Blog of Rights

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Who Loves Real ID? AOL, Microsoft and Yahoo Do.

By Noam Biale at 9:45am
The federal Real ID Act doesn't have many friends these days. Eighteen states have passed legislation rejecting the law, Congress has refused to put any money into implementing it, and just this week New York Gov. Elliot Spitzer announced he, not the Feds, would determine New York's drivers license policy, with officials in his administration indicating the state might opt out of the Real ID program altogether. The few remaining cheerleaders for this national ID system, which promises to be a nightmare for privacy and identity security, have resorted to classic doublespeak to try to salvage Real ID's reputation. On the Department of Homeland Security blog Wednesday, Secretary Michael Chertoff claims Real ID would actually protect privacy. ("War is Peace" and "Freedom is Slavery" will be the subjects of future blogs.) Chertoff isn't completely alone though. The Information Technology Association of America (ITAA) sent a letter to Congress this week begging for more federal funding for Real ID. Why would an organization, whose membership includes AOL, Microsoft, Verizon and Yahoo, support a national ID card? For the answer, let's employ that fundamental adage of Washington politics: Follow the money. Also included in the ITAA membership list are Digimarc and Northrop Grumman, companies that specialize in creating high-tech ID cards, as well as Choicepoint and LexisNexis, data brokers that make their money selling personal information about you to advertisers and the government. These companies stand to make millions in contracts from states who are struggling with a federal mandate to overhaul their licensing systems and share more data by the May 2008 deadline (now widely viewed as impossible to meet). But there's one small problem: The American people don't want a national ID card, and polling has shown they don't trust the private sector not to harvest their data once it's collected in a national database. So what are the Department of Homeland Security and the ITAA to do? Well, Digimarc invited a group of state DMV bureaucrats to Washington this week (as Jim Harper pointed out, that's a good way to get around those pesky elected officials who oppose Real ID) in order to answer that very question. Their answer? It's all about PR, baby. In a panel on "Bringing Your Public On Board," participants discussed how to give Real ID a facelift. According to CNET's, one panelist even suggested that states use their homeland security grants - the ones that are supposed to go to counterterrorism, disaster response and infrastructure (read: bridge) safety - to take out paid advertising. Real ID is so unpopular because in addition to being a $23 billion unfunded mandate, it will build a vast national database of personal information, expose us to a greater risk of identity theft, and move us ever closer to a total surveillance society. Spending our homeland security money on spin definitely isn't the way to fix it. Instead Congress should scrap Real ID altogether and replace it with a real plan for identity security that protects privacy. And if you don't like companies you do business with pushing a national ID and increased identity theft, pick up the phone and let them know.

Fawlty Powers

By Noam Biale at 1:46pm

Reports last summer indicated that the Brits were considering plans to store information on every phone call, email and text message sent in the UK. The proposed legislation, part of a package of amendments to the already-seriously-terrifying Regulation…

Privacy is Not Partisan

By Noam Biale at 5:06pm

The recent hacking of Gov. Sarah Palin’s email accounts is the latest in a series of events that show how urgently we need better privacy protections in this country – and that privacy is an issue that transcends partisan politics.

Surveillance Society: Stepping Back from the Precipice

By Noam Biale at 4:58pm

If you’re like me, you measure the passage of time by your annual celebration of Constitution Day. Personally, I look forward all year to decorating the Tree of Liberty and lighting the Nation of Laws, Not Menorah.

Still, it’s hard not to look upon this year’s Constitution Day — our last under the presidency of George W. Bush — and not get a little wistful. As some popular musicians once said, “What a long, strange trip it’s been.” For those of us who care about the Constitution, that pretty well sums up the last eight years. The trip has certainly been long.

What's on Jim Carafano's Laptop?

By Noam Biale at 3:47pm

He doesn't mind you knowing. In fact, he thinks it would be totally reasonable for you to seize and copy the contents, provided you're a government official and he's crossing the border.

In recent testimony, and in an article in yesterday's…

Policy Debate Game, Set, Match

By Noam Biale at 1:31pm

It may not quite be the French Open, but James Carafano of the Heritage Foundation and I have been discussing the pros and cons of the virtual fence in a series of recent blogs. At least I thought that was what we were discussing. In his most recent…

J’accuse, Heritage!

By Noam Biale at 1:56pm

My post highlighting the privacy problems and massive cost of the virtual fence appears to have touched a nerve at the Heritage Foundation. Dr. James Carafano, who has been blogging from the border for the last week, wrote yesterday, “I don’t…

Something in the Water at the Heritage Foundation?

By Noam Biale at 4:37pm
James Carafano has been blogging on the Heritage Foundation’s “The Foundry” this week on his trip to our southern border. Carafano has been mighty impressed with all the potential benefits of increased border security. Specifically,…

No Real ID in Alaska

By Noam Biale at 5:05pm

The battle over Real ID — the Bush Administration’s backdoor national ID card — has been getting quieter in the last few weeks, but is by no means cooling down.

First, the statutory deadline for all states to comply with…

New Plan for Protecting Genetic Privacy: Don't Get Arrested.

By Noam Biale at 8:41am
(Also, don't be an immigrant.)

A few weeks ago, the Justice Department quietly released proposed regulations that would permit the collection and permanent retention of DNA from anyone arrested for a federal crime, or any non-U.S. person detained…

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