June 30, 2005

A Hint of Things to Come Here?; and Administrivia

The Independent's entire story has disappeared behind a "purchase-me" link, but enough of it remains as a tease to give an unusually clear view of what the British government is up to with its NID pushing. The article is Ministers plan to sell your ID card details to raise cash, in case anyone wants to buy it. The entire tease is this:
Personal details of all 44 million adults living in Britain could be sold to private companies as part of government attempts to arrest spiralling costs for the new national identity card scheme, set to get the go-ahead this week.

Not surprisingly, the plan -- and the proposed NID -- isn't sitting too well with the Brits. Check out The Independent for followup articles (not all require subscription or payment yet) -- I'd post a few links but they seem to be really bogged down right now.

Administrivia: I'm working on the final stages of moving this site over to a private domain. We're taking this step so that we can expand what we offer visitors (Blogger's nice, but it's a bit limiting). Once the move is complete, I'll post an announcement here to that effect. Thanks for your patience with us. (Oh, and help is always welcome!)

June 23, 2005

Putting the Brakes on Real ID at the State Level?

No Real Bucks for Real ID
The Real ID Act requiring U.S. citizens to carry federally approved identification cards has created a potentially huge, unfunded mandate that is sending shock waves through state governments. State officials are just beginning to comprehend the enormous changes ahead for their motor vehicle departments, which must issue driver's licenses and store personal data in line with new standards developed by the Homeland Security Department.

"It's going to be a major challenge for any state to create a computer system that can grapple with this [legislation]," said Matthew Dunlap, Maine's secretary of state, who oversees the state's motor vehicles bureau. "A lot of states are taking a deep breath and asking, 'What are we up against?"

At a recent discussion group I attended, an idea arose as to how we might leverage this unfunded mandate issue to put the brakes on the Real ID.

Someone pointed out that Real ID is not a done deal- states must pass legislation to come into compliance. This gave me a lot more optimism. It's something of a second chance as far as derailing Real ID. If we could get just one key state not to comply, it could bring the whole deal down. Are politicians who want to get elected again seriously going to tell Californians or Texans that they can't travel? Are airlines really going to sit back and comply meekly if a state with a major hub gets cut off due to refusal to come into compliance?

We need to monitor state-level legislative efforts, most particularly in key states and be ready to holler loud and clear as these laws start being considered. Key states would include those which are perceived as crucial to winning a primary or election, are integral to the airline system such as those with major hubs, and those states which were most resistant to the Patriot Act. If we can get even one key state to refuse to comply, it may be enough to force Congress to reconsider.

June 16, 2005

Another Way Real ID Act Will Make Identity Theft Easier

From a Scripps Howard news story titled In future, driver's licenses may be mailed to you (emphasis mine):
Because DMV officials are going to have to verify the information -- and that process will take some time -- experts predict that most busy DMV offices soon will send licenses and renewals via the U.S. mail, just like most U.S. passports are currently delivered.

Jason King, spokesman for the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, said 42 states currently verify Social Security information on license applications, but no states are verifying birth certificate or other documentation that the Real ID Act requires.

"I think it is fair to say you may not get your license on the day you go to DMV," King said. "It may take DMV some time to do its homework."

King said states haven't yet completed their assessment of the full impact that the Real ID Act will have on their operations, and some changes are awaiting federal regulations, which have yet to be drafted by the Department of Homeland Security.

Ahh yes, "awaiting federal regualations" ... as if things aren't bad enough as is. I already know of people who have to lock mailboxes and take other steps to make sure their mail doesn't get stolen -- can you imagine what mailing out driver's licenses will do to mail theft? And we all know how helpful the USPS (or, as a dear friend of mine calls them, "the Post Awful") is likely to be in handling the problem. This entire article is worth reading; here's just one more bit of information worth emphasizing (emphasis mine):
The Real ID Act says applicants will have to supply DMV offices with documentation of their date of birth, proof of their Social Security number or a document showing they are a legal resident not eligible for Social Security, and a utility bill or other documentation of their residency. People who move will be prohibited from getting a license in their new state of residency until their license in the previous state is canceled.

