Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Government Privacy United States

Biometric Database Plans Hidden In Immigration Bill 365

Posted by Soulskill
from the you-can-trust-us dept.
Doug Otto writes "Buried deep in the bowels of a bi-partisan immigration reform bill is a 'photo tool.' The goal is to create a photo database consisting of every citizen. Wired calls it 'a massive federal database administered by the Department of Homeland Security and containing names, ages, Social Security numbers and photographs of everyone in the country with a driver’s license or other state-issued photo ID.' Of course the database would be used only for good, and never evil. 'This piece of the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act is aimed at curbing employment of undocumented immigrants. But privacy advocates fear the inevitable mission creep, ending with the proof of self being required at polling places, to rent a house, buy a gun, open a bank account, acquire credit, board a plane or even attend a sporting event or log on the internet.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Biometric Database Plans Hidden In Immigration Bill

Comments Filter:
  • Counter strike (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 10, 2013 @10:14AM (#43684597)

    Create a distributed database of all politicians with current (hours old) photos, locations, sound captures, etc. Give them hell. Film them in their homes. I don't care if it's illegal.

    • Re:Counter strike (Score:5, Insightful)

      by pixelpusher220 (529617) on Friday May 10, 2013 @10:30AM (#43684757)
      Version Control. We should know WHICH politician(s) added this clause. If no one owns up to it, it gets stripped from the Bill. We need names on this type of crap.
      • Re:Counter strike (Score:5, Interesting)

        by h4rr4r (612664) on Friday May 10, 2013 @10:38AM (#43684833)

        If we are going to version control, then lets do it correctly and rewrite laws with some sort of pseudocode. That way there can be no argument about what a law means or could allow someone to do.

        • Re:Counter strike (Score:5, Interesting)

          by dmbasso (1052166) on Friday May 10, 2013 @10:54AM (#43685007)

          They're already written in a 'sort of pseudo-code', legalese. Problem is it is very hard to debug and really easy to insert malicious code. But if what you really meant was a language without ambiguity, that seems to be impractical.

          • by h4rr4r (612664)

            I don't think so. I think it is only that way since lawyers lack the math skills to do so.

            • by dmbasso (1052166)

              All the hard sciences use math as a tool because they go to the core of the problems, where simplifications that disregard higher order interactions still produce useful and meaningful models. Law is based on rules which describe patterns on systems of any order, mostly higher order social systems. What you're suggesting is to replace the pattern recognition for an enumeration of the possibilities, or how else would you remove the ambiguity? That's not practical.

          • A good system would, in my opinion, have two parts for each law: the specific and official word of law (such as "Thou shalt not drive an automobile greater than the posted speed limit"), and another that conveys the intention ("To reduce traffic fatalities and serious injuries"). The second portion is useful when ambiguities exist, and a judge or jury is called to interpret the law in an unforeseen situation.

            This might help cases where, for instance, a driver is caught going over the posted speed limit, bu

        • Re:Counter strike (Score:4, Informative)

          by pixelpusher220 (529617) on Friday May 10, 2013 @10:57AM (#43685033)
          Laws have to be somewhat abstract because if you try to to make it cover everything possible, you get the US Tax Code spaghetti crap.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Anonymous Coward
            I disagree. The US Tax Code was specifically written the way that it was written to enable some people to capitalize on loopholes while leaving others to pay for them.
            • Yes it was. Do you want the laws specifically written so that some people can get out of them and others can't? Granted there's some of that there now, but remotely on the level of the tax code.
  • Rand Paul? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 10, 2013 @10:14AM (#43684599)
    Hey, buddy... are you up for another filibuster?
    • Watch Rand conveniently NOT filibuster this. Maybe that will teach the Libertarians that he ain't one of them...
  • so... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bobaferret (513897) on Friday May 10, 2013 @10:16AM (#43684609)

    What's wrong with this? I know it's all George Orwell and stuff, but really. We've moved so far past having any real privacy anymore, who cares? I like the idea of people not being able to pretend to be me, not that anyone would really want to.

    • Re:so... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by khallow (566160) on Friday May 10, 2013 @10:22AM (#43684681)

      What's wrong with this? I know it's all George Orwell and stuff

      You answered your own question.

      • Re:so... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by i kan reed (749298) on Friday May 10, 2013 @10:36AM (#43684815) Homepage Journal

        That's really kind of an emotional reaction. There's a lot of value in having a way to undeniably prove your identity in the eyes of the law. It could help a lot with identity theft and identification wipe-out(like your house burning down). I don't think the benefits outweigh the costs in this case, but not everything that represents more information is bad.

