544: National ID

A Thousand Things to Talk About
544: National ID

Do you support a national ID system? Why or why not?

Full episode script

By my count of Wikipedia, there are about 85 countries in the world that require some kind of national identity card or document, and another several that have an optional national identification document. There are also a number of countries that do not have a national ID system. It’s a hotly debated issue in may areas, for a number of reasons.

When discussing the idea of a national ID system in the USA, the American Civil Liberties Union outlines five reasons they do not support the idea. Specifically:

  • That a national ID system would not solve the issues that many hope it would. Quote: “It is an impractical and ineffective proposal – a simplistic and naïve attempt to use gee-whiz technology to solve complex social and economic problems.”
  • 2 – that it would be a slippery slope to national monitoring and surveliance.
  • 3 – it would erode privacy by creating a national database of all citizens.
  • 4 – they would be used to track movements within the country of citizens.
  • 5 – it would foster new forms of both harassment and discrimination.

Yet, as Mother Jones author Kevin Drum pointed out,

Most of us already have picture IDs in the form of driver licenses. And nearly all of us have a permanent ID number in the form of a Social Security number. So like it or not, if you’re worried about having tons of information about yourself collected into computerized databases — well, that ship sailed a long time ago. It’s already happened.

Yet just because there IS a social security number equivalent to a national identification number in the United States, does that mean a National ID card is a foregone conclusion? In Forbes, contributor Tarun Wadhwa points out that:

the problems with our broken outdated identity systems run deeply; they cannot be fixed with the “Band-Aid” approach that Washington is so fond of using.  The foundation of our system is built on top of a numbering scheme that was created in the 1930s for an entirely different purpose. Adding strict requirements for a new identity document on top of an already dysfunctional system wouldn’t be anything more than a superficial, political solution. Instead of spending the money to create new government departments to manage, protect, and update the records of over 300 million people, we’d be far better served by modernizing, cleaning, and standardizing the systems and databases that are already in use.

This script may vary from the actual episode transcript.