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Ellison's ID Card Plan Gets More Attention 701

fredbox writes: "A Mercury News article reports Oracle CEO Larry Ellison and John Ashcroft have been meeting to discuss creation of a national ID database including fingerprints, facial scans, etc. Other supporters include Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, Sun Microsystems CEO Scott McNealy. They claim these cards would be 'voluntary', much as the act of leaving your home or purchasing groceries are voluntary activities." Update: 10/18 01:48 GMT by M : Hah! btempleton writes: "Here is a prototype of Larry Ellison's new national ID card."
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Ellison's ID Card Plan Gets More Attention

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  • by dj_flux ( 66385 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2001 @07:47PM (#2444180) Homepage
    I'd rather just have a chip implanted in my neck. Or maybe a nice barcode tattoo.
  • huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Patrick Cable II ( 521813 ) <pc AT pcable DOT net> on Wednesday October 17, 2001 @07:48PM (#2444187) Homepage
    Voluntary? Whats the point then? A Drivers license is voluntary.
    • Re:huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by pherris ( 314792 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2001 @08:08PM (#2444312) Homepage Journal
      Patrick Cable II said:

      "Voluntary? Whats the point then? A Drivers license is voluntary."
      But try to live almost any where in this country without a driver's license or auto. Or imagine your local supermarket saying that you "need" one of these cards to shop there. Don't like it? They'll say "Go someplace else. We're doing this for 'National Security'."

      The SSN system has been so exploited by big business it's not even funny. This is a dream come true for those that want to track your life. I guess it's voluntary if you don't need to work, eat or receive health care. Sad.


      • Re:huh? (Score:2, Insightful)

        by aka-ed ( 459608 )
        try to live almost any where in this country without a driver's license or auto

        I live in the world's most motorized city, L.A. and have since 1997. I have never driven.

        This, however, is quite different. Obviously, the intention is "security." That means anyone who does not have this can correctly be viewed as "not secure." That is different from being considered a "non-driver."

        • Re:huh? (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Danse ( 1026 )

          I live in the world's most motorized city, L.A. and have since 1997. I have never driven.

          I'm guessing they either have halfway decent public transportation (which most cities don't), or you live very close to where you work.

      • Re:huh? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by swordboy ( 472941 )
        Two of the suspects picked up in Michigan (Detroit) had Michigan drivers licenses despite the fact that they were illegal aliens. Our system is broken on a number of levels. I say do without the card and live with the fear. At least the fear will cause one to keep their guard up.
  • heh... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by caseydk ( 203763 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2001 @07:48PM (#2444191) Homepage Journal
    Yeah, it'll be really cute when you can't fly on a plane, ride a train, get a credit card, open a bank account, or get a job without one...

    Not to mention have email...
    • Re:heh... (Score:3, Insightful)

      And how many of those things (not counting email) do you do without using a driver's license or a social security number?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Dear Mr. Ashcroft,

    I would be willing to enroll in your new National ID program, surrending my fingerprints and facial scan in exchange for a sworn affidavit from you that the reources of the FBI will be spent chasing criminals and not harmless copyright infringement. That is to say, no more working for RIAA, MPAA, Adobe or any other monopolistic commercial interest.


    John Q Public.
  • Income-tax in Canada is also 'voluntary'.
  • Neeeeat!! (Score:5, Funny)

    by mc2Kleen ( 190152 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2001 @07:53PM (#2444221)
    If I'm really good and I turn in lots of bad, bad terrorists will the government bump me up to Platinum card status?

    And if so, can I get mine with Pokemon or my favorite sport's team emblazoned across it?
    • by ackthpt ( 218170 )
      If I'm really good and I turn in lots of bad, bad terrorists will the government bump me up to Platinum card status?

      Maybe, but I'd go for the Blue Jeans myself... Oh, wait, this isn't 1970's USSR, nevermind..

      So... If someone steals my ID card, what's the diff between that and them stealing my Passport? I've already been told, with a beard I look like a terrorist :(

  • It's not about the cards. It's about the system.

    This system would cost many billions of dollars to implement, and would give no real gain.
  • by tcc ( 140386 )
    >creation of a national ID database including fingerprints, facial scans, etc.


    God what more do you want with that!? Anal probing? if so, I suggest Larry himself does the Quality Assurance testing part... you know... to be sure it gets it right the first time... maybe after a few dozens of tries (you know how buggy those things are), he'll resort to something less 1984-ish...

    ... then again, I know a lot of people that would stick anything "up theirs" to get a few M $ worth of contracts... some of you pervers reading this are actually doing it for free (or fun, you pick any :) )
    • It's been my experience that "facial scans" is corporate doubletalk for photograph. In otherwords, they want your picture and thumbprint, a practice already started by most DMV's in the U.S.
  • Hmmmm, SO? (Score:3, Flamebait)

    by friday2k ( 205692 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2001 @07:55PM (#2444235)
    Just please educate me. What is so wrong about the card? If you would like to have an ID card, something that the US do _NOT_ have, and it carries your picture and your fingerprint, what again is so wrong with that. In my homecountry, Germany, you have to register with the city you live in, tell them where you live and, if you move, unregister with your old city and register in the new one. They can always track you. You have to have an ID card. It carries your address, height, weight, place of birth and your picture. If you move within the country (see above) you have to have it updated. True, it does not carry your fingerprint, but it has a nice little code that gets scanned when you travel by airplane, etc. It is compatible with the electronic readers at immigration that you guys might be familiar with. And I even think there is a fine if you do not carry it with you. So how is the proposed ID card so much different? I personally would like it if people have to register in a more thorough way if they travel with me on an airplane. Please do not get me wrong, systems can be abused and there are enough examples of that, but I do not see that coming with a national ID card system.
    • Re:Hmmmm, SO? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by sbeitzel ( 33479 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2001 @08:09PM (#2444314) Homepage Journal
      It's a problem because I trust my own government only slightly more than I trust Phred Terrorist. Or, looking at it another way, I trust my own government less so -- with the terrorist, I know he's trying to kill me.

