Is It Paranoia if They Are Out to Get You?

Im baffled. Don Tennants Editors Note of Aug. 6 [Identity Card Paranoia] describes the overreaction by some U.S. citizens to the idea of a national identification card. Tennant thinks wed all be a lot better off if we all had ID cards. Really? How?

I wont scream about privacy in rebutting this idea, but Ill ask for, shall we say, a return on the investment. Would national IDs help make for a more secure country? Did they help the Spanish prevent its train bombings? Would they serve as something better than passports, drivers licenses or green cards? Would they match up with a national database of, well, anything?

The U.S. has no unified data architecture, no common identification system and not even a universal law enforcement system for fingerprints, felony information or voter registration. The time for an ID card was the 1980s or early 90s, when it might have served to spur the merging of developing database systems into something more systematic. For many reasons, it never happened.

1984 depicts a society controlled by a state that completely controls information. The fear of that type of control isnt unreasonable even if held by unreasonable people. That Fourth of July celebration Tennant attended had its roots in activities by some wild-eyed revolutionaries fighting a paranoid state that tried to dominate access to information, control trade and restrict freedoms.

Prof. Eric Wignall

Center for Online Teaching & Learning
Governors State University
University Park, Ill.

As a physician with an IT background who has been reading Tennants columns for a long time, I can attest to how much I generally agree with and admire them. But as a civil libertarian and member of the board of the Philadelphia ACLU, I have to say I was so disappointed by his stand on privacy that Im e-mailing this from my BlackBerry before even reading the rest of the issue.

You dont have to be one of us crazy liberal ACLUers to appreciate that Orwell was on to something in his novel 1984, and much of what he predicted has regrettably come true. Our civil liberties, including the right to habeas corpus and the freedom from government intrusion without a warrant, are under attack. While I understand the potential benefits of a national ID card, just as I understand the potential upside to carrying ones personal medical history on a smart card, the potential for rights abuses is there.

When Tennant writes, The privacy crowd needs to chill a little, he trivializes an issue that joins liberals and conservatives.

David Toub, MD, MBA
Wyncote, Pa.

Claiming that a national ID card is just fine with new immigrants doesnt do much for Tennants case. Many immigrants come from lands with far fewer freedoms than ours.

Brad Andrews
Garland, Texas

I completely agree with Tennants comments. I would add that paranoia about keeping your Social Security number private is misplaced. There would be many advantages to having a public unique identifier for everyone, and the wide use of the SSN demonstrates the value of such an identifier. The problems associated with unauthorized dissemination of SSNs have nothing to do with inherent dangers of a unique identifier but instead are the result of inappropriate practices.

There seems to be widespread belief that having someones SSN is tantamount to having a key that will unlock the doors to that persons private information. To put it in simple terms, the SSN should be the log-in ID, not the PIN or password.

Shawn Pollack
Ann Arbor, Mich.


Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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