        • Re:so... (Score:5, Interesting)

          by jamstar7 (694492) on Friday May 10, 2013 @11:21AM (#43685267)

          That's really kind of an emotional reaction. There's a lot of value in having a way to undeniably prove your identity in the eyes of the law. It could help a lot with identity theft and identification wipe-out(like your house burning down). I don't think the benefits outweigh the costs in this case, but not everything that represents more information is bad.

          Agreed, there are circumstances you may need an indeniable way to prove your identity. What happens, though, if your driver's license gets old and worn and the scanner can't pick up the proper reference points on the picture and the mag strip on back is worn out to an unreadable state? You can't prove your identity then. An RFID chip implanted on you someplace? It'd have to be reprogrammable, and being reprogrammable without it being removed means it's vulnerable to, shall we say, 'unauthorised reprogramming by non-State entities', as well as being capable of being read by said unauthorised non-State entities for purposes of their own.

          Reason I bring this up is, my Arizona driver's license was issued over 10 years ago when I moved back home, and isn't due for renewal for another 8 years. Typically, you get your 'permenant' license at 21 here and it expires when you hit 65. Address changes are printed on a little sticker they put on the back. They reissue them for women who get married and take their husband's name at a prorated cost. 40+ years of wear on a piece of plastic kept in a wallet? Serious fade even after 10 years.

          • Re:so... (Score:4, Insightful)

            by Culture20 (968837) on Friday May 10, 2013 @11:36AM (#43685419)
            That's when you get fifty people who know who you are, go into a judge's chambers and let them all testify that you are you under oath.
            • I might find fifty people who know Cro Magnon, but I'd be lucky to find five who know $MyRealIdentity.

          • by Aighearach (97333)

            None of that stuff is included in the bill. There is a database connecting state ID info to tax id info, and a requirement for employers to verify prospective employees through that system; and a requirement so that citizens can check if their number is being stolen.

            The biometric stuff is for foreign nationals, who will be required to have a digitally scanable passport following existing international standards. Not all countries do that now. They will have to under this law for their nationals to get US wo

        • Re:so... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Friday May 10, 2013 @12:07PM (#43685875)

          There's a lot of value in having a way to undeniably prove your identity in the eyes of the law. It could help a lot with identity theft and identification wipe-out(like your house burning down).

          No, there is only a small amount of value in being able to prove your identity in the eyes of the law. How often have you been to court? For the vast majority of people such interactions are few and far between.

          There is value in being able to prove your identity in a bunch of different contexts - like withdrawing money from the bank. It doesn't matter who you are, it only matters that you own the account that you are withdrawing from. Same thing with a driver's license. In order to prove your qualifications to drive, you don't need to prove who you are, only that you have passed the driving exam and don't have any black marks on your driving record. The list goes on and on.

          The value of contextual identity is hundreds of times more useful than the value of a single federated identity.

      • Re:so... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Sarten-X (1102295) on Friday May 10, 2013 @10:38AM (#43684829) Homepage

        The surveillance isn't the scary part of 1984. The surveillance is just a tool being used by an oppressive government. The warning of the story is that we must ensure our government exists to serve the people, and not the other way around. Sure, that might mean the government must serve the paranoid folks clamoring for theatrical security, but it's still trying to serve the people. In 1984, every aspect of life was controlled and manipulated by the Inner Party to serve the Inner Party.

        Giant facial recognition databases are a powerful tool. That technological power can be used for good or evil, but the risk of evil is no reason to fear the technology itself.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Sure, that might mean the government must serve the paranoid folks clamoring for theatrical security, but it's still trying to serve the people.

          Dystopian novels work both ways, though. The government blindly serving the people's whims against the people's best interests was the root cause behind Fahrenheit 451.

        • Re:so... (Score:5, Informative)

          by dgatwood (11270) on Friday May 10, 2013 @01:59PM (#43687209) Journal

          Giant facial recognition databases are a powerful tool. That technological power can be used for good or evil, but the risk of evil is no reason to fear the technology itself.

          I think what you're missing here is that our Constitution, and in particular, the Bill of Rights, was founded on the principle of denying the government too much power over the citizens precisely because the founding fathers had no faith in future elected officials using power exclusively for good. Every place where the government's actions are limited by the Bill of Rights, they are prevented from doing good while preventing them from doing harm.

