Oracle ID
September 22, 2001 10:25 PM   Subscribe

Okay, you are now officially allowed to be scared. Larry Ellison is not only calling for a national ID card, he wants it to be Oracle-based.
posted by aaron (29 comments total)
How does a national ID card keep the nation and its citizens more secure? I never understood that. Is it supposed to make spotting non-citizens easier? Won't there just be faked IDs, regardless of how high-tech they are?
posted by mathowie at 10:56 PM on September 22, 2001

It's most often a control facilitator. Once carrying it is made mandatory, it allows your movements to be tracked and monitored with a minimum of effort. No more having to wait for you to make a purchase with your credit card, a withdrawal from an ATM, or a call on your cell phone.
posted by rushmc at 11:06 PM on September 22, 2001

Beyond a certain technical limit, using such technologies as encryption, a smart ID could not be faked without penetrating the issuing authority. However, the crippling of encryption technologies will also make a really secure ID system impossible. Just another example of knee-jerk responses to the terrorist attacks actually being mutually exclusive, while often being supported by the same people.
posted by krisjohn at 11:06 PM on September 22, 2001

Isn't that a passport?
posted by greyscale at 11:31 PM on September 22, 2001

Our freedom is going, going... and gone.....
posted by Aikido at 11:32 PM on September 22, 2001

mathowie: Won't there just be faked IDs, regardless of how high-tech they are?

Of course- calls for National ID systems are rarely based in good sense, and questions like yours aren't supposed to be raised. Wait, "rarely" based in good sense? Hm- I think I meant to say "never".

The fundamental flaw to most of these "knee-jerk" solutions is that they miss the point: perfect security is impossible, because any attempt simply makes the workarounds more sophisticated themselves for anyone sufficiently motivated to try (and especially for those who don't care about the consequences afterwards). This could be done either through social engineering to penetrate the authorizing agencies or through technological workarounds. For example, calls for armed sky marshalls seem doomed to failure; essentially, it's an invitation for a terrorist organization to infiltrate and place one of their own in as a sky marshall- then conveniently armed by the FAA itself- and I 'spect they'd work just as hard to infiltrate someone into the National ID Agency so fake IDs could be made. And I'm sure there's a fanatical Islamic MacGyver out there somewhere who's figuring out how to make nitroglycerin out of his own saliva, a bag of unsalted peanuts, and the glue from the binding of the in-flight magazine, or some other way of sneaking a weapon onto a plane (hm- reminds me of John Malkovich's plastic air gun from "In the Line of Fire"). With enough ingenuity, you could probably hide all the necessary elements to build a bomb or a weapon among ordinary items that you'd find in a carry-on bag, from shaving cream to disposable razors to Discmans to whatever.

Anyway, given that reality, security implementations that shatter civil liberties are a perfect example of Ben Franklin's famous maxim regarding the failure of attempting to gain security through a sacrifice of liberty. Metal detectors and secured gateways are a good idea that addresses the problem closer to its root without stomping on our rights; National ID cards won't do anything to stop terrorists but will start trampling rights unnecessarily. Hell, my thinking is that if we start racially-based or citizen profiling, a smart terrorist will take us by surprise- and try to find some of the remaining Montana militia folk willing to do their dirty work. After all, it's this passage from the neo-Nazi's "bible", The Turner Diaries, that details flying a suicide plane loaded with explosives into the Pentagon. If we think as Ann Coulter does that only the "swarthy males" would be willing to attack this country, I'm sure well-funded terrorists could dig up a few blond-haired, blue-eyed All-American zealots to make the next attempt.

Not that I'm surprised by this incomprehension among those calling for ID cards, though; if the stuffed suits at the RIAA couldn't understand this basic notion regarding security, why should the stuffed suits on Capitol Hill be any wiser?
posted by hincandenza at 11:42 PM on September 22, 2001

Well, I think ID cards are a Bad Idea . . .

But I read that link - has anyone in the government (say, the Office of Homeland Security) actually said that ID cards would be a good idea? Seems to me it's just Ellison spouting off. It's when the government actually goes for the idea that it'll be time to worry.
posted by Chanther at 11:59 PM on September 22, 2001

has anyone in the government (say, the Office of Homeland Security) actually said that ID cards would be a good idea?

Not explicitly, but Reps. Mary Bono and Dick Gephardt have both said that such a debate in Congress is very likely to occur at some point in the relatively near future.

