would just like to kill Americans
    out of some misguided jealousy.

    I came to the conclusion that there must be a massively higher
    amount of surveillance going on than was generally acknowledged.
    Since hearing about Echelon and various other NSA activities I think
    this conclusion is correct.

    Don't misunderstand - I'm not saying that all this surveillance is
    a good thing, but don't write off terrorists as a threat just because
    you don't often get bothered by them. There are plenty of
    potential terrorists out there.
  • I don't believe it IS necessarily true.

    Privacy is very subjective. Is it an invasion to have your picture taken and stored ? There are many equally valid views about this. (Someone mentioned orthodox Islamic people who certainly would have problems with such a law.) But where does our sense of ownership begin... do we own our image?

    It often seems that this sort of belief of ownership does not crop up until the "evil, conniving, capitalistic" government is involved. How many of us complained about having our pictures taken, printed in a book and handed out to everyone in our school (yearbooks)... likely very few. Admittedly, we DID have a choice about this and we knew that it was being done, but is that the only difference ? Is the real issue that we feel our CHOICE has been taken away from us ?

    I think that people are not so riled up about lack of privacy and freedom, since this is not really new... I think people are bothered because the knowledge about it was hidden.


  • by jabber ( 13196 ) on Wednesday September 08, 1999 @12:47AM (#1696698) Homepage
    The real reason for this, and other spooky things that have gone on lately is this (IMHO).

    Job Security

    Since the fall of the "evil empire" we have had lots of essoterically skilled people with nothing better to do. The government can't exactly have a layoff of people with these skills, since there are other countries - some of them adjacent to Kuwait and Iran, that would be willing to pay a lot of money for such skills.

    So classifying, qualifying, quantifying and cataloguing the American public is the NSA/CIA/FBI/etc way of keeping their staff gainfully occupied with busywork. And as a side effect, the residual 'kill-a-commie' directors get another means of making a power grab later.
  • by edgy ( 5399 )
    If anything, the media is perfectly happy for Americans to focus on distractions like sports, work, etc., than to worry about politics. Hell, most Americans are completely sick of politics and only care about the scandals the presidency has.

    What a sad state of affairs. The war on its citizenry with the drug war, the war on encryption, the war on the freedom of speech on the net, etc., and no one knows or cares. They're too busy working or watching sports.

  • by Zach Frey ( 17216 ) <zach@z f r e y .com> on Wednesday September 08, 1999 @12:49AM (#1696708) Homepage

    In theory, we ought to have privacy rights in the U.S.A. The federal constitution is one of enumerated powers; and the right to pry into and compile the details of everyone's life isn't one of those powers. And the U. S. Supreme Court has held that privacy is a right of citizens (see here [] for a quick summary).

    In practice, we have been suckers for any come-on which promises security, to be "tough on crime" or to protect us from those lurking terrorists. ("Why do you care if you have nothing to hide" is a common attitude.) So there's very little (practically, none) legislation to actually apply that right of privacy to government or private data collecting. The only place that the right to privacy has been actually applied vigorously is as it relates to sex, or to the ability to kill unborn children (the in/famous Roe vs. Wade case where the Court declared the ability to abort a child a fundamental American "privacy" right).

  • > It seems to me that measures like this increase the ability of the government to enforce the law, regardless of what that law actually is.

    > However the problem is not the databases and so on themselves, but the laws they are being used to

    I'll try to give my opinion, expressed very badly I'm sure, of why I disagree. I believe you are right in saying that measures like this increase the ability of the government to enforce the law. And let's also assume that you can have a good or a bad government. So the four choices would be
    1. A weak good government.
    2. A strong good government.
    3. A weak bad government.
    4. A strong bad government.

    It seems to me that the only totally unacceptable choice would be four. If you have a strong bad government you're pretty much screwed. At this point you can't really change anything and you're stuck. Once a government becomes strong, it is very difficult to make it weak again, governments do not like to give up power. So a lot of the effort in the US is directed toward keeping our government from getting too strong. This way if, at some point in the future, the people decide that the government has become unacceptable we can still do something about it.
  • Exactly what do you mean by "authoritarian government"? Are you anarchist, or simply pushing for smaller government? Personally, I am strongly in the second category.

    My whole beef is that this country was in fact built on the principle that the government exists for the governed and answers to the governed, rather than the other way around. IMHO, Washington should fear the citizens, as opposed to the other way around.

    Unfortunately, too many people in this country have decided that easy is better than free. It's not that we let the government take over; we're just about asking them to. Let the Fed handle various details of our lives so we don't have to! We have a population willing to lay down their freedom and power for convenience, and a government willing to give convenience for power. Both sides share the blame.

    And, so help me, I am one of those who has opted for the "easy" side. Time to change that; time to break out a pen and a printer and express my outrage to the right people.

  • Anyone wanna run over a list of countries with better privacy/crypto laws?
    Fuck that. Just get all /. readers to collect all the AOL CDs they can find, dump 'em in the Atlantic and call the resulting island 'Slashdotia'. We can have a Cmdr instead of a president (a position that's held for life, and voted on every five years. That'll discourage potential politicos).
  • Problem is that we elect officials that look the other way or outright allow the intellegence community to abuse our percieved rights. Though I'm not actually convinced that a national photo database in and of itself is a bad thing, if it were, I'd rather holler at my congressional reps rather than CIA, SS, NSA, FBI, etc...

    It's their jobs to collect information. If congress/senate/president insist on bending over backwards to accomodate their requests, we should oust them from office. I'm actually quite comfortable with all those 3 letter agencies existances... I just wish that our elected officials [] would say no to them (at least once in a while
  • It's already happening in Maryland.. Our pictures are taken with a digital camera, and we have to sign for it on a pressure-sensitive tablet with a stylus. They then print it out and laminate it. It's confirmed that they [] do store the data locally.

    Two things I'm curious about are what the bar code on the front is for, and what the mag stripe on the back is for..

This process can check if this value is zero, and if it is, it does something child-like. -- Forbes Burkowski, CS 454, University of Washington