With much angst, Great Britain is moving toward a national identification card for its citizens. It’s an idea that has a lot of merit in this country for citizens and for business.
The anguished cries I hear in response to that proposal are friends on the left and right saying, “It’s an outrage. It’s an invasion of privacy.” But as Scott McNealy, CEO of Sun Microsystems is loosely quoted as saying, “There is no privacy. Get used to it.”
If you think you have privacy, try a few exercises. Type your ten-digit telephone number into Google, and unless you’ve opted out, your name and address come up along with choices for two map applications that show where you live and can give directions on how to get there. (This will also happen if you type in your name, city and town into the search field.) It also took very little effort -- and no fees -- to look up some neighbors via the Internet and learn their ages. Moreover, my attitudes towards this issue changed when, on my way to work, I looked up to see that clear, bright ring of fire in the north tower of the World Trade Center one beautiful September morning.
Besides, we have a national ID system and it’s a lousy one. By that, I mean the use of Social Security Cards and a combination of driver’s licenses and credit cards. It’s a system that doesn’t protect consumers or businesses.
My tattered card says it’s not to be used for identification purposes, but that policy went by the boards before I got to college, where I memorized the number after putting it on countless checks for books and pizza. Of course, that was a long time before our more security-conscious days, but I’m still handing it out to far too many legitimate people. I also remember 13 years ago, how the hospital had us fill out an SSN application for our newborn daughter, and the card never arrived -- not at our house anyway.
This is an ID system, but the numbers are easily stolen and it has no authentication built in any more than when we hand our credit card numbers and expiration dates out to vendors. I suppose you could view this as a system in which the supporting documentation acts like having a PIN number that is used with a bank card.
Ultimately, I suppose the big objection to a national card could be that it would allow thieves to steal a person’s identity with one step, although experts could probably make this system work. An approach modeled after products such as SecureID, with their rapidly changing PINs, certainly suggests itself.
Given the threats to business and to our own personal security in terms of fraud and physical threats, it’s worth thinking about.
On the other hand, maybe some confusion is worth it. After plugging in my father’s name, getting a location on our farm in Indiana, and asking MapQuest to draw a map to our home in New Jersey, it tells me that the 639 miles can be driven in 10 hours and 39 minutes -- all that allegedly via the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Maybe we’ve got some protection left.
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