So that's gonna add more to DMV workloads too. Given how smoothly any bureaucracy works, does anyone want to make any predictions as to the lag time between a person making the request to have a license canceled, and the action actually being taken? What do you think the minimum bribe might be to expedite this service in populous states like New York and California? What happens if you actually drive during that in-between period and have an accident or commit some heinous offense, like speeding, and get stopped?

From an op-ed discovered in yesterday's Fort Wayne (IN) News-Sentinel, titled Steer clear of national ID card (emphasis mine):
The United States continues to hedge closer toward the idea of a national identification card with recently passed legislation.

First came the intelligence reform legislation. Most recently, passage of the REAL ID Act upped the ante.

Both bills contained provisions mandating national regulations for driver's licenses and other forms of identification. ....

Some scenarios -- government officials being able to note your every move by scanning cards from a distance -- sound pretty much like conspiracy theory. But the technology exists, so such changes should not be undertaken lightly.

The initial problem is that driver's licenses have gone far beyond their intended use in society. Driver's licenses are used to board planes, open bank accounts, rent cars, and to prove identity in too wide of a variety of places and situations. So tinkering too much with driver's licenses is the fastest route toward establishing a national identification card.

A not completely unfathomable fear is what will be done with all of the information gathered, some sort of Big Brother national database.

At the very least, too many changes should not be adopted unwittingly. Especially under the misguided premise that making driver's licenses more standard state-to-state will necessarily protect the country from terrorism.

The author seems to sort-of get the point that using a document that was originally intended to show proof of some minimal level of skill at driving as proof of identity has created many problems. Of course, politicians are using this conflation to deny the claims that Real ID is creating a national ID (such as appears in this editorial). And because it appears to be "simply standardizing" driver's license information and requirements across the states, many mainstream Americans seem to be swallowing that line. We've already gotten much too used to showing our papers to transact routine business.

June 15, 2005

Great Real ID Graphic!

I was visiting the Loose Cannon Libertarian for my regular fix, when my still-sleepy brain registered an amusing addition to the animated graphic at the top of the page. Love it!! (And thanks for the link, Garry!)

I've taken the liberty of cropping his artwork, because the ID there is just too good to not be spread further. Here's Garry's version of the Real ID, which is much too truthful to be what the state tries to foist on us:

Garry Reed's Real ID card

Thanks for the much-needed laugh!

June 14, 2005

Fun, Fast Way to Get Some Anti-Real ID Memes Spread

Okay, writing letters to the editor isn't much fun for many people. And writing to politicians? Yeah -- even less fun. How about this as an alternative for spreading anti-NID ideas? Artist Cranks Up No-Name Rants.
"What would you say, given one free minute of anonymous, uncensored speech?"

So asks Ohio State University MFA student Daniel Jolliffe in a thesis project that aims to plumb the nuances of America's attitudes toward free speech in an age of ubiquitous communications. His interactive sculpture and political action piece, One Free Minute, debuted earlier this month, offering anonymous recordings from the telephone-wielding public broadcast at ear-splitting decibels in public spaces.

From the One Free Minute web site:
One Free Minute began as a simple concept: what would happen if the remote speech were connected to public space? Since then it has branched out to be an examination of public speech, an exploration of how cellular technology affects human communication in both negative and positive ways, a hand-made fibreglass sculpture, a web site, a bunch of phone lines, a whole lot of server bandwidth... you get the idea.

The principal intent behind One Free Minute was to investigate how public discourse has been changed by technology. Cellular phones have brought private space into the public realm, metering human interaction in billed-by-the-minute increments. One Free Minute inverts this aspect of cellular technology, using it instead to break the soundscape of public space with unpredictable acts of improvised, anonymous public speech.

Another intent of One Free Minute was to create a tool to facilitate anonymous free speech in public places. Governments everywhere are increasingly vigilant of who is saying what and where: One Free Minute puts a bit of a blur on the 'who' and 'where', meaning, for example, that activists can speak without fear of recrimination when and if necessary.