      Basically, I don't trust my own government to do the right thing. Especially because as time passes the responsiveness of the U.S. government to Big Money increases, and the rights of the private citizen decrease. I most certainly don't trust Enron, Phillip Morris, CBS, and AOL to be interested in my well-being. Insofar as Corporate America cares about the individual citizen at all, it's as a revenue source.

      There are also those among the quite wealthy and therefore influential who do not think that equal protection before the law should hold. At the very least, the rich should be more equal than others, they believe.

      This proposed identification and tracking system does not actually solve any problems we currently face. What it does do is open the door to the abrogation of our every Constitutional right.

      I am normally opposed to Libertarians (and libertarians), as I have problems with their philosophy. However, on this issue I believe all Americans can stand united. This is a frightening idea.
    • Re:Hmmmm, SO? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by geekoid ( 135745 )
      Not a troll or flame.
      In a country that had the most infamous dictors of the 20th century, I would think this sort of thing would be strongly opposed.
      Anybody who can track you, can control you.
      What if you go into a shop, make a legitamate purchase. the next day, the shop gets raided by law enforcement for some illegal activity.
      You are now under investigation. Being under investigation goes into your record. Do you think that won'r effect you if you want a government job?
      What happens when you do something that become illegal? now they have reason to suspect you.
      Not to mention the marketing nightmares.
      You bought something every company that has anything to do with that product is now spamming you one way or another.
      In this case there is also the fact of tying the whole thing to a propritary database company. as opposed to a company that ir responsible for the ID casr, but can choose the DB based on requirements, noy on what they allready sell.
      • Hmm, this example sounds a little far fetched to me. You do not present your ID when you buy something. Maybe you should present if you buy a tank or a controlled substance (assuming you could do so), but other than that? Flying on an airplane, living in a city, if these things become illegal you have a problem in general. We still have to wait and see what purpose the national ID system is supposed to serve. What parts of your life it shall have an effect on. Just for ID purposes, knowing where people live and if they travel by airplane (they won't ask you for your ID if you drive cross-country I assume) I personally believe it is not a bad thing. But again, I happen to trust my (old) government. I think you overstimate the amount of tracking. Just the humble opinion of a guest in your country who might look at things a little different.
        But I like the good comments (forgetting about the WWII and Jews start the war s&*%) that people gave so far. Thanks!
        • "
          You do not present your ID when you buy something"

          Not yet. As AT&T used to say, "You will".

          We still have to wait and see what purpose the national ID system is supposed to serve."

          This is a dangerous approach to take. If we actually need a 'National ID system' to solve a specific problem (many Americans are unconvinced) then it should be designed and implemented in such a way as to solve the problem at hand, with inherent safeguards to prevent abuse, now or in the future.

          If we build a system that has the potential to be abused by individuals, by corporations, or by the state, then it will be abused.

          Flying on an airplane, living in a city, if these things become illegal you have a problem in general."

          As little trust I have in our current government, I have even less reason to trust in a future administration's response to future threats.
    • Re:Hmmmm, SO? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Puk ( 80503 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2001 @08:20PM (#2444373)
      From the Social Security Number FAQ [faqs.org]:

      "It's not a good idea to carry your SSN card with you (or other documents
      that contain your SSN). If you should lose your wallet or purse, your SSN
      would make it easier for a thief to apply for credit in your name or
      otherwise fraudulently use your number."

      Now imagine if said card also contained or linked to a database containing your fingerprints, facial scans, and DNA sequencing. Better hope you don't ever drop your wallet, or get it stolen.

      You're going on the assumption that it's a good thing that they can laways track you. Some people would prefer not to have the government living with them 24 hours a day.

      The question is, what benefit does this new card give us? We already have "voluntary" (bleh) id cards of several sorts. What does having this gigantic database accomplish that the current system doesn't? How would this have changed the events of September 11th, and even if it did alter them, was it worth the guy at the airport being able to print out a nice copy of my fingerprint for home use?

    • It's kind of interesting the way that in a story about corporate abuses, we see a lot of "Unlike the US, MY country isn't wholly owned by giant corporations", but in a story about government abuses like this, we sometimes see "but MY government does something like this and it doesn't seem so bad..."

      Put the two together and perhaps those of the latter camp will see the potential problem - the US DOES seem to allow large corporations to have a dangerous amount of influence over governmental policy. Giving the US Federal Gov't, Inc, a power potentially makes that power available to giant corporate entities as well...

      Not to mention that the fees for "upgrades and maintenance" of the database go to an already-giant corporation (Oracle) in Ellison's proposal, and effectively 'lock' the Federal government into Oracle as the database vendor for the forseeable future...

    • Re:Hmmmm, SO? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by n7ytd ( 230708 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2001 @08:21PM (#2444384)
      I will take your questions in two parts:
      • What is so wrong about the card? Let's check the parent post for some ideas:
      • you have to register with the city you live in
      • tell them where you live and, if you move, unregister with your old city and register in the new one
      • They can always track you
      • You have to have an ID card [...] And I even think there is a fine if you do not carry it with you.
      I think that covers that question fairly well. Now, on to the second half of your question (which you forgot to ask):
      • What are the benefits of this system?
      • A false sense of security when I board an airplane, because all of the nice people chose to register themselves with the government, so obviously there are no terrorists on board.
      • Another piece of plastic to replace when I lose my wallet.
      • Another token which links all of my data to each other and to me to make the theft of my identity easier.
      • Umm...
      I know us Americans are paranoid about our privacy, but honestly, don't you see any problem with the scenario outlined above?

      A "voluntary" ID card? Who is buying this idea? Do they have any idea what are they even talking about? Why would I "choose" to carry this? If I can just choose to not carry the card, when I am challenged, I can simply state that I don't have an ID, and they will have to accomodate me, because after all, this is voluntary, right?

      So the whole system is worthless. Hence, this is just a smooth way to introduce the concept. Anyone who believes this is going to be voluntary is looney.

    • by Nonesuch ( 90847 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2001 @08:24PM (#2444404) Homepage Journal
      Because unlike Deutschland, Americans are supposed to be free,
      not living in a police state where any petty official may demand "Zeigen Sie Ihre Papiere, Kameraden!".

