Montréal, le 1er août 1998
Numéro 17
(page 6) 
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     LE QUÉBÉCOIS LIBRE sollicite des textes d'opinion qui défendent ou contestent le point de vue libertarien sur n'importe quel sujet d'actualité. Les textes doivent avoir entre 700 et 1200 mots. Prière d'inclure votre titre ou profession, le village ou la ville où vous habitez, ainsi que votre adresse électronique.   
 by Ralph Maddocks
          In June of this year, the US Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration proposed some new rules, effective October 1, 2000. They require all citizens to obtain a driver's licence containing a social security number. The law makes mention of « biometric identifiers » by which is meant such high-tech delights as digitized thumb or fingerprints on magnetic strips. An unrelated, for the moment, announcement by the Immigration Service on June 23 revealed a new identification system called INSPASS. The latter is a system which verifies such things as retinal and hand scans in order to let frequent travelers pass through customs more quickly. All very efficient. 
          In this land of the free, whose praises are sung ad nauseam, these kinds of regulations are being introduced frequently and surreptitiously so that the average man, or woman, in the street will not realize what is happening until it is far too late to protest. Requirements such as social security numbers on driving licences are leading inevitably towards their becoming national identity cards. A card which the citizen will soon need to secure government services, apply for a job, conduct banking transactions or even to buy something as simple as an airline ticket. 
An old topic with a new twist 
          Of course this topic is not new to the US, various groups have been proposing tamper-proof ID cards for many years. Often this was connected to discussions on gun control or immigration, it being believed that illegal immigration could be deterred by the use of such cards. The fact that they would be no more reliable than the documents produced originally to obtain them, plus the estimated $2.5 billions required to implement them, does not deter those who would mandate their use. 
          A great deal of the impetus for ID cards is coming from California where a serious illegal immigration problem does indeed exist. As usual, politicians possessed of little or no imagination propose simplistic solutions to complex social and economic problems. Their idea being that such a card would become a kind of employment passport, which illegal immigrants would not possess. Unless, that is, their friendly local forger could supply one. There can be little doubt that the appearance of such a card would be welcomed by the police, they could then stop people at will and ask for some identification. The potential for the harassment of strange, different looking or foreign sounding individuals will increase exponentially. Minorities such as Asians, Latinos and African Americans will become even more perfect targets for such identity checks. Other groups too, such as banks, health insurers, landlords, merchants and others, salivate at the prospect of employing ID cards in their daily activities. 
          Information, once gathered, can be stored at almost no cost, and retrieved in any imaginable sequence. It is this which is providing the incentive to collect the sort of information that has hitherto been maintained about only a very small portion of the population. The United States already has in its education system a national electronic network of student records. The purpose of this system being to allow the exchange of information between various public and private agencies, and the tracking of individuals through school and university, through their military service, through the criminal justice system, through their civilian careers, and through their use of the medical services. 
Toward a womb to tomb database 
          At the moment, these databases are provided only with an electronic portfolio for every student, an assessment of each student's work and behavior by his teacher and the student's social security number. It is proposed also to include: data about prenatal care; birth weight; number of years in a pre-school program; poverty status; physical, emotional and other development at various ages; date of last routine health and dental care; plus many other items such as the employer's name and whether the person is registered to vote. A womb to tomb, all seeing, all knowing database. In a book published jointly by the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, there is ominous talk of « overcoming the confidentiality barrier. » The purpose of the new databases being stated as giving all agencies « ready access to each other's data. » 
          There is a group in the US known as the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA) which is actively involved with the Transportation Secretary in proposing or actually changing the various state driving licences to include digitally encoded fingerprints, retinal scans, digital computer readable photographs and other biometric forms of identification. So far, some 28 States have actually begun to make or proposed the changes to their driver's licences. Last December, the AAMVA announced that fingerprints are their currently favored form of biometric identification. It may interest readers to learn that many Canadian provinces are also members of the AAMVA. It would be naive to think that these ideas will not cross the world's longest undefended border before long. 
          All the State assemblies which have introduced the necessary legislation to implement this new form of national ID have done so under cover, usually at the end of a legislative session in the middle of the night. These politicians know a thing or two about journalists. The mainstream media having been remarkably silent on the subject and frequently supportive of the federal government. 
          On a positive note, at least a few States are now actively involved in trying to repeal the fingerprinting requirement. Alabama and New Jersey have done it, and Georgia is considering a piece of draft legislation which will forbid the use of biometric identifiers of any kind. « Live Free or Die », the motto of our neighboring US State of New Hampshire, may well become somewhat more than a motto if its citizens do not resist these latest proposals emanating from their Federal Government. Perhaps, instead of providing their fingerprints, they should show their politicians a collective upraised finger. 
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