I wouldn't worry about the Office of Homeland Security for a while. Ridge isn't even giving up his governor's job for another three weeks, and it'll probably take months to even find the OHS some basic office space, to say nothing of determining what it will actually be able to do.
posted by aaron at 12:14 AM on September 23, 2001


"Metafilter....awakening my inner Beavis"
posted by Optamystic at 1:08 AM on September 23, 2001

manbags? is that like manfruit?
posted by kevspace at 1:46 AM on September 23, 2001

greyscale: Yes, that is like a passport. But with a different purpose. In this country, you need to have an id card, to open a bank account, to register a car, .... And (theoretically) you are required to carry it with you. A passport is only necessary if you want to travel outside the EU. Also, a passport is a lot larger since it contrains additional pages for visa etc. An id card does not have to be larger than a driver's license.
posted by vowe at 2:47 AM on September 23, 2001

Vowe, Greyscale... I disagree. It's not exactly like a passport. A passport is almost exclusively used for your travel outside a country, and aside from the purposes of travel, carrying one is not mandatory - you don't need to carry your passport with you whenever you leave the house.

The carrying of an ID card, on the other hand, would be compulsory. It might be introduced on a voluntary basis, but an ID card scheme would be almost useless unless ultimately everyone was forced to carry one. The thinking is that "if you've got nothing to hide, you've got nothing to fear". But I believe it's an infringement of civil liberties. Just one example: if you're stopped by police in the UK at the moment, you don't have to give your name and address unless arrested. But if an ID card scheme was introduced, they could ask to see your card and take down your details without any evidence of you having done wrong.
posted by skylar at 3:06 AM on September 23, 2001

Anyone seen The President's Analyst? The scene where James Coburn (the "Analyst") is kidnapped by the phone co. and shown the animated short about the computer chip they want to put in everyone's head, to "replace telephones"?

His professional opinion was that the phone company was "psychotic."

Cards can be lost, a chip is forever. :o]
posted by aflakete at 3:39 AM on September 23, 2001

As long as the cards look cool, I don't really care. And maybe they can store my Amazon preferences and my IE cookies too?
posted by benbrown at 3:52 AM on September 23, 2001

Why don't they just make us all carry GPS based homing beacons, too?
posted by BlitzK at 7:58 AM on September 23, 2001

Here's some other coverage of it.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 8:16 AM on September 23, 2001

I suspect that Larry wants an ID card that includes women's bra sizes, ages and IQs on the chip, just for when he's at a loose end.

The News of the Screws reported 85% support for a UK identity card (based on a sample of, um, 500-odd people), which scares me, given the authoritarian tendencies of Straw and Blunkett. they'd probably love a system where cards sent out a beacon to identify you to any of the thousands of fucking CCTV cameras tracking your every movement in town centres.
posted by holgate at 8:33 AM on September 23, 2001

The News of the Screws reported 85% support for a UK identity card ... hmmm... I always wonder about statistics like this that are published in the papers (even beyond that they claim to have polled a mere 500), like the approval rating for the president. I tend to look at them as a way to TELL us what 'they' WANT us to think, not as what we really DO think... and then we're supposed to change our minds to fit in and agree with the masses, right? (No, paranoia ISN'T a pretty thing - LOL.) ;-)
posted by thunder at 9:31 AM on September 23, 2001

A lot of issues get raised, not so much by issuing such a card, but rather by implementing a system of checkpoints to make certain that the protections guarantied by the use of such a card are implemented. But the issuance of a card has some interesting implications also.

If I were the (benevolent) dictator of a country, I would like to issue a card that not only was tied to a full database of biometric information and fingerprints, but also contain dna information. It could be used as a library card, and a card used to rent video tapes so I you wouldn't have to carry around all of those cards. You would no longer have to carry around credit cards either, because I could do you the benefit of eliminating credit card fraud overnight. It would also allow me the ability to make certain that people weren't purchasing materials that could be used to perpetrate violence on maybe it should be used for all purchases. In this way I could also eliminate the counterfeit use of money.

Driver's licenses would no longer be needed. It's too difficult for the many states to administer their own programs. This wouldn't impinge upon their individual sovereignty as states (much), and would make it easier for people because they wouldn't have get new licenses when they moved.

Likewise with health and welfare programs. There's just too much redundancy in having all of the states administrate their own programs. Everytime you visit the doctor, or purchased medicines, the Center for Disease Control would be given that information - all details - so that they could effectively battle disease. We would be a much healthier nation, and could quarantine the ill so that communicable disease no longer would ravage the nation and its economy the way it does now. Training programs would be introduced to those who don't have jobs so that they can become useful members of the society that they live within. If someone doesn't show up for their training, or for work, because of the card we would know and the appropriate people would be notified.

Using radio frequency identification technology in the cards would enable us to trace, and track the locations of individuals, and could be used in conjunction with surveillance cameras to win the battle against crime. Of course, to keep people from masking their locations by wrapping the cards in aluminum foil, we would have to ban that product. It's a small price to pay for the safety of you and your loved ones.

There would never be a need to carry another kind of card again. all of your religious, political, social, and economic affiliations, and work related security measures could be incorporated into the card. No more employee security badges.

There are some who would try to circumvent the National ID card system by making the outrageous claim that they have lost their card. That's ok. These potential criminals could be detained until their identity was verified, and a new card was issued. The detention and verification time would only be about a week, which would be a sufficient amount of time to guarantee that they are whom they claim. No holding facilities would need to be built to accommodate these people. With the vast reduction in crime, prisons would be nearly empty, and could be used to detain these possible malefactors.