One Free Minute is also about making art that transcends the narrow confines of art purely destined for the gallery environment. One Free Minute tries instead to take art to the street, turning passive viewers into active participants, allowing them to control the script of the work as much as is possible.

If you're not convinced, browse more of the site yourself ... if you're ready to make that call, the number is 1-614-441-9533. Have fun!

June 12, 2005

Russell Kanning Arrested In Manchester Airport Protest

We mentioned a while back that a protest was in the works in New Hampshire. Here's the latest:

Libertarian Arrested In Manchester Airport Protest
A Keene Libertarian who tried to board a flight carrying nothing but a Bible and a copy of the Declaration of Independence was arrested Saturday at Manchester Airport.

Russell Kanning, 35, was arrested after refusing to comply with security screening procedures and refusing to leave the screening area, according to the Rockingham County sheriff's department. He was charged with criminal trespassing and was being held at the Rockingham County jail.

Kanning's wife, Kat Dillon, said her husband has refused to have his bail posted and will remain in jail until his arraignment Monday. She said sheriff's deputies were very kind in handling the incident.

"He went in with his Bible and his declaration, and when he refused to be patted down and all that, the sheriffs led him off and arrested him," she said in a phone interview Saturday afternoon.

Kanning, an accountant and staunch Libertarian, said last week he hoped his actions would highlight what he considers overly burdensome state intrusion.

"What he was trying to get across is that people need to be able to travel with dignity," said his wife. "They've just gotten to a point where security is ridiculous."

"We want people to think about it: Do you want to give up all your rights and live in a police state?" she said. "I don't think they can make us secure if they're bombing other countries. To be perfectly honest, I'm in far more danger from my own government than from any terrorist."

More if you follow the link. (Anything you want to add, Kat?)

High-Schoolers See Problems with Real ID

Despite all the hurdles public schools present to kids, they still manage to learn. Here's proof, in an op-ed from the Walt Whitman MD High School student paper, Black and White Online. Repeal Real ID Act, allow for personal privacy is quite solid -- here's an excerpt:
Even if the government had the power to keep track of every possibly threatening citizen in the country, this power fundamentally opposes the principles of civil liberty and privacy. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will have unilateral control over the provisions of the Real ID Act that deal with the licenses and it can change the policies of the act without accountability for its actions.

DHS also gains the ability to trample state and local law and will allow the agency to erect physical barriers along the Mexican border. Under the Real ID Act, courts and other branches of government cannot challenge the DHS regarding the lawfulness or necessity of these actions.

There's some hope for the future after all.

June 09, 2005

Action: Let USA Today Know Your Thoughts

Today I came across this editorial by Randall Larsen advocating national identity cards preceded by "privately issued travelers cards" as an interim measure on USA Today's website:

Traveler's card might just pave the way for a national ID card

Among other things, Randall writes:
Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., recently changed his mind. Twenty years ago, as governor of Tennessee, he vetoed a bill requiring photos on driver's licenses. He saw it as a breach of privacy. Today, he is calling for national ID cards — with photos and biometrics.

Why the change?

The reason he and others have changed their minds is that the creation of national ID cards is something akin to medical procedures — they all have risks, but when the risk of inaction becomes greater than the risk of action, action becomes the better choice.

Today, 15 European democracies have national ID cards. The United Kingdom debated the issue for several years after 9/11 and has recently decided to move forward with such a system. Our debate should begin now, and it should begin with these four questions:

1. Does an organization and system exist that can ensure ID credentials are properly issued?

2. Does the technology exist to create IDs that cannot be altered or counterfeited?

3. Can we build an affordable system?

4. Does the public feel secure that such a system would protect privacy?

Today, the answers are: no, yes, yes, no. It is unlikely that the public will support a national identity system until we can obtain four yeses. Is this possible? Absolutely, but much work is needed.

I am confident that several of us take issue with this passage (among others in the article). But if we don't speak up, it's "experts" such as this who will dominate the public discussion. Therefore, I ask that you please take a few minutes to let USA Today (and hopefully many, many others if your letter gets published) know that you disagree by writing a letter to the editor by e-mailing editor@usatoday.com.

