Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

January 11, 2006

A national ID card for Australia?

Filed under: International HLS,Privacy and Security — by Christian Beckner on January 11, 2006

Several newspapers in Australia write today about increasing support for a national ID card in the country. The Brisbane Courier-Mail reports on the opposition Labor Party today indicating openness to the idea if it’s implemented with strong oversight and privacy protections:

Plans for a national identity card could receive bipartisan support.

Acting Opposition Leader Jenny Macklin said yesterday Labor would consider supporting the introduction of a national smart card.

“Obviously people have a number of privacy concerns (about the cards) but, if the Government puts forward a serious proposal, we’ll have a look at it,” she said.

And The Australian has two related stories in the last day, one which notes how Attorney General Philip Ruddock is looking for someone to head up a review of the plan, and a second story which discusses how the National Party of Australia, a fierce opponent of a national ID card twenty years ago, have warmed to the plan.

For the record, I’ve been generally open to the consideration of a national ID card, if it can be done in a way that integrates strong privacy protections into the system, and I lament the fact that we haven’t had this kind of serious debate in the United States in the last four years. An open, give-and-take national debate following the parameters of this 2002 National Academy of Sciences study would have moved us closer to understanding the potential benefits and limitations of a national ID card as a homeland security tool from a broad systems perspective, with a focus on threat and vulnerability. And if such analysis determined that there were real security benefits from a national ID card, when weighed against other funding priorities, then we could have intensively researched how to implement that system in a way that strongly protects individual privacy before moving forward.

Instead, we didn’t really have this debate. The result? The REAL ID Act passes in 2005 attached to the FY 2005 supplemental appropriations bill for the Iraq War, without extensive hearings or prior public debate. If Real ID is a “de facto” national ID system, then it’s one of the worst possible forms of one: it’s not likely to deliver the potential security benefits of an integrated system; it doesn’t save money via national-level economies of scale; it has no clear funding stream; and oversight on privacy issues will be difficult in a 50-state stakeholder environment.

Hopefully it’s not too late for a more sensible and strategic outcome on this important question.

Update (1/12): See this AP story today that reinforces my comments on Real ID.

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5 Comments »

103

Pingback by Homeland Security Watch » Blog Archive » Sec. Chertoff talks about future ID cards

January 19, 2006 @ 1:28 am

[...] I wouldn’t be surprised if these quotes cause a minor furor over the next few days, in spite of Sec. Chertoff’s denial about the government’s intent. But hopefully this will spark a constructive debate on the question of a national ID card, not cheap shots and fearmongering. This is a debate that we should be having, as I argued in this post last week: studying the potential benefits and limitations of a national ID card as a homeland security tool from a broad systems perspective, and researching ways to integrate the highest possible degree of privacy protections into the system. [...]

168

Pingback by Homeland Security Watch » Blog Archive » A REAL ID Act update

January 31, 2006 @ 4:13 pm

[...] DHS needs to establish a timeline very soon if it’s going to meet the deadlines set forth by Congress. Or even better, it should engage in a dialogue with Rep. Sensenbrenner and other key congressional stakeholders on alternatives to Real ID that would address the main security requirements of identification in a more cost-effective manner. As I wrote several weeks ago: If Real ID is a “de facto” national ID system, then it’s one of the worst possible forms of one: it’s not likely to deliver the potential security benefits of an integrated system; it doesn’t save money via national-level economies of scale; it has no clear funding stream; and oversight on privacy issues will be difficult in a 50-state stakeholder environment. [...]

788

Comment by Swagy

April 27, 2006 @ 2:39 pm

For the record I think it is a bad idea, I for one do not trust any government enough to responsibly use the power that a national id system would give them.

Pingback by Homeland Security Watch » Blog Archive » NYT: states face Real ID Act challenges

May 8, 2006 @ 8:31 pm

[...] The report by NGA, NSCL, and AAMVA mentioned in the story is available at this link. I agree with their assessment of the challenges of implementing Real ID, and it reinforces my belief that we might as well establish a national ID card instead of implementing Real ID, since the latter has all of the costs of a national ID card and few of its benefits. As I wrote a few months ago: If Real ID is a “de facto” national ID system, then it’s one of the worst possible forms of one: it’s not likely to deliver the potential security benefits of an integrated system; it doesn’t save money via national-level economies of scale; it has no clear funding stream; and oversight on privacy issues will be difficult in a 50-state stakeholder environment. [...]

Pingback by Homeland Security Watch » Real ID cost: $11 billion over 5 years

September 22, 2006 @ 6:32 pm

[...] I’ve written in the past that REAL ID is a bad idea, arguing that: If Real ID is a “de facto” national ID system, then it’s one of the worst possible forms of one: it’s not likely to deliver the potential security benefits of an integrated system; it doesn’t save money via national-level economies of scale; it has no clear funding stream; and oversight on privacy issues will be difficult in a 50-state stakeholder environment. [...]

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