Privacy

Follow Up: ID and Surveillance

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The cover story of our August-September 2003 issue, "Suspected Terrorist," reported on computer industry millionaire John Gilmore's court challenge of the mysterious legal requirement to show ID before getting on a plane—"mysterious" because the government refused to tell even the judge in Gilmore's original case what the actual legal requirement was. Gilmore claimed the ID demand violated his Fourth Amendment rights, among others.

After the story appeared, Gilmore lost the case and an appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. The Supreme Court declined to take the case. In June 2008, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officially announced that travelers who refuse to show ID, à la Gilmore, will be barred from airplanes. (Previously, the consequences seemed to depend on the airport and the TSA agent.) But passengers who regretfully neglect to bring their IDs to the airport are merely subject to secondary screening, possibly including database-inspired questions aimed at verifying their identities.

The Gilmore article appeared at the dawn of public awareness (and public alarm) about potential ID-related privacy threats such as biometric identifiers and radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips. The piece imagined a world where chipped IDs could be scanned in public places and linked to a growing array of government databases.

While RFIDs continue to proliferate in commercial uses, that nightmare scenario has not come true, since it could arise only from a requirement that all Americans carry chipped national ID cards.

Despite a 2005 attempt under the rubric "Real ID," this has not happened, thanks to the resistance of many state governments (see "Who Killed Real ID?" October 2008). RFID-enhanced driver's licenses have been or are being rolled out in a handful of states, although so far they are not required. The latest U.S. passports contain RFID chips, but their surveillance potential is limited, since passports are not held by most Americans and are not used every day.

But it might be that our science-fiction surveillance vision was merely a bit premature. Jim Harper, a technology and privacy scholar with the Cato Institute, says the techniques and practices for a universally tracked and databased America "are still out there waiting for their chance and could be just five years away."

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  1. I’m paranoid about government. They have already demonstrated the abilty, desire and ruthlessness necessary to fuck up anyone’s life they wish to.

    Cradle to grave tracking of citizens subjects is a statist wet dream and it will probably happen in my lifetime.

    Have a nice day.

  2. “They won’t be happy until we have to fly hand-cuffed and naked.”

    -My long-suffering wife

  3. But J sub D if we don’t monitor the people then something bad could happen or a corporation could take advantae of them. The government is only trying to help ensure our safety and survival!

  4. NutraSweet, sounds like your wife has some fantasies you haven’t fulfilled yet. You don’t have to start with metal cuffs, you know. They make those padded wussy ones. Work your way up.

  5. I once thought I heard her cry out your name in her sleep, but I realized that it was just one of the cats farting.

  6. Don’t get me wrong–I agree that the TSA should be abolished, and that we have grossly overreacted to making air travel ‘safe’ by screening passengers this way (Bruce Schneier once likened it to asking for ID for everyone entering a post office then checking the wall posters for wanted criminals).
    But, I disagree that screening people without probable cause is better. It’s worse from a security standpoint. If there were real terrorists trying to get onto airplanes with knives or bombs, random screening is the only thing that would stop them. If we screened only ‘likely-looking candidates’ real terrorists could just keep sending candidates through until they found out who would not be screened (pretty twenty-somethings? eighty year old grammas? Orthodox Jews in long black coats?) and simply use people disguised in that way.
    Like it or not, random screening is a better security system than any kind of targeted screening/profiling. Profiling is bad not because it’s racist (although it may be) but because it doesn’t protect us.

  7. I have no ID. Therefore, it is impossible for me to “refuse” to produce it.

  8. I have no ID.

    Zat, my deah frent, iss vehr you are rrrrong! You heff zeh id, but you refyoos to show it – eefen to yourselff!

  9. i don’t mind ads, but ads that block text of the article are no damn good.

  10. Und zeh ids zat plock zeh sex von deh artikles!

  11. “”””While RFIDs continue to proliferate in commercial uses, that nightmare scenario has not come true, since it could arise only from a requirement that all Americans carry chipped national ID cards. “”””

    Why just a chip? Does a magnetic strip supplying the ID number that is attached to a database that can resolve the ID number to a national ID and run that across federal databases count?

    I doubt it will be about connecting to a federal database, it will be more like passing the ID number across many databases to see if there are any hits.

  12. But who really gives a shit?

  13. since it could arise only from a requirement that all Americans carry chipped national ID cards.

    I give better than even odds that such a requirement will pass right after the next Islamist attack on US soil.

    We’ll be lucky if the chips aren’t surgically inserted.

  14. That’s so 2001. The coming world economic crash will bring about electronic currency, and a need for the chip. 😉

  15. Of course random screenings work better than profiled, targeted ones. That doesn’t make them any better. If we just didnt let people on planes at all, that would work best, I’m sure. By “work better” I mean that I assume that at some point in time, we actually have found and stopped someone from doing something terroristy on a plane since all this nonsense started.

    Airlines should provide as much, or as little, security as they please. They should also be the ones held responsible for the consequences of this heightened or lowered security. I don’t mind getting searched by the guy at the concert entrance, but I seethe every time I have to go through airport security. It is the principle of the thing.

  16. If you look at the true definition of ‘terrorist’, then you will see that they have already succeeded in that goal. Compound that with the fact that a power-hungry government seized this opportunity to push the american people further down the slope to total submission, and you will see that, unless a revulution occurs, we are totally fucked. Just my opinion.

  17. “While RFIDs continue to proliferate in commercial uses, that nightmare scenario has not come true, since it could arise only from a requirement that all Americans carry chipped national ID cards.”

    NO! The “nightmare scenario” is ALREADY arising from several states going along with its establishment. The CULMINATION of the scenario would be in “all Americans carrying chipped national ID cards.” Don’t downplay that possibility, which is still underway, despite the states that are rejecting it. The fascists are among us and they will do whatever they want to with complete carte blanche provided by a Federalist Constitution that had, within itself, the latent seeds of what is now flowering.

  18. R C Dean | February 18, 2009, 5:18pm | #

    I give better than even odds that such a requirement will pass right after the next Islamist attack on US soil.

    Silly RC Dean, we have democrats in power now, that means the next attack on US soil will be a “homegrown angry white man” or a person with a very large carbon footprint.

  19. This is related to the thread.
    man refusing thumbscan on you tube:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ptsbCwcbrfc

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