Alot of personal information about you is requested. Take note that
1. It is requested, but does not say it is mandatory, and
2. USA Today may use it in accordance with its lack of privacy policy to share it with every Tom, Dick, and Nancy on the planet.

If you believe any of the information in the editorial is inaccurate, you may contact Reader Editor Brent Jones to report corrections at 1-800-872-7073 or e-mail accuracy@usatoday.com.

Please post your letters in the comments section of this thread.

June 08, 2005

Changing the Rules Mid-Game

From Bruce Schneier's excellent security blog comes word that the Justice Department has gutted HIPAA -- the medical privacy act that was passed in 1996. From the New York Times article, Ruling Limits Prosecutions of People Who Violate Law on Privacy of Medical Records (here's BugMeNot if you aren't inclined to register with them):
An authoritative new ruling by the Justice Department sharply limits the government's ability to prosecute people for criminal violations of the law that protects the privacy of medical records.

The criminal penalties, the department said, apply to insurers, doctors, hospitals and other providers - but not necessarily their employees or outsiders who steal personal health data.

In short, the department said, people who work for an entity covered by the federal privacy law are not automatically covered by that law and may not be subject to its criminal penalties ...

As Schneier put it:
This kind of thing is bigger than the security of the healthcare data of Americans. Our administration is trying to collect more data in its attempt to fight terrorism. Part of that is convincing people -- both Americans and foreigners -- that this data will be protected. When we gut privacy protections because they might inconvenience business, we're telling the world that privacy isn't one of our core concerns.

And we should trust these people to keep our biometric and other sensitive information that they want to put into the coming NID secure?!

June 07, 2005

How Much Will Real ID Cost?

Among the many negative features of Real ID is that, of course, we the taxpayers will be soaked to pay for it. But for how much? Here's a glimpse into the debate in North Carolina:

Real ID Act a blow to state DMV budget
Unfunded law will take effect 2008
Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., who sponsored the bill, said he thought it would cost the average state less than $2 million over five years. But Virginia transportation officials estimated it will cost $237 million to comply with the law. And The National Conference of State Legislatures puts the national price tag at up to $750 million.

"We also forecast significant indirect costs [in] personnel that can run this into the billions," said Cheye Calvo, the group's transportation director.

Millions? Billions? Which is it?

And where is that money going to come from?

June 06, 2005

University ID's- Blueprints for Real ID?

Some years back when I attended The University of Arizona, the school implemented new student identification cards with machine-readable chips and magnetic stripes (possibly also a bar code- I can't recall) dubbed the CatCard. Like the Real ID is planned to be, the CatCard was basically an internal passport to University services- picture identification, library card, stored "money" electronically for use in campus restaurants, bank card, pay for parking, recreation center access, use in vending machines and dorm laundry machines, building access, etc...

Among other things, they collected student signatures and photos in a database they were calling a "Datamart". (I got involved after a huge scandal broke about the University having sold student and staff information including Social Security numbers to a local credit union and a national telephone company as part of a deal to implement services from these companies loosely related to the cards from which the University would collect financial kickbacks.) Some of the ideas kicked around by University officials for how the Datamart might be used included giving digital photos to the academic departments for use on their websites (without the permission of the person whose photograph it was) and letting the police browse through pictures indiscriminately when conducting criminal investigations.

Look to these sorts of identification programs at universities and colleges for a glimpse into the potential of the Real ID.

More Foreign Companies Ready to Cash in on Real ID

BlueBear Network Teams with VisionSphere to Target U.S. Real ID Act
BlueBear Network International, Inc (OTC.PK: BLBR) announced today it has extended its exclusive licensing of facial recognition and secure distributed search technology from Ottawa-based VisionSphere Technologies, to offer State motor vehicle agencies the ability to link driver's license databases between all U.S. states, Canada and Mexico -- as proposed by the sweeping REAL ID Act approved by Congress this month.