      Yes, systems can be abused,and in the long run, all systems will be abused. If we create the necessary infrastructure for the government and corporations to track us today, they may not use it for less noble purposes now. But under a more conservative administration, after a more distressing terrorist event, they will use the database we build today to empower the big brother of tomorrow.

      "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."
      Benjamin Franklin
    • Re:Hmmmm, SO? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by doctorjohn ( 528164 )
      Take a look at the record of national ID card abuses in Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, South Africa, Israel, Singapore, Guatemala, China, and Taiwan. Not to mention the formaer Soviet block. Those are only the one's I am sure of; there likely are more cases where the notion of a national identity card started out being advertised as "for your own good, loyal citizen." So long as these people did nothing contrary to law, they had nothing to fear. Trouble is, what was contrary to law changed.

      Sometimes the change was slow and carefully planned; often the change came about due to some incident that destabilized the government (or the people's voice in government). We are currently facing a situation that should make the average member of our vulgar mass of citizens sit bolt upright and drop their tv remote. Your elected officials, those politicians that are IN FACT funded by the McWorld corporate machine, are taking this crisis as the perfect opportunity to eliminate liberal democracy and replace it with intolerant conservatism.

      Now is the time to guard against threats to American ideals. Not vulgar American ideas of an SUV or two in every garage and a big-screen intellect-destroying machine in every living room or ideas that are instruments of corporations gone crazy with power, but IDEALS of American freedom.

      A basic freedom to pursue my life (a peaceful and non-criminal life, by the way) without fear of unreasonable interferance.

      My fear might stem from the fact that I support liberal democracy and individual rights. I do not support anarchy and lawlesness and I maintain there must be laws to protect each citizen, but how long will it be before supporting liberal democracy is a crime? If the McWorld corporation figgures out a way to do it, I will be silenced because I would rather defend my rights as a free citizen than be hypnotized by the big-screen.

      My fear might stem from the fact that I am a philosopher, and philosophers are usually in the first group to be put against the wall by a government out of control. Double jeapordy, so are teachers and I teach.

      If you are willing to give up one iota of the freedom that I fought for (I am an honorably discharged veteran of the US Army), then shame on you. One of your responsibilities as a citizen, perhaps the most urgent and basic, is to keep a watchful eye on your government (which is supposed to be made up of the citizens, not artificial citizens called corporations) and make absolutely certain your rights and freedoms are not eroded.

      As for educating you, perhaps you should read the Constitution of the United States and The Bill of Rights, along with a concise history of humanity (I suggest Arnold Toynbee). Compare what has been the form of governments in the world (and how they crumbled) with the American ideals summed up in the Constitution and Bill of Rights. It will be harder for you now, you should have learned all this in grade school, but the effort will be worthwhile.

      It may cause you to proudly proclaim yourself a free American. It may cause you to insist that no part of your rights be taken from you.
      • Re:Hmmmm, SO? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by IronChef ( 164482 )
        While I agree with what you are saying I have to take issue with one comment:

        Your elected officials, those politicians that are IN FACT funded by the McWorld corporate machine, are taking this crisis as the perfect opportunity to eliminate liberal democracy and replace it with intolerant conservatism.

        This isn't a liberal vs. conservative battle. This is simply about CONTROL. Do Republicans want to control us MORE than Democrats? No, they just want to control different things. Liberals want gun control; conservatives want uterus control. I'm sure both camps would like to Lojack us all, given the chance.

        Don't make this a partisan issue, you dilute the strength of the underlying message:

        1. Governments tend towards more control.
        2. To stave off unreasonable controls we must all be vigilant and active in the political process.

        (As an aside, I believe that #2 requires strong-willed people to JOIN the government. If NO idealists went to Capitol Hill, believing the system to be 100% corrupt, it seems like things would get worse a lot faster. So become part of the political machine, Joe Citizen -- someone's got to do it.)
    • What is so wrong about the card? If you would like to have an ID card, something that the US do _NOT_ have, and it carries your picture and your fingerprint, what again is so wrong with that.

      The problem isn't the card, so much, as the database that goes with it. When they take your digital picture, and scan your fingerprints, they don't just go on the card, but also in a database. American people have rejected time and time again mandatory fingerprinting of all citizens. The card is just a smokescreen which diverts attention away from the database. With a database of fingerprints and faces, combined with video cameras and face recognition technology, the government could literally track your every move and there isn't a damn thing you could do about it.

      In my homecountry, Germany, you have to register with the city you live in, tell them where you live and, if you move, unregister with your old city and register in the new one. They can always track you. You have to have an ID card. It carries your address, height, weight, place of birth and your picture. If you move within the country (see above) you have to have it updated.

      Well, that's a good enough reason right there. Looks like you answered your own question.

    • Re:Hmmmm, SO? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by devonbowen ( 231626 ) on Thursday October 18, 2001 @07:07AM (#2445850) Homepage
      Just please educate me. What is so wrong about the card?

      What's wrong isn't the card, exactly. It's more a mismatch between the culture and the card concept.

      I don't have any trouble registering with my Gemeinde here in Switzerland because I know that this information is respected and secured by the government and the people. Swiss people don't think "hey, how can I exploit this for money or power?" It's not part of the culture. And, as such, I feel that I have essentially nothing to worry about.

      In America, however, the first thing that pops into anyones head is "hey, how can I exploit this for money or power?" It's the American mindset that grew out of the Wild West and is still strong. There is no way in hell I'd want to register with the my local police department in the US. Because I know what would come later.

      The card itself is a tool. It can be used for good or bad. The culture determines which.


  • Voluntary... wonderful.

    Of course jobs and colleges will eventually require them, so its only "voluntary" if you want to be uneducated and unemployed.. just like eating is a "voluntary" activity for people who don't want to live more than a couple weeks, I suppose?