          History has proven that a government that holds too much power over its people will eventually devolve into tyranny. The general public has no possibility of building a database like this for their use against government tyranny, which means that the government must be disallowed from having such a database as well. We can only maintain freedom by carefully maintaining the balance between what your country can do to you and what you can do to your country.

    • by Nutria (679911)

      Exactly. My county has required photo ID for voting since at least the early 1970s.

      • Exactly. My county has required photo ID for voting since at least the early 1970s.

        What country is that?

      • Exactly. My county has required photo ID for voting since at least the early 1970s.

        Serious question: do you have to have a photo ID and register in advance to vote, or is the photo ID sufficient?

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by smooth wombat (796938)

          You have to register before you can vote but since each state has their voting registration laws, it varies. In some states you can register and vote on the same day, others you have to register a month or two in advance.

          As to the photo ID issue, the claim that one needs to show ID to vote comes from the vast amount of voter fraud that occurs in this country. For example, in my state of PA, we had four cases over the last decade of voter fraud. Granted, none of these cases involved anyone actually voting fo

    • Re:so... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Joce640k (829181) on Friday May 10, 2013 @10:26AM (#43684703) Homepage

      Facebook can just give them the data if they ask.

    • What's wrong with this? I know it's all George Orwell and stuff, but really. We've moved so far past having any real privacy anymore, who cares? I like the idea of people not being able to pretend to be me, not that anyone would really want to.

      "Sorry, citizen, but according the the Department of Love, you don't have the proper clearance to travel on this stretch of highway."

      "Our facial recognition software has identified you as one of the suspected bank robbers 3 states away. Come with us for questioning."

      "On 4/18/2020 at 3:20P, our surveillance network captured your image outside the local porno theater, when you were scheduled to be at work. Care to explain yourself, Mr. Anderson?"

      "Check it out: I hacked into the government citizen tracking dat

      • Re:so... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by RabidReindeer (2625839) on Friday May 10, 2013 @11:09AM (#43685147)

        Alright, maybe I'm grasping, but I will say this - if government officials think it's necessary and proper to put citizens on constant surveillance and place our information into a monolithic database, then would it not stand to reason that they should be subject to the same? After all, they are public officials, and if a person has done nothing wrong, they should have nothing to hide, correct?

        Problem is, Orwellian also includes doublethink. As in "Innocent people have nothing to hide", but "we cannot do our job effectively if people can watch what we are doing".

        • Re:so... (Score:4, Insightful)

          by bobaferret (513897) on Friday May 10, 2013 @11:37AM (#43685423)

          I think this is what we need to be angry about. We need to be fighting for the government to be as open as they want us to be. In the end when it's all said and done, everything should have lost their anonymity. The Government, the corporations, and the people. We're not talking police state here, we're talk'n equal playing field.

    • I was going to say this as well. Names, ages, faces, social #? This is all stuff the government already has. You tell them more on your tax return than this database would have (at least according to TFS; Wired bugs out on my work comp for some reason).

      Moreover, I wouldn't believe all the "mission creep" fuss. We've had Photo IDs for how long, now? This is literally the exact same thing. It's just on a centralized database instead of a card in your wallet. Any concerns of Big Brother database-tamperi

      • Re:so... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by pixelpusher220 (529617) on Friday May 10, 2013 @10:39AM (#43684839)

        Any concerns of Big Brother database-tampering to frame you for a crime are equally weighted with the benefits of fewer fake IDs

        No they aren't. Our founding principles are that we let some guilty people go free precisely because that's preferable than to possibly imprison innocent people. People using Fake IDs are an acceptable condition of not doing 'Papers please' checks on every law abiding citizen on every street corner.

        • Any concerns of Big Brother database-tampering to frame you for a crime are equally weighted with the benefits of fewer fake IDs

          No they aren't. Our founding principles are that we let some guilty people go free precisely because that's preferable than to possibly imprison innocent people. People using Fake IDs are an acceptable condition of not doing 'Papers please' checks on every law abiding citizen on every street corner.

          This isn't a "papers please" check on every law abiding citizen on every street corner, though. This is centralized photo ID. This is "leave your papers at home, please; we've got a copy." Nobody's checking anything when they wouldn't check your driver's license already. The potential for misconduct just...isn't there. You've got the physical documents yourself, so there's redundancy enough to provide a reasonable doubt in court should anyone actually get the bright idea to hack it and tamper. I reall

          • by Culture20 (968837)
            But it can be made into a "papers please" very easily. It's just that the "papers" are your face. "Sir, the camera didn't get a good angle; look this way please. Thank you, Mr. Jones."
    • We've moved so far past having any real privacy anymore, who cares?

