Peter Swire & Cassandra Butts, The ID Divide

Peter Swire & Cassandra Butts, The ID Divide

Comment by:

PLSC 2008

Workshop draft abstract:

This report examines how a next Administration should approach the complex issues of authentication and identification, for issues including: national and homeland security; immigration; voting; electronic medical records; computer security; and privacy and civil liberties.  For many reasons, the number of ID checks in American life has climbed sharply in recent years.  The result, we conclude, is what we call the “ID Divide.”

The ID Divide is similar to the “Digital Divide” that exists for access to computers and the Internet.  The Digital Divide matters because those who lack computing lose numerous opportunities for education, commerce, and participation in civic and community affairs.  Today, millions of Americans lack official identification, suffer from identity theft, are improperly placed on watch lists, or otherwise face burdens when asked for identification.  The problems of these uncredentialed people are largely invisible to credentialed Americans, many of whom have a wallet full of proofs of identity.  Yet those on the wrong side of the ID Divide are finding themselves squeezed out of many parts of daily life, including finding a job, opening a bank account, flying on an airplane, and even exercising the right to vote.

Part I of this report describes the background of the issue, including the sharp rise in recent years in how often Americans are asked for proof of identity.  Part II examines the facts of the ID Divide in detail.  There are at least four important types of problems under the ID Divide:

  1. Large population affected by identity theft and data breaches.
  2. Growing effects of watch lists.
  3. Specific groups disproportionately lack IDs today.
  4. The effects of stricter ID and matching requirements.

Part III develops Progressive Principles for Identification Systems.  These principles apply at two stages: (1) whether to create the system at all; and (2) if so, how to do it:

  1. Achieve real security or other goals.
  2. Accuracy.
  3. Inclusion.
  4. Fairness/equality.
  5. Effective redress mechanisms.
  6. Equitable financing for systems.

Part IV explains a “due diligence” process for considering and implementing identification systems, and examines biometrics and other key technical issues.  Part V applies the progressive principles and due diligence insights to two current examples of identification programs, photo ID for voting and the Transportation Worker Identification Card.