    I don't mean to sound like a troll, but I don't think calling this "voluntary" makes much sense.
  • What the hell for? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CaptainCarrot ( 84625 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2001 @07:57PM (#2444249)
    Could someone in the press pleas at least ask the damn question? To wit: how exactly would these ID cards have prevented the events of 9/11? The terrorists didn't have to lie about their names to get on the airplanes, they just had to buy the tickets!
    • by ryanvm ( 247662 )
      exactly would these ID cards have prevented the events of 9/11?

      Because when 4 guys who are at least loosely associated with a known terrorist buy tickets on the same flight, that just might trigger a few bells.

      The Fed does have some seriously vast databases at their disposal. The result of which being that they do have the ability to recognize rings of communication.

      I'm not sure whether I'm for or against this, but there is definately a possibility that national ID cards could have prevented the WTC tragedy.

    • by BrianH ( 13460 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2001 @08:21PM (#2444383)
      I guess that quite a few of the hijackers were here on expired work or tourist visas. By linking INS information to the national ID card program they could have caught this. Wouldn't you have been a little suspicious if four or five people who were in the country illegally all tried to board the same plane together? The FBI/CIA/NSA/Homeland Defense could also have the ability to flag people with known associations to hijackers. Several of the S11 hijackers WERE previously known to be associated with al Quaeda, and the intelligence community had been keeping loose tabs on them while they were here. Although being "associated" with a hijacker isn't illegal and isn't grounds for detainment, a computer might catch a few of them trying to board a plane together and notify airport security to perform an extra-close security check when they try to board.
    • Most of the terrorists boarded under assumed identities.

      There's a whole long-running dirty underground scheme for which I can't find the story link, where people were allegedly killed and their identities replaced. Some of the terrorists on 9/11 were beneficiaries of these new identities.
    • Well, one of the guys who bought his ticket in cash was on the FBI's Most Wanted list, so they could have caught him. IIRC.
  • Limits (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MikeyNg ( 88437 ) <mikeyng AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday October 17, 2001 @07:57PM (#2444250) Homepage

    It doesn't sound like too bad of an idea. The problem would come from the limitations of the system. Or more precisely, what it would limit people from doing. It may be voluntary to have such an ID card, but if it's too inconveniencing NOT to have one, it's essentially mandatory.

    If it's simply for ID purposes in high-risk areas, then that's fine. If I want to get on board a plane filled with tons of jet fuel and with hundreds of other people, it's okay to check and see that I'm not "dangerous." (Who defines "dangerous" here, also?)

    But if I'm going to go buy some liquor, cigarettes, pr0n, or _Catcher in the Rye_, I don't want to have to use my ID. I could care less about who knows I'm buying what, but do you REALLY need to know?

    The other interesting point I'd like to bring up is: Fakes. How hard would these things be to fake? No matter how hard you try, someone with enough time and money will find a way to make a fake. I mean, there's high school kids with fake drivers licenses now.

  • by Nonesuch ( 90847 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2001 @07:57PM (#2444251) Homepage Journal
    One of the issues that comes up often in discussing firearms purchase controls, is how to provide a mechanism to deny access by prohibited persons, without inherently building a database of all the lawful purchases and purchasers?

    The basic premise of 'National ID' systems is that if we build a database of all law-abiding trustworthy citizens, anybody who does not exist in this database must be a 'prohibited person'.

    This premise is also one of the biggest dangers of a national ID, and the primary objection raised by civil libertarians and the ultra paranoid.

    The 'Brady Bill' background check law was written with a safeguard- all records of 'successful' checks were to be deleted. In reality, the Clinton administration ignored this limitation, holding records indefinitely.

    The same sort of behavior can be expected regarding any safeguards built into a 'National ID' system.

    • Your fears are justified of course. However, if you've got the raw data, and our government does, constructing such a system is so simple, I can't help but conclude it's inevitable. It's going to happen.

      Therefore any discussion along the lines of "should we or shouldn't we" is rather futile. Instead, we should be putting our heads together to discuss how such a system could be constructed responsibly.

      On that note, I'd have to say one of my first predilections would be to give Larry and Scott the boot ASAP. Not because I dislike them personally (I do), but because such a system should not be compromised by a conflict between personal interests and national interests. There are plenty of people already in government perfectly able to construct such a system using available off-the-shelf open/free software. People who are beholded to the public interest. Our interests (this is a democracy, remember). Not their own interests.

      Approached correctly, this endeavor could be viewed as an /opportunity/ to advance public knowledge, while also enhancing our security. E.G. - develop a secure distributed reliable hugely scaleable authentication mechanism. And so on.

      Let's not stick our heads in the sand. This is a development that we ignore or rebuke at our peril. This really /could/ turn out badly. Let's not let that happen.
  • by MarkusQ ( 450076 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2001 @07:59PM (#2444257) Journal
    As far as I can see, this isn't a very well thought-out plan. For example, they say (under "other information to be tracked") that they are going to store everyone's karma. But will this be karma from slash-dot proper, or from some other site that uses slash code? How will we know? And, even more seriously, how do they expect to update it? I don't think we can just piggy-back on the e-bay update system, although I do see the merits of keeping the number of spinal implants to an absolute minimum.

    I know this may sound like a silly thing to quibble over in such an important plan, but I think we (like all special interest groups) have a right to be heard.

    -- MarkusQ

    P.S. I am quite relieved to see that they dropped the idea of trying to track mod-points real-time. That would have been a nightmare!

  • ..Is somebody spreading this through the mail? How do you prevent forgery? Make a law against it? It's nice to know that 'our way of life' is being so staunchly defended by those that would have us bolted down, tattoed and tracked 'for our own protection'.
  • by The Milky Bar Kid ( 411137 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2001 @08:01PM (#2444270)

    The cards also would be instantly checked against a new national database. That database would base would link existing criminal and immigration data to screen out potential terrorists.

    But AFAIK, none of the terrorists HAD criminal records. They were perfectly good citizens as far as anyone knew up until getting on those planes. So criminal data's no good.

    Ah, but they did just emigrate from Afghanistan, or Iraq. That would show up on the immigration data.

    So what this suggests to me, is that if you've just immigrated from Iraq or Afghanistan, I'd be allowing another thirty minutes at the airport, to deal with all those 'are you a terrorist' questions. Because that's the only thing that separated all those terrorists from the rest of the travellers.