      Let's just install cameras in your bedroom, then. We've moved so far past having any real privacy, after all.

    • by redmid17 (1217076)
      If I could call you a complete moron and downvote you at the same time, I would. However I have no mod points left for the time being. You're a complete moron.
    • Re:so... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Friday May 10, 2013 @12:58PM (#43686481)

      "What's wrong with this? I know it's all George Orwell and stuff, but really. We've moved so far past having any real privacy anymore, who cares? I like the idea of people not being able to pretend to be me, not that anyone would really want to."

      You should care because it's not possible to have a democratic form of government without anonymity, and you can't have anonymity without privacy.

      The reasons are many, but here is the upshot: if you have no privacy, how can you speak out (or vote) against oppression without fear of reprisal? Answer: you can't. History is full of examples, you shouldn't even have to think twice to come up with one you remember.

  • by Rob the Bold (788862) on Friday May 10, 2013 @10:18AM (#43684637)

    ' . . . ending with the proof of self being required at polling places, to rent a house, buy a gun, open a bank account, acquire credit, board a plane or even attend a sporting event or log on the internet.'

    Ending with? I think in my state (plus federal laws/reg) we've got at least 4 of those already. And that's not counting opening an account with the gas company.

    • ' . . . ending with the proof of self being required at polling places, to rent a house, buy a gun, open a bank account, acquire credit, board a plane or even attend a sporting event or log on the internet.'

      Ending with? I think in my state (plus federal laws/reg) we've got at least 4 of those already. And that's not counting opening an account with the gas company.

      It's so hard to craft sarcasm in writing so that it's recognized for what it is.

  • Papers please (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Why does this sound like every old WWII depiction of the SS coming to life?

  • Mission Creep? SSN (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ArtemaOne (1300025) on Friday May 10, 2013 @10:20AM (#43684647)
    Mission Creep is a ridiculous thing to worry about. Just like your Social Security Number, which the SS Administration has declared from the begining that it is NOT to be used as a form of identification.
    • It turns out that having a universal unique idenitifier is really handy. There are reasons you WANT to be able to be affirmatively and uniquely identified as "you", but you want that capability under your own control. Even with PKI (a system that could be trusted, anyway), someone has to hold a central database. Guess who that would likely be? And if it shouldn't be "the government", then who?

      • And it's a whole lot of fun when you go to open an account with a company and find that the record of a previous customer - one whose account was terminated for non-payment - erroneously had that universal unique identifier tied to it.

        Not that I'm speaking from recent personal experience or anything...

    • by lcam (848192)

      Really?

      Next mandate, fixed IPv6 IP addresses for all devices. Your devices and their IPv6 addresses get added to the definition of "who you are".

      No more internet anonymity except when using a proxy.

      Which proxies do you trust?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 10, 2013 @10:23AM (#43684683)

    Two, actually. Yes, even from dealers at gun shows.

    For some reason it's racist to ask for ID to vote.

    Vote early, vote often!

    • by tompaulco (629533)
      For some reason it's racist to ask for ID to vote.
      Not in my state. ID is required. And you can only vote once. They cross your name off. I know several people who were not allowed to vote even though they had ID because someone had shown up earlier than them at the poll and voted using their name.
  • But privacy advocates fear the inevitable mission creep, ending with the proof of self being required at polling places, to rent a house, buy a gun, open a bank account, acquire credit, board a plane or even attend a sporting event or log on the internet.

    Don't you sort of already have to do this for everything above, minus "attend a sporting event" or "log on to the internet"?

    • Actually, some sporting events also require a photo id to validate that you didn't buy your ticket from a secondhand reseller (scalper). That leaves logging on to the Internet - and while I don't have to have an ID to log on, I do have to provide ID to get service of my own.

  • by Chrisq (894406) on Friday May 10, 2013 @10:23AM (#43684689)

    The Identity Cards Act 2006 [wikipedia.org] mandated national ID cards. In October 2006, the Government declared it would cost £5.4bn to run the ID cards scheme for the next 10 years, and by November 2007 this estimate was revised to £5.612bn. The Identity Documents Act 2010 [wikipedia.org] cancelled this with at least £256 million already spent [independent.co.uk].

    It is generally acknowledged that this scheme would not have delivered any increased security, as applications would be verified against passport and driving license databases that were already known to be inaccurate.

    • It is generally acknowledged that this scheme would not have delivered any increased security, as applications would be verified against passport and driving license databases that were already known to be inaccurate.

