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« The China syndrome | Main | At whose fingerprints? »

How do these ideas make it through to implementation?

By Dave Birch posted Feb 23 2009 at 9:42 PM

[Dave Birch] In the US, there is something called the Enhanced Drivers Licence (EDL) which is used not primarily as a means to demonstrate someone's entitlement to drive a motor vehicle but as a proxy identity card.

The Smart Card Alliance says it recommends an immediate review of the decision to use EPC Gen 2 RFID technology in US travel documents. “The Alliance is prepared to endorse the correct use of any technology that provides adequate protection of privacy and identity information. However, as the US Passport Card and EDL programmes were being defined, the Smart Card Alliance went on record advising against using an insecure EPC Gen 2 RFID solution that puts the privacy and security of US citizens’ personal information at risk.”

[From Security Document World - Biometrics, Passports, ID Cards and Visas]

Who cares? After all, what does it matter if a fraudster gets hold of your driving licence details. All they can look up is whether you have a licence or not, right?

Still, victims-rights and privacy advocates remain concerned about one important Real ID requirement, which dictates that state DMVs interlink their databases and make all their drivers' records and identity documents available. The final rule says that both an individual's "full legal name" and "true address" must be stored in the DMV database, regardless of what's displayed on the card and encoded on its bar code. It also requires that motor vehicle departments scan and store "source documents," such as birth certificates, to verify a driver's license applicant's identity.

[From Real ID worries domestic violence groups | Tech news blog - CNET News.com]

Hhhmmmm. There may be some interacting unexpected consequences around the collision between identity and entitlement here. This is what happens when you jumble together entirely different concepts under the banner of "common sense".

On a recent edition of the BBC's "Start the Week" programme, science writer Ben Goldacre (who writes the excellent Bad Science) was complaining about the level of public discourse around science and technology in the UK. He said that one of the major problems is that the people who run things on newspapers and magazines are all arts and social science graduates and so they don't understand enough about science to even engage in a discussion about it. Apart from anything else, this leads to a bizarre form of "balance" in the reporting whereby a rocket scientist and a flat-earther are given equal weight when discussing the shape of the earth. But anyway, it led me to think again about the barrier that appears to exist between me and persons in the government.

I wonder if Ben's "arts graduate" theory might also be true of the politicians, civil servants and management consultants who demand and then procure systems such as the EDL? Could it be that one of the barriers to bring digital identity infrastructure to e-business and e-government is just that because some of underlying concepts -- such as pseudonymity, blinding, certificates etc -- are unavoidably technical we simply cannot communicate either the potential or the excitement to the people charged with trying to create a vision around identity.

These opinions are my own (I think) and are presented solely in my capacity as an interested member of the general public [posted with ecto]


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