    It'd be good to see a policy from the US that didn't assume that terrorists have a big flashing sign on their forehead that says "I AM A TERRORIST." Because that's how I think they're planning on telling Osama Bin Laden from all the other robed, bearded guys carrying AK47s in Afghanistan.

    • But AFAIK, none of the terrorists HAD criminal records.

      Some of them had overstayed their visas (making them illegal aliens).

      One legitimate security measure would be restoring the old requirement for legal aliens to check in every so often, and go looking for any that didn't. (When I was a kid, there were PSAs reminding aliens to register every January -- we might want to make it a bit more frequent under the circumstances.)

  • by Dr.Dubious DDQ ( 11968 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2001 @08:01PM (#2444272) Homepage

    When was the last time you heard of any US citizen being able to do much without presenting their social security number?

    How long before Feinstein sells (ahem, I mean, "legislates") access to this database to major publishers and media conglomerates? After all, with all the talk of encryption crippling and government-mandated copy-prevention lately, perhaps the mysterious terrorists are financing their operations by selling bootleg DVDs (perhaps even with secret terrorist messages steganographically embedded in the signal! Gasp!) and using hacked no-back-door versions of commercial encryption software, so, just in case, we should probably let MPAA and BSA use the database to correlate with any 'suspicious' activity they might notice...

    You know, as recent as a year or so ago, the above would have sounded like paranoid ranting to me. It worries me that it no longer does...

    • When was the last time you heard of any US citizen being able to do much without presenting their social security number?

      I do think there is definite abuse there. Too many people require SSNs.

      But there is a huge difference between SS cards and the proposed ID cards.

      When you apply for a social security card you aren't fingerprinted and photographed for a database. Thus, the card can't be used to track you when you choose not to show it. I don't know of a mechanism to allow tracking even when you do use your SSN.

      With a national ID card, not only would the fact that your face and fingerprints are in a national database lead to easy tracking, but everytime you present your card, it could be swiped through a scanner that calls up your picture on a video screen. This would make the cards tamperproof, but suppose those database queries were logged? The government would have a complete record of everywhere you've been! And it could go back indefinitely, or at least to the time you first obtained the card.

      I worry about a time when you have to swipe your card through a reader just to buy a loaf of bread or get on a bus, or enter a freeway in your car. And even if you don't, video cameras combined with face recognition technology and the database of faces would do the tracking for you. You could even throw away the card, and it wouldn't protect you.

      I hope people realize that this is irreversible. Even if laws requiring a card were repealed and people could throw away their cards, the face and fingerprint database would remain, forever. Consider this before supporting a hasty legislative fix to the terrorist problem.

  • Ninety days? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by schussat ( 33312 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2001 @08:02PM (#2444281) Journal
    Ellison is quoted in the article saying that he thinks they could get the system running in a very short time, like as little as ninety days. Barring the enormous technical obstacles to actually implementing this in just three months (short of creating a regimented system that I imagine would not exude an air of "voluntary" compliance), I think such a timeline is pretty threatening. It takes Congress a whole year to hammer out taxes, budgets, and so forth; getting a national ID system running in just three months? There's a whole lot of dialog and debate that just gets absolutely left in the dust when they try to move in that short a time.

    On that note, does anybody know what kinds of legislative action really would be needed to put this together? It strikes me as requiring a pretty close-coupling of business and government interests, OR the federalization of a whole lot of currently private organizations.


    • by kettch ( 40676 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2001 @08:27PM (#2444420) Homepage
      On the other hand, the faster it goes into effect, the less time M$ will have to try to get it based on hailstorm. Thats all we need:

      terrorist: "Just a few bits of code, and a buffer overflow, and my name changes from Achmed bin Muhammed, terrorist to George Johnson, stock analyst."

      Microsoft: This tragedy was not our fault, we blame BUGTRAQ for releasing news of this vulnerability to the public.
    • by BeBoxer ( 14448 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2001 @09:13PM (#2444623)
      Larry's part is easy:

      SQL> CREATE TABLE identification_table (
      Name text,
      Address text,
      SSN text,
      Politicial_Affiliation text,
      Credit_Rating text,
      Criminal bool

      Of course, the job of filling and maintaining the
      database might take a bit longer.
  • Let me see if I get this straight.

    We, the slaves, in order to more perfectly serve our corporate masters, consent by not doing anything to the removal of our constitutional rights to Liberty, Freedom, and the Pursuit of Happiness. In addition, we agree to the suspension of our constitutional rights to freedom from unusual search and seizure, the lack of proper posted warrants in the removal of those rights, and the extensions of patents and copyrights beyond the time periods specified in that Constitution.

    I don't think so.

    You have to fight for your right to party!

  • No matter what, after Sept. 11, there will be some serious security measures on airports and other problematic zones. These national ID cards are actually a convenient way how to avoid these. It will NOT cost money, it will actually save money, because the less people will go through these thorough checks every day, the less it will cost overall. The legislation that will place these checks in place is what takes your freedom, not this card. This card may make implementation of this new comming legislation economically possible. Thats it.
  • by Tassach ( 137772 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2001 @08:07PM (#2444304)
    If Ashcroft and Fienstien both like it, it HAS to be a REALLY bad idea. Come on, I can't think of many people who have worse records when it comes to undermining the Bill of Rights than those two.
    • If Ashcroft and Fienstien both like it, it HAS to be a REALLY bad idea. Come on, I can't think of many people who have worse records when it comes to undermining the Bill of Rights than those two.

      Oh that's easy: Joe McCarthy and J. Edgar Hoover. But I'd be hard-pressed to come up with another two. Feinstein in particular has yet to see a restriction of citizens' rights she doesn't like.

      The question I would like to see all of these security-state morons forced to answer is this: What, in your opinion, actually would constitute excessive government intrusion into personal privacy? I'd be surprised if any of them actually had an answer. But worse, we have to deal with BS military rhetoric like this:

      At a speech in Salt Lake City last week, former Desert Storm commander Schwarzkopf said he saw nothing wrong with ID cards. ``I've had a military ID card since I was a cadet at West Point and I haven't lost any freedom,'' he told a cheering crowd.