"The passing of the Real ID Act by Congress earlier this month will enable BlueBear to position itself to be a key technology player in linking driver's license databases throughout North America,'' said Andrew Brewin, President and CEO of BlueBear Network. ``Given that BlueBear is already deploying information sharing systems in Law Enforcement, adding Driver's Licenses is a logical extension.''


VisionSphere Technology has developed technology to securely search multiple biometric databases (Face or Fingerprint). The unique technology uses secure internet connections to link and biometric databases maintained anywhere in the world. BlueBear, as the exclusive licensee, adapts that technology for law enforcement by building applications for forensic identification, background checks and the fight against child exploitation.

Brewin said BlueBear's access to VisionSphere's patent-pending technology will enable it to become a leader in permitting authorized agencies to search state databases biometrically.

"The intention behind the Real ID Act is to ensure individuals getting driver's licenses are who they say they are by mandating improved screening and the linking of state databases,'' Brewin added. BlueBear's use of VisionSphere's technology is the best way to make biometrics collected by each state accessible in a fast, secure and easy to use manner.

More if you follow the link, but the points I found particulary noteworthy here were the emphasis on data sharing between law enforcement and motor vehicles agencies and biometric searching. I think this is a harbinger for a sharp increase in fishing expeditions in criminal investigations.

A Target and a Reply

This brief, vague editorial in the Connellsville Daily Courier (Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh) is the epitome of the simplistic mindset the Real ID Rebellion needs to counter. Here's the entire piece:
If the National Governors Association really wanted illegal immigration reduced and homeland security increased, it would support the Real ID Act of 2005.

This legislation kills two birds with one stone. It requires states to issue more uniform driver's licenses and verify the citizenship or legal status of applicants. States have three years to comply.

Even though some of the 19 hijackers were in this country illegally on 9/11, and even though they had several driver's licenses, the governors' association claims the act would impose unrealistic standards and burdensome verification procedures on the states.

Since the nation's governors think creating national standards and procedures might be beyond them, what does this say about their competence and concern for the survival of the republic?

The states also say the bill is a costly unfunded mandate.

But when passing for American becomes more difficult, illegal aliens are less likely to sneak across the border to overburden state agencies. Or burst into cockpits to blow up buildings.

When did self-preservation become unrealistic and burdensome?

I trust I don't need to elaborate on the many problems in this target-rich mewling, so I'll simply turn to an excellent rejoinder to it: Papiere Bitte by Doris Colmes. The full article is a must-read, but here's a sample to help persuade you:
What I ran away from so desperately in 1938 is coming back full circle. Only the jack-boots have not yet arrived. ....

This ID [mandated by the Real ID Act] will be based on driver's license applications, although it isn't just for driving. Just like the infamous "Internal Passport" of Nazi Germany, no one will need it unless needing to fly, cash checks, apply for jobs, walk the streets, enter federal buildings - or drive. As stated in Time magazine on May 15, 2005, "If you are a wealthy recluse with liquid assets, it doesn't concern you." Everyone else better watch out! Well, maybe that wealthy recluse had better watch out also. After all, he/she might be of a forbidden religion, or of suspicious racial origin.

Legal "ID Theft" and legal "illegal surveillance"? The Real ID Act links driver's licenses of all states, creating a data base including the private details of every single U.S. citizen. It mandates that your driver's license share a common machine-readable digital photo of you, all the better to track your every movement. It hands the federal government unfunded mandate power to dictate what data all states must collect for license holders, including everything from fingerprints to retinal scans. And, if you don't drive, you'll still need to submit to the national ID card. How else, after all, will the cop who doesn't like the shape of your face, or the fact that you are (God Forbid) wearing a turban get to arrest you? Yes, "Papiere Bitte" has come home to roost.

Every newspaper that publishes an op-ed or letter to the editor along the lines of the one above needs to have a flurry of letters in reply that are similar in tone to Doris Colmes' excellent piece.

Unfortunately, the Nazi comparisons have been largely worn out already in some circles, so using that analogy may or may not be successful. But our letters don't have to rely on them -- the chilling facts of what the Real ID Act mandates speak for themselves.

