House Panel Considers Secure IDs, and ACLU Asks ‘What About Privacy?’

October 18, 2007 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON — A subcommittee of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee held a hearing today on secure identification technology, and the American Civil Liberties Union urged lawmakers to consider the privacy implications before rushing to embrace new technology. Since 9/11, some Members of Congress have proposed the government mandate identity documents for everyone, including citizens. Congress has passed sound-good legislation without fully considering their impact on Americans’ privacy. The government’s troubled, still behind-schedule Real ID program, which 17 states have rejected, and the notoriously delayed Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, are only two examples of the government’s problems getting identity security off the ground.

The government’s proposed ID plans have called for vast databases cataloguing Americans’ most personal information, machine-readable technology that would allow the government to track and limit Americans’ movements and a card that stores Americans’ personal information, leaving it vulnerable to identity thieves, corporations wanting to make a profit and spying by government officials of all levels. The government’s ID programs, with costs in the billions, create a massive bureaucracy and ultimately don’t create a safer society. The ACLU urges Congress to protect privacy and carefully consider plans for identity technology before subjecting the American people to privacy risks and bureaucratic nightmares.

The following can be attributed to ACLU Legislative Counsel Tim Sparapani:

“The government keeps diving into massive ID programs without seeing how far down they go. Privacy and security are a false dichotomy – privacy itself is a matter of security. If the government institutes IDs without privacy protections those IDs will be insecure because every American will have to live with the threat of identity theft and wonder how many people have access to their personal information – and how long it will take until their information is abused.

“High-tech ID cards need privacy protections for the same reason doors have locks and cars have seatbelts – you need a backup plan in case the worst does happen. Every ID system the government implements must protect our privacy for the sake of Americans’ identity security.”

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