      So? What makes you think that the point of taking yet another step towards a police state is to provide any benefit for citizens?

      There's a part of "1984" that makes this point very well. O'Brien is interrogating Winston, and asks him why the Party does what it does. Winston comes up with the standard lines about it being necessary for Oceania, or for the benefit of the people, etc. Finally O'Brien stops him and essentially says: "No Winston. We do it for power. It is solely power for the sake of power."

  • "Employers would be obliged to look up every new hire in the database to verify that they match their photo."

    Are employers officials of the state now? This sounds very un-American, and very un-doable too.

    • by SirGarlon (845873)

      Employers have been doing clerical work gratis for the government for a long time. For example, they're already required to process income tax withholding and to verify the immigration status of job applicants.

      Why they put up with this escapes me.

    • Unlike how they now have to look up to see if they're verified to be able to work in the US?

      Or exactly like it?

  • Stuff like this really pisses me off. Doubly so because the people who normally run around talking about preventing government interference in business seem happy to create programs like this (and the already existing e-verify) that boil down to having to get permission from the federal government in order to work.

    It is hard to imagine a more pervasive and intrusive control over society than having to get President Obama's permission in order to feed and clothe your children. And yet the people who should b

    • boil down to having to get permission from the federal government in order to work

      That requirement has existed for a very long time. You have to be a citizen or have the proper visa in order to legally work in the US. That hardly seems draconian. E-verify helps solve a real problem, but the big biometric database is a wet dream of KGB wannabees.

  • You already have to have proof of self to rent a house, buy a gun, open a bank account, acquire credit, board a plane.

    It may not be by law, but those folks already want to see id. I am 99% sure the gun one is a law.

    • It may not be by law, but those folks already want to see id. I am 99% sure the gun one is a law.

      100% - it's part of the BATFE check process.

      • by h4rr4r (612664)

        Yeah, I remember handing over drivers license last time I bought a gun. Had to fill out a bunch of paper work too that was totally pointless. They should have been able to scan the card and get a response way faster. I think it was faxed or something instead.

        • Same here, except the shop didn't have a fax machine, so they had to call in and read off everything I had written on the form.

  • Neither citizenship verification, employment verification, or any of these other functions for which these databases have been proposed actually need centralized government databases. All that you really need is a reasonably secure way of identifying yourself and proving your citizenship. You should be able to store your credentials (physical or electronic) in some secure way if you like, but that should be your choosing. The traditional thing to do is to store your birth certificate, passport, and similar

  • The DHS and TSA will be going to class to say "Papers, please" with a thick Russian accent.

    They've also been given Commodore 64 emulators for Linux and a copy of the classic game: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_QP5X6fcukM [youtube.com]
  • The USA are turning into this weakened version of a police state which is the surveillance state, too.
  • You already have to show photo ID for most of the things listed. Tagging on "and logging onto the Internet" at the end is just sensationalist trash.

    Hint: if you have a driver's license, the Gubmint knows who you are.

    • by bagboy (630125)
      There is a difference between a state issued/controlled ID and a government issued ID. In case you don't remember your civics, you're a state citizen first. You can't be extradited to another state for prosecution in crimes without your state's permission. A government issued ID tends to blur the lines as to state citizen's rights when used inappropriately. This is more about being mindful of these issues before it gets out of hand.
  • I think of the $60,000 hammer comment made in the movie, "Independence Day" [wikipedia.org]
  • such a huge system will *ever* get implemented? The Feds have a long and sucky track record of managing huge IT projects that explode in budget and go down in flames a decade later.

    Thus, I'm not worried.

  • I'm sure it sounds great. Until the minimum wage, data entry clerk doesn't match up the right photo to the right name and you are instantly cut off from all the things mentioned in the article. Unable to get a driver lic, can't open a bank account, can't go to a sporting event, can't get on the internet in order to send the emails needed to clear up the issue.
  • by pongo000 (97357) on Friday May 10, 2013 @11:28AM (#43685343)

    ...if I have voluntary given up my personal info to have a passport and driver's license, yet act incensed about all this?

    In principle, the very act of collecting data on us goes against every moral fiber in my body. Yet if I think about it, I've already given in by securing a passport and DL. I am sure there are pockets of people in this country who want to remain "off the grid," and I respect that and even support their right to do so. But realistically, discounting this very small minority, is there really anything left to fight for given that most of us have voluntarily given up this information to the government in the first place?

If God is perfect, why did He create discontinuous functions?

Working...