June 04, 2005

House of Representatives' Privacy Policy

Well, well, well. I was looking at Jim Sensenbrenner's website and found something interesting. Scroll to the bottom and click on the link to the House of Representatives' Privacy Policy.

Is he trying to tell us something?

June 02, 2005

Who Do You Trust with Your Information?

A Long Beach Press Telegram editorial highlights something that everyone should think about before unthinkingly giving out any information -- and of course, that means it's especially important if one's still thinking about how far to take the protest of the coming NID. The subtitle of the piece says it all, but I'll quote from Real ID theft: This law could be a boon to thieves:
To feel comfortable with the federal Real ID Act, one would have to believe that tens of thousands of DMV employees and federal workers nationwide are beyond corruption and above the lure of easy money. We just aren't that optimistic.

DMV and federal leaks are just one of several security concerns raised in recent weeks about the federal identification system approved by Congress and President Bush last month. The ID system seems impossible to police effectively, and appears to leave Americans more vulnerable to identity theft, rather than less. ....

Personal security could be breached in one of several ways: through DMV employees, for whom the temptation to make extra money would be ever-present; through federal workers who could also access the system; and when personal information is checked by retailers and sold to data collection companies like ChoicePoint Inc.

As the L.A. Times reported Tuesday, the Real ID legislation contains no data protection provisions, so retailers will have no hurdles and every incentive to sell information to ChoicePoint and other data collection companies. Information databases are breached regularly by identity thieves. ....

Its easy accessibility ought to make every American nervous. A separate bill could prohibit retailers from selling the information, but what about stopping other leaks? At least 11 states have investigated fraud rings at their motor vehicle departments in recent years, and the Real ID would create even more incentive for criminal misuse.

And this massive data-leaking potential doesn't stop at the USSA border. Here's another business-related item, this time involving a Canadian company: BlueBear Network Teams with VisionSphere to Target U.S. Real ID Act. First few paragraphs (emphasis mine):
BlueBear Network International, Inc (Pink Sheets:BLBR) announced today it has extended its exclusive licensing of facial recognition and secure distributed search technology from Ottawa-based VisionSphere Technologies, to offer State motor vehicle agencies the ability to link driver's license databases between all U.S. states, Canada and Mexico -- as proposed by the sweeping REAL ID Act approved by Congress this month.

"The passing of the Real ID Act by Congress earlier this month will enable BlueBear to position itself to be a key technology player in linking driver's license databases throughout North America," said Andrew Brewin, President and CEO of BlueBear Network. "Given that BlueBear is already deploying information sharing systems in Law Enforcement, adding Driver's Licenses is a logical extension."

Here's the web site for BlueBear International, should anyone want more information about the company.

There's a lot I could say to expand on both of these news reports, but for now I'll simply point out that as our information becomes more of a commodity, it's important to be vigilant about every piece of data we give out about ourselves, to whom, and why. I often get funny looks for not giving my ZIP code to store clerks, which tells me that not enough of us are refusing to do so! Why do they need to know anything about where I live when I'm just trying to purchase something from them that doesn't involve shipping?

June 01, 2005

Swiss company WISeKey partners with HP and Microsoft

Security: Wisekey, HP and Microsoft Authenticate Electronic Identity
Security, terrorism, biometrics. To say the least, these concerns were at the heart of intense activity during the last few days. Early in the week, Brussels was receiving the first post-election visit of the US Secretary of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff, who encouraged Europeans to tune their security controls to US methods, to improve the effectiveness of the fight against terrorism. On Friday, at the Hewlett Packard (HP) Innovation Center in Geneva, the international press was invited to a conference that announced the creation of a new National Identification System (NIS) developed jointly by HP, Microsoft and most importantly, Geneva start-up Wisekey.