Regular checkpoints, and unannounced checking of cards would add an enforcement ability that would nip illegal movement and actions in the bud.

Of course, the above are a parade of horribles, a method of argument that is often frowned upon because it tends to become outrageous quickly. But, like topic creep happening in message boards, function creep often happens in identification systems. One of the best examples in the United States is the social security card, which was never intended to be used in the may ways it now is. Would this happen in a system of internal passports tied to a database. It's not difficult to image that it wouldn't.
posted by bragadocchio at 9:41 AM on September 23, 2001

wow, bragadocchio for benevolent dictator! ;-)
posted by jgilliam at 10:31 AM on September 23, 2001

Security is an illusion. Databases today exist for everything, from bying patterns to detect fraud to national criminal/fingerprint databases, etc. Joining those databases together to form this Big Brother-like DB you guys are afraid of is non-trivial but not impossible. At all.

If a National ID makes identity theft just a little bit harder --by establishing a better security infrastructure, by creating a form of ID that every clerk in the country can identify and check, possibly electronically, or by imposing very stiff federal penalties for fraud around the National ID and its DB-- then I think privacy will be *gained* with such a system.

The $0.02 of a data-miner...
posted by costas at 11:36 AM on September 23, 2001

I don't like the idea of everything being in a single database because it means I'm much too vulnerable to single points of failure. If everything in my life depends on the ability to read my thumbprint, what will the false-negative rate be? With tens of millions of thumbs being scanned each day, how many people will be rejected wrongly? What if I've cut my thumb, or bruised it, or have ink on it? What about amputees who have no thumbs?

What about a bug in the code? What happens if the database gets corrupted? Can we create non-persons just by wiping them out of a computer file somewhere? What if the system gets hacked?

I don't like having all my eggs in a single basket -- especially one designed and maintained by Oracle.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 11:42 AM on September 23, 2001

It should be noted that up until, well, the incident, those of us who cross the border between Canada and the US could reasonably expect to get by just by showing a driver's license. In fact, most of the time, you didn't need to show any ID of any sort, especially coming in to Canada from Detroit. Sure, sometimes, you got a cranky Customs agent who bitched that "a driver's license only says you can drive," which is true, of course. But, typically, it was not an issue.

Now, to be sure, you better have your passport (or original birth certificate) out and ready for them to examine. How easy is it to forge either document? Quite. Not that I've done it or advocate it, but the older Canadian passports have the picture "pasted" on and laminated over. Duh. The US ones now have digital pictures printed on them, but who knows where my image is being shared?

Speaking of function creep, you can well imagine your NID# (national ID card number) becoming your student ID number, your insurance card number, your you number. We in the US have reversed the function creep for SSN#, but this is one globally unique number that just begs to be used everywhere, for everything.
posted by abrahamson at 11:49 AM on September 23, 2001

I seriously doubt anything like this will ever happen. There are far too many ordinary God-fearin' Americans who believe in the coming of a one-world government, the rise of the Antichirist and his "mark of the Beast."

Add to them the people who just think its a bad idea... the feds could never pull it off. People just wouldn't show up at the Federal Identification Systems office.
posted by zodiac at 11:53 AM on September 23, 2001

Not explicitly, but Reps. Mary Bono and Dick Gephardt have both said that such a debate in Congress is very likely to occur at some point in the relatively near future.

With the provision that copyright on our identities reverts to Disney whenever they so wish... after all, it's what Sonny would have wanted.
posted by holgate at 12:17 PM on September 23, 2001

I say, if we're gonna have a national ID, let's get one of the spokesmen to say that they're suggesting a microchip that will be surgically implanted in the forehead or hand. The fundamentalist eschatological paranoia would make for great entertainment for a few days.

"Heh heh...just kidding. We're just gonna slip it in your manbag."

Actually, I think these people should get the contract.
posted by at 1:14 PM on September 23, 2001

posted by dagny at 8:37 AM on September 24, 2001

Will the national ID's bear the Mark of the Beast? I think I have been reading too much Robert Anton Wilson lately...
posted by adampsyche at 8:45 AM on September 24, 2001

they already have id cards in Germany, France, Belgium, Greece, Luxembourg, Portugal and Spain.

Anyone from those countries in the house?

Would the card specify religion overtly? In case of death...

Would people undergo surgery to avoid being 'classified' by a government they didn't feel represented them?
As per greg egan's novel 'distress' where he envisions some of the advantages and disadvantages of having your 'identity' defined by the government, and contained by an external device. Also, future wars fought by remote control...

Mobile phones can be used to track whereabouts. remember 'targetted advertising', using your phone to advertise goods/services in your cell (terminology prescience?) e.g. local taxis/food/anyone who can afford to advertise?
posted by asok at 10:39 AM on September 26, 2001

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