      I don't know about you, but my experience in the U.S. Army was about as far and away from individual liberty as you can get outside of prison. That's not a knock against the military, BTW -- the military's job is to defend democracy, not to run one. But career brass like Gen. Schwarzkopf have spent their entire adult lives in a rigidly controlled state-within-a-state, and their qualifications to talk about what life is really like in a free society are limited at best. Of course, it's pretty clear that civilian lawyers are a little hazy on the concept, too:

      ``You don't give up much,'' Dershowitz said. ``Civil libertarians will come around.''

      What Dershowitz doesn't get, surprisingly, is that they never ask us to give up much on any particular occasion, but it adds up to a great deal over time. I find it depressing that, only sixty years after WW2, if you want to enjoy the freedoms your grandparents had, you might want to consider emigrating to Germany. Of course, the Germans have actually had to live under the sort of state John Ashcroft would like to build for us, and of all the things I've read and heard from the people who lived under the Nazi security-state, I can't recall even one saying he felt... secure.

  • I don't really see the problem with such a system, per se. I do have a problem with the proponents of such a system being such unabashed opportunistic pigs. Remeber Oracle's haste to post their earnings after the WTC tragedy? For shame.

    Look, you've got driver's licenses, social security numbers, fingerprints, license photos, criminal records, FBI records, etc. It doesn't take a genius to figure out how to assemble and relate these components in a database.

    This could be very useful. This could be abused. Sounds pretty much like any technical endeavor. Do we stick our heads in the sand, and hope the bogeyman will go away, or do we deal?

    The problem isn't the technology, it's the abuse of technology. This is precisely why such systems shouldn't be trusted to proprietary vendors such as Oracle or Sun. Our government should not become beholden to anyone's private interests.

    A national identity database would be an extraordinarily useful tool for law enforcement. Does it further empower our government? Of course it does. Of course such a system will need to be monitored and carefully crafted to prevent abuse. But that does not mean we have to go so far as to dismiss the idea entirely. Our government controls nuclear warheads also. Are you afraid that they will be dropped on your head? Call me crazy, but I'm not losing any sleep over it.

    Just don't let Larry upgrade his Learjet with my tax dollars.
  • by Kefaa ( 76147 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2001 @08:11PM (#2444325)
    The card would contain basic information about the holder, including Social Security number, and would be linked to a federal database containing detailed personal data, including digital records of the person's thumbprint, palm print, face or eyes.

    Later of course we could expand it for more specific information like your health records, financial status, political slant, religious affiliations and employment history. Of course you would not have to provide this to anyone else, but then again they would not have to hire you, provide products or services, and extend credit to you.

    To handle these issues I am certain we will be asked to trust them. And should it prove to be an issue You they will take it up in a future bill.

    I am reminded of the principle of SAM (Specific, Attainable, and Measurable). I then ask the simple question (the same I posed for cryptography "back doors"), "If this was in place on 9/11, would it have stopped the terrorists?" Ding-ding-ding, I am sorry, but at last count something like 14 of the hijackers were unknown to anyone. They would have had cards that allowed them to get on without an issue.

    "But what about the others? They would have been stopped." No, they would not have been on to begin with, or they would have paid someone to create or reprogram cards.

    So what will work? With regards to planes, no one on a plane will believe a hijacker is anything but suicidal. Even if they are not, and really just want money. Sorry, we are going to be looking out for ourselves and each other. The best security you can ever hope to find.
  • All of the terrorists were required to show valid ID to get on the plane. Most of them have VALID ID (would have had one of these cards issued by the government) and as a foriegn agent entering the country I don't see how this can be very difficult to get. For that matter, this would only cover US citizens, not visitors, people on short business trips (to get trained to fly planes maybe) or anything else...

    What I do see this becoming is a simple way for the government to track me, potentially businesses tracking me (they will now have access to a single point of data on every trasaction now) as I purchase goods and services from them. How will I as John Q. Public, know that this database isn't hackable (remember brought to you by the people who brought you Oracle 11i), won't reveal more information to the person swiping the card than is needed (I mean just because I swipe, will that mean that my whole database file is available to the swipee ???) and the data in the database is accurate (who gets to put it in, do I get a chance to audit my file and replace inacuracies etc.) I just love having to deal with my credit card files now... What a pain
  • I watched Ellison being interviewed on "Hardball" by Chris Mathews. A key point not mentioned anywhere in this discussion is this big, main one:

    The proposal is meant for non-US citizens entering the United States. For US citizens it would not be mandated.

    My own speculation here now, why would it be useful? Well, for one, if I recall correctly, 6 out of the 19 hijackers on September 11 were already listed on FBI/CIA watchlists. Yet they entered the country legally, using legal visas, bought airline tickets, did all their activities, and at no time during their daily activities they were flagged against these watchlists. The ID itself is secondary, but the principal goal is to have an efficient way to check a name against a database of suspects

    Of course, there would be all sorts of ways your Average Joe Terrorist might go about avoiding these things, including a fake id. But that sort of stuff would have to be considered as part of the design. If this were to be done.


  • by legLess ( 127550 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2001 @08:25PM (#2444407) Journal
    Mod me down for the salty language if you want, but damnit, he really is. This is a bald-faced lie, straight from the article:

    "I made this offer not because the government can't afford to pay for the software, but because I shut up the critics who were saying, 'Gee, Larry Ellison wants to build a national database because he wants to sell more databases,' which is pretty cynical and bizarre. What's in it for me is the same thing that's in it for you: a safer America." emphasis mine

    Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit. What's in it for him is a death-grip on the identities of the entire country. What's in it for him is becoming as important as a public utility, but having all the benefits of a for-profit corporation. What's in it for him is that this is the only way he'll ever get richer and more important than Bill Gates, and he's got a woody the size of Florida.
  • by MAXOMENOS ( 9802 ) <maxomai@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Wednesday October 17, 2001 @08:27PM (#2444418) Homepage
    Dear Diane,

    If you push for this national ID card, I will give money to support the campaign of any person who runs against you.

