American Madness

Intelligent Criticism in the Service of a Better Nation

Identifying the Dangers

Posted by Matt Cipriano | No Comments

Vermont and Washington are all set to be the first states to issue RFID (Radio Frequency Identification Chip) enhanced driver’s licenses. The programs and technology are in place in both states and plans are set to start churning them out in 2008.

The idea behind the RFID license would be to make border crossing easier between our neighbors to the North and South. No longer would you need to carry your passport with you to enter Canada or Mexico, but rather all you would need is your license (like it used to be before 2001). Seems like a nice idea to make life just that much easier.

And, of course, with new technologies come new concerns. Folks are worried that the RFID technology, which works using radio waves, would allow for people to easily be targeted and to have their stored license information and ID number accessible to anyone with the appropriate hardware.

“If you were standing in a supermarket and 50 people had Vermont drivers’ licenses with the border-crossing technology in it, you could wave a reader in the middle of the room and pick up a whole bunch of numbers,” said Randy Vanderhoff, executive director of the Smart Card Alliance, a trade group pushing for what he says is an alternative, more secure technology already in use in U.S. passports.

To which supports are pretty much responding: “So what?” since there are no specific security concerns revolving around the information and no specific uses for the information once captured. The article goes on to say:

Vanderhoff couldn’t point to any specific potential misuses of the technology.
“I’m tapping in to the emotion of those people who are sensitive to their rights to privacy,” Vanderhoff said. “Do you mind that someone can electronically monitor your whereabouts for whatever reason they may choose to?”

Of course, Vanderhoff isn’t suggesting that we shouldn’t have a chip in our licenses.

The arguments on both sides are kind of compelling. People should not be able to gain access to your information, at the same time even if they do there is no actual usage for that information so what does it matter? The idea is just to make border crossing easier; Border crossing guards would be able to pull up your information before you approached their window so that there would be less of a hold up in getting you through the border.

Though Vanderhoff recommends a “better” technology that is currently used in passports (and why not?), right now things are set to go through as they are. Of course, if you don’t feel comfortable with Big Brother The Government knowing your every move, you can simply opt out of the license program and use your passport to cross the border.


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