National ID cards have been an on again, off again, topic in the U.S. There has been a call for them several times over the decades, but Americans routinely reject the idea. In addition it gets complicated because of the state requirements.
Two of the primary reasons government officials have a desire to create national ID cards for citizens in the U.S. are due to problems associated with terrorism and immigration. In this respect there are many advantages to creating a national ID card. However as with all advantages typically come some disadvantages too.
Here are a few of the pros and cons of issuing national ID cards.
- If each citizen in the US carried a standard ID card, when requested by law enforcement, it would be easier to identify legal status or flag anyone who might be associated with a potential terrorist plot.
- Airline boarding would be more efficient and officials screening passengers could quickly verify identities.
- Potential reduction of fraudulent financial activities. An ID card can accompany any purchase and requested by the seller.
- The government and military agencies already use CAC cards which contain a computer chip and this technology makes it easier to verify, identify and give access. Citizens carrying a similar ID card would have an easier time making a positive identification of themselves.
- End racial profiling because all individuals could easily show their card.
- Biometrics would make it harder to fraudulently obtain cards. Cards could not be bought off the street with a photo superimposed.
- Privacy issues are one of the largest concerns associated with national ID cards. It isn't so much the card itself that is an apprehension, but the technology that could potentially be embedded in the cards and the sensitive information it could contain Not to mention security breaches of information.
- Concerns over how the card could evolve to be used for other purposes aside from ID. Technology is moving quickly and convenience is one of the benefits, but can also be a drawback if commercial business and other organizations begin using the ID card the way they did the social security number.
- Fear the card will take the social security card concept a step further and de-humanize people making them walking containers of data.
- Apprehension of medical records and assistance being connected to chip-embedded ID cards.
- Civil rights, control, and surveillance concerns. This includes potential government permission to travel or work.
- Cost of implementing and issuing not only cards, but the creation and maintenance of the associated technologies. This includes the application process and replacing lost or stolen cards and maintaining databases and keeping the information current.
- Questions on whether or not a standardized ID card will deter terrorism. Where there is a will, there is a way to circumvent the system. Birth certificates and other forms of proof can be forged, and once this passes through the system, not much would be done.
There are many pros and cons associated with standardizing and issuing national ID cards in the U.S. While the advantages are pretty obvious, sometimes it takes looking at the entire picture to determine whether or not the effort, resources and costs associated with such a system is worth it.
All states already offer stringent ID systems and those that may be lacking can always step up efforts and make the system more restricted for providing proof of identification before issuing cards.
Another consideration that isn't always discussed is that one bad apple in a group of government card issuers can lead to fraud. How many motor vehicle employees have been arrested over time for allowing cards to go through that shouldn't with false data? This happened in January 2010 in California, and this is not a first for DMV departments across the U.S.
Theoretically couldn't the same thing happen with National IDs?
When looking at it from that respect, national ID cards seem to be a large expense that may or may not thwart illegal immigration or terrorism. Before making a final determination on this issue, all pros and cons should be weighed and the big picture looked at.
If the pros outweigh the cons due to risk factors that may change the tide of thinking, however the security and privacy concerns cannot and should not be ignored in the process.