    I consider myself a liberal Democrat, but don't let that concern you. I will support your opponent regardless of his or her stances on any other issues, just as long as they advocate doing away with the national ID. They could be a member of the KKK an an advocate of dumping cyanide in our drinking water, and I'll still give them money.

    Why, you ask? Simple: to punish you for selling the freedom of the people of the United States down the river.


    MAXOMENOS of Slashdot.

    • Agreed.

      Why is it every time I see something I disagree with -- be it the right for the media to report our troop movements to the Taliban, or the right for the RIAA to rip off every artist and music fan in the world, and now THIS -- I see Diane Feinstein staunchly supporting it? Every time I see her name in lights, it's with something I detest.

      It's a tragedy that she was recently re-elected; we have five more years of this twit being in office.

      Why oh why couldn't that anthrax have affected her instead??? Oh, that's right, because the anthrax is being sent out by anti-americans, and they'd hate to kill one of their own kind.

  • by rho ( 6063 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2001 @08:30PM (#2444428) Homepage Journal

    For your first l33t hacking job on this onerous and invasive abortion of an idea, I recommend cloning Larry Ellison's ID card.

    Imagine the ease with which we can catch all terrorists and thugs since they'll all be named "Larry". What a great concept! Thanks for your assistance in this matter.

  • by kindbud ( 90044 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2001 @08:30PM (#2444430) Homepage
    ``Wouldn't you feel better if everyone who walked into an airport showed their ID card and put their thumb in the scanner and you knew they were who they said they were?''

    No Larry, I would not feel better. I might feel safer, but not by very much. Besides, is what we want to feel better about flying, or do we want to feel safer about flying? Or do we want to actually BE safer while flying?

    How about that for a novel approach? Instead of trying to get the public to be willing to board a plane, why not improve safety for real? Put those National Guardsmen to work checking bags.

    Do you realize that STILL, 9 out of 10 checked bags are placed into the cargo compartment of commercial jets, without so much as a passing glance? It's true.

    You can also STILL check a bag on a flight, and then not get on that flight, and your bag will be carried anyway. You think we were caught with our pants down on 9/11? What will our leaders tell us about air safety when the next attack is a classical bomb-in-checked-bag-but-terrorist-missed-flight, like the Lockerbie disaster?
  • by swordboy ( 472941 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2001 @08:45PM (#2444483) Journal

    It may make you *feel* safe, but when it comes down to it, anyone with a card or a good eBay rating can really screw you over.

    By all accounts, many of the terrorists were quiet, neighborly people. An ID card will only allow for these people to be registered. Secuirty is not something that exists. This card is just something to make us think that it does.

  • So... (Score:4, Funny)

    by sulli ( 195030 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2001 @08:45PM (#2444488) Journal
    Do I get a Yellow Card as a warning, and a Red Card when I'm about to be thrown out of the country?
  • As long as people are allowed to leave the country, most things are voluntary...
  • by catsidhe ( 454589 ) <catsidhe&gmail,com> on Wednesday October 17, 2001 @09:18PM (#2444639) Homepage
    ...unless you, the people, fight like grim death against it.

    Here in Australia we had a proposal for the `Australia Card' -- basically the same as this proposal, only not as technologically sophisticated. It was put to the people's vote (referendum or an election issue? I don't remember) and the people's response was to tell the proposers how to fold it into sharp corners, and where to stick it afterwards. That's Ok, though, because then they introduced the Tax File Number, which is a wannabe SSN -- you need it to earn an income (failure to provide a TFN is not illegal, but automatically results in you being taxed at 49.5%), to open a bank account, or just about anywhere else where you are using money in a non-trivial way.

    The TFN was possible because we (the Australian population) had just fought furiously and won against a more draconian scheme, and were tired. Also, this almost slipped under the radar without comment, as the parliament rushed it through with very little debate, in the house or in public.

    This may turn out to be another High Aim Tactic. Ask for something which is absolutely ridiculous, and let yourself be beaten back to what you wanted in the first place. Even if Ellison is serious (surely not...?) his overtures can -- and probably will -- be used by others with the same barrow to push.

    The question is where to draw the line. How much freedom from surveillance do you want? Once you have figured that out, don't settle for one jot less! As soon as you rationalise that `I don't really need to be able to X' and bargain away the right to be able to do so, then you have just lost something precious which you will never get back.

    Of course, things are rarely that simple, and some things are obviously stupid. (Such as, eg, `I demand the right to stockpile Anthrax spores'.) But the apparatchiks will use these examples to persuade you that the right to freely assemble, for example, is just too dangerous for you to have. It will not be put to you like that. It will be that some travel may have to be restricted, or that restrictions based on profiling [Hmm, you have travelled in the middle east, your family name is arabic, and you talk funny...] will be instituted `for the time being'.

    If history teaches us anything, it is that `for the time being' can be translated `for the foreseeable future', and that just means `until it is no longer profitable to do so'.

    Wasn't it a Founding Father who said `the Price of Liberty is Eternal Vigilance'?
  • It is really sad to see the leaders of this country jumping onto any idea any joker out there proposes, especially one who stands to gain much power with his offering.
  • ...if this is some type of way for Oracle/Sun to head off part of Passport's raison d'etre. With a national ID card registry, building services on top of that database would be easier than building against a proprietary .Net architecture.
  • ID Card FAQ (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Has anyone read the FAQ on ID Cards?

    http://www.privacy.org/pi/activities/idcard/idcard _faq.html [privacy.org]
  • by btempleton ( 149110 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2001 @09:34PM (#2444697) Homepage
    The first one's free, little government.

    Click for Larry's Card [templetons.com]

  • Larry Says.. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jcr ( 53032 ) <jcrNO@SPAMmac.com> on Wednesday October 17, 2001 @09:55PM (#2444794) Journal
    ``Wouldn't you feel better if everyone who walked into an airport showed their ID card and put their thumb in the scanner and you knew they were who they said they were?''

    Where in the hell did this asinine premise that perps will behave as long as they've been positively identified come about?

