Real ID Biometrics in Immigration Bill

I’ve got two ginormous issues with the report that the Immigration Bill includes a measure that would require the creation of a “photo tool” database to verify status before employment.

The immigration reform measure the Senate began debating yesterday would create a national biometric database of virtually every adult in the U.S., in what privacy groups fear could be the first step to a ubiquitous national identification system.

Buried in the more than 800 pages of the bipartisan legislation (.pdf)  is language mandating the creation of the innocuously-named “photo tool,” 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.

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

First, this would accomplish precisely what Real ID would accomplish, but less.

I’ve long believed we were going to go to Real ID in any case. I’ve also long believed that we ought to change the politics of such a discussion by proposing that along with Real ID, we also get universal registration. The authoritarians would thus have a choice: give up their efforts to disenfranchise the poor via voter ID and track employment, or lose both.

I’m guessing it’d present quite a dilemma for the authoritarians.

But to learn a bipartisan bill is basically ceding on real ID without using it to foster democracy?

My other problem has to do with the certainty that this would be turned into a counterterrorism tool. Recall that last year, John Brennan decided protecting US person data was just too tough, so National Counterterrorism Center would have to have access to any federal database that NCTC deemed to have terrorism information.

I think it highly likely that NCTC would deem a database of all Americans to contain terrorist information.

Therefore, we should assume that whatever else this database is supposed to do, it would also mean that the faces of innocent Americans would start getting included in the data analysis of potential terrorists.

Mind you, the authorities claim (though I’m not convinced) that they weren’t able to ID the Tsarnaev brothers with all the images they had of them at the Boston Marathon. Maybe the technology sucks (again, not convinced).

But that doesn’t stop the inclusion of all Americans in the dataset of possible terrorist mugshots from being an invitation for witch hunts.

4 replies
  1. orionATL says:

    The big problem with all the “security” measure since sept 2001 is that they can and they unquestionably will be used against opponents of those in power in the u.s. and against dissidents who believe parts of the government process should be changed.

    Some of the most important rights granted citizens by the first ten amendments to our constitution were placed there specifically to protect citizens who wished to change the government from its contemporary path.

    Those who wrote and enacted our constitution had centuries of authoritarian, capricious english monarchical political history to guide them.

    Democracy is not useful just because “everyone” (all social classes) gets to vote, but because it permits the replacement of a harmful ruling group – precisely what we have now in the current federal and state governments with the two dysfunctional political parties.

  2. klynn says:

    EFF will have quite a bit to say about this. I will say, I have a third ginormous issue with this, ID theft. As an ID theft victim, with my data stolen from a data base, I think this is just plain stupid and lacks no desire to protect citizen’s identity. Tragic to even read about this being considered when it is hackable data bases like this that give terrorists access to identities for their own use.

    And if someone is going to tell me, “It’s totally safe.” Go look at the data from the EFF.

    And, read this:

  3. BeatTheChip says:

    I’ve realized that Statists are not necessarily at enmity with national identity programs. What’s unfortunate about the way the United States performs its bureaucratic application of Real ID are the US citizens left without basic travel privileges. I tend to use Florida as an example for Real ID because they adopted most all of the regulatory standards. According to local reports, 80% of drivers license applicants are turned away at the DMV window due to Real ID. Whether or not they are in a database becomes (kind of) a sidebar to living in a large tourism State with no one to drive the KISS FM 107.8 van to promotions. We are talking a lot of business afflictions, Disney World’s costumed Mickey Mouse greeters, the waiters at Fuddruckers, Ron Jon’s Head Shop employees, the Senior Living attendants, Publix deli attendants, Orkin giant pest exterminators- all facing trouble getting to work in a motor vehicle – legally. Residents facing a now constant choice of being illegal drivers or being denied basic things like, alcohol and nightclub entry, as an adult upwards of 21 in a college town. These are the people who hate Real ID. Not because of national databases but because of vile, self-important licensing nazis who want a systemic tax to make a living. If you need democracy, great, but document proponents are going to get a really hard time from The *Actual* People vs. the People Who Think They Know What’s Best for The People. Fold in the angry dirty plebeans trying to get out at the airport via TSA regulations and its a party.

  4. Bill Michtom says:

    “I think it highly likely that NCTC would deem a database of all Americans to contain terrorist information.”

    Marcy, this is an incomplete sentence. Deem the database what?


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