    Well, no. As it happens, the perps who attacked the WTC were NOT travelling incognito. As it happens, I *have* travelled under someone else's name in order to use a return ticket that they didn't need, which was no skin off anyone's nose, and certainly didn't present a danger to my fellow passengers.

    If someone is willing to commit suicide, what in the world makes Ellison imagine that he can be deterred by having his name in a database?

  • the future... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Rinikusu ( 28164 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2001 @09:55PM (#2444796)
    A man is on a train, reading his paper, sipping his coffee. A uniformed man with a gun and badge approaches him.

    "ID card please."

    "Excuse me, sir?"

    "Your ID card please," he repeats with an gleam in his eye.

    "I..I.. I think it's in my wallet, hold on." Man fumbles with his wallet as the uniformed man caresses the butt of his weapon.

    "Ah, yes, this is it." The man hands it over tot he uniformed man, who checks it over.

    "Where are you going, sir?"

    "Well, I don't see how that's any of your business-"

    "EVERYTHING is my business, sir. I'm trying to protect America from terrorists. So, WHERE are you going?"

    "Why, that's preposterous! I don't have to answer that! Ever since Black Tuesday, our freedoms have been taken from us! Why, we used to never have to have our ID cards and an approval stamp to travel across the state!"

    "That's enough of that!" Uniformed man blows his whistle and pulls out his gun.

    "No, people, can't you understand! Help me! Help yourselves! We're being taken over by fascists! Help--"

    The man falls limp. The Uniformed man wipes the butt of his weapon ont he man's shirt, after having used it as a club. The other people in the car pretend not to see anything.

    "Yes sir, God Bless America. These terrorists are just like Pokemon, gotta catch em all."

    Another uniformed man is going through the man's luggage.

    "Hey, Joe, look at this. His laptop runs Linux. Yep, he's a terrorist all right."

  • by SysKoll ( 48967 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2001 @10:43PM (#2444925)

    What is the point in this proposal? Is it to make the country more secure against illegal aliens that might be dormant terrorists? Is it to prevent criminals from usurping other people's ID?

    If these are indeed the goals, then I'd suggest to take a look at developed countries that already have implemented nation-wide ID cards. Namely, Europe. Why, it's fascinating.

    Because you see, illegal immigration is totally out of control in Europe. As for terrorism, Spain (Basque Separatist movements), France (Corsican Separatists, Basques, Muslims), UK (IRA), as well as Greece, Italy and Germany have had severe terrorist attacks in the 1990s in spite of strict ID card policies.

    How come these countries can harbor terrorists in spite of mandatory ID cards, you ask? It's because ID cards are not a silver bullet against crime. First, they can be forged. Always. France recently replaced its obsolete ID card with an embossed, hologramed, specially printed ID card, the deployment of which was a very expensive program. All this achieved was to raise the cost of a fake ID to about 5000FF ($600-700) on the black market. The best forgeries come of course from corrupt officials who fabricated cards with fake IDs using the state-approved machines.

    So unless you have totally non-corrupt officials, all you're going to achieve is put terrorism out of reach of poor students. That's a tempting solution considering what is said in some literature circles after a few vodkas. But I don't think it will be the best one.

    Look at Europe, for Heaven's sake, because they already did all the stupid things before us!

    -- SysKoll
    • by Jordy ( 440 ) <jordan@snocap . c om> on Thursday October 18, 2001 @02:55AM (#2445550) Homepage
      All this achieved was to raise the cost of a fake ID to about 5000FF ($600-700) on the black market. The best forgeries come of course from corrupt officials who fabricated cards with fake IDs using the state-approved machines.

      My goodness... physical security is not a good means of preventing copying. A well run ID system with enough memory on the card to do real cryptographic signatures would provide both security and tracability making forgeries nearly impossible to do.

      A good ID card would contain a very small memory chip on it which contained a cryptographically signed message including the person who issued the ID, expiry time, issue time, distinguishing characteristics and possibly a photograph that was directly linked to a read-only id number embedded on every card to prevent the transfer of the information and signature to another card.

      Information about each applicant would be captured on a machine which generated it's own cryptographic signature to ensure tracability. If in the case of a falsified record being entered into the system, you could expire every single ID card on the back-end and require each applicant to come back in.

      You of course make providing false records a felony in federal courts punishable by a hefty amount of jail time.

      These kinds of cards could eliminate drivers licenses and social security cards and as long as there was no physical printed number on the card itself and the readers for such cards were only issued to specific areas (aiports, police cars, etc), corporate interests would not be able to ask you for the information.

      The only way to forge this particular type of cards requires either cracking the key, social engineering or some level of corruption.

      Cracking the key is unlikely, but the nice thing about a realtime lookup system is you can do things like revoke CA keys and make IDs invalid. You then proceed to stagger the issue of cards with different signing keys so that the number of cards you'd invalidate if worst came to worst would be kept to a minimum.

      Social engineering is a problem, but again, with a nice lookup system you could not ever get two IDs with different names. Once you registered, your biometic information would be checked against a master database to insure you haven't registered before. Obviously, registering under the wrong information the first time would lead to some rather nasty concequences down the road in case you actually wanted to have a life.

      Corruption is a harder problem to deal with, but as stated before, revoking cards is not a problem with this type of system. You also have a nice paper trail which would make corruption very risky. Obviously paying the people who have control over the system well would help immensely.
  • by istartedi ( 132515 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2001 @11:59PM (#2445119) Journal

    It's the sound of the American far right. They're shooting target practice. Maybe Bin Laden was right--we will create more Usamas. It's just that we won't create them in the Middle East. We will create them in our own back yard. Anybody wanna go into the mountains of Wyoming, Idaho, Montanna, and West Virginia to fingerprint them Bible-believin', gun-toten, God-fearen' good-ol boys and give them a number so that they "may neither buy nor sell"? Volunteers? Janet Reno? Anybody?

    Maybe some wealthy Saudis will end up funding our mujahidin. Yes!!! Now it all makes sense. Their plan is for that to happen, so that the Arabs can experience "blow-back". Wow! It's pure genius. Carry on, fellas.

The world is coming to an end--save your buffers!