Even if these events were not truly linked, the fact remains that identity management remains one of the greatest challenges for government. According to a study carried out by the US based company, Morgan Keegan, this market represents approximately US$4.8 billion dollars globally and should reach US$10.7 billion by 2007. In Europe, more than 120 billion Euros have already been invested in the public sector in this area (government, police, Lisbon agenda, etc.); the budget devoted to security has doubled to 70 billion Euros; and 8 billion Euros have been directed to border protection, stated Pascal Detemmerman, HP Vice President of Public Sector, on Friday. "Today's need for secure identification of individuals on national and international levels is such that only an alliance between various partners can guarantee the development of optimal solutions and their success," added Gilles Polin, director of EMEA e-Government solutions Microsoft.

The significance of this is not immediately evident to me. Here is WISeKey's website.

ID News

From the LA Times: Federal ID Act May Be Flawed; and an excellent piece at GovTech: Invasive ID. In case anyone's unclear as to how far this NID will reach, it's spelled out here (emphasis mine):
The broad set of rules, known as the Real ID Act, would require states to issue federally approved electronic identification cards, including drivers' licenses. Licenses and ID cards must include a digital photo and anti-counterfeiting features, such as undefined "machine-readable technology with defined minimum data elements." Radio frequency ID tags or magnetic strips are two examples of machine-readable technology the ID cards could feature.

In addition, states would be required to demand proof of the person's Social Security card and birth certificate before issuing a license. States would also be required to link their license databases if they wished to continue receiving federal funds.

Technically the legislation's requirements aren't mandatory, however, if states don't opt in and use them for issuing drivers' licenses, the licenses would be unacceptable at any federal service or site. Any American without approved identification would be denied access to all federally controlled sites, such as airplanes, trains, national parks, federal courthouses and other places.

Because the new standards aren't mandatory, the legislation doesn't create a national identification system, according to the bill's supporters.

Some good news on the NID front comes from Japan: Juki Net violates privacy rights of unwilling participants: court. According to the story, a right to privacy is granted by Japan's constitution. Juki Net, the government registry, had been putting people's information into it without their consent. Apparently the government was quite surprised to lose the case.

Creating Workarounds for the NID Enablers

Our coverage of Hewlett Packard and Microsoft's involvement in the coming National ID (which I'm going to start abbreviating NID) has gotten a fair amount of attention. Thanks, everyone! Many good comments have been offered, suggesting alternatives to Microsoft and HP products. That's an important step to take, for several reasons:

1] By not supporting these companies, they have fewer profits to plow into the R&D, advertising, and other pushing of their spying stuff onto us (letting them know why you won't buy their products -- with a polite letter, as Kirsten suggests -- is a very good idea too);

2] Your shopping will be consistent with your principles -- no supporting companies whose actions are stealing this country's liberty; and perhaps most important --

3] As the NID progresses, it will be increasingly important to have networks of individuals outside the system to do business with. This can take many forms, and I'm not going to address them now. Thinking now of goods and services that you can offer, that will not feed into the NID enablers or their spy networks, is an excellent idea.

For example, it astonishes me how many individuals think that one "has to" buy a computer pre-assembled at a store like Best Buy or CompUSA. I've never done that; and after the very first computer I owned, I've always had my machines custom built. After a mom & pop type computer store gave me a "Linux compatible" machine that had a Winmodem (definitely not Tux-friendly equipment), I stopped relying on retailers completely. I'm fortunate to have a highly trusted friend who's willing to build my machines for me, with my input. But it isn't that difficult ... and having machines without the Intel spychip inside, etc., will be increasingly important.

Readers with decent tech skills can see the entrepreneurial possibilities here, and doubtless several others that are related. For those who are new to the idea, check out PriceWatch as just one example of a place where one can get great deals on all sorts of tech equipment.

For software, options are growing, even while certain companies try to increase and expand their strangleholds on our computers. Linux is perhaps the most mentioned alternative to Windows, but it still has a significant fear factor for many users. Knoppix offers an excellent way of trying Linux without actually installing anything on one's machine -- just boot from the CD and give different programs a try. I know less about this one, but Ubuntu is billed as "Linux for human beings". And Brad Spangler posted a link to VectorLinux that has me highly intrigued.

And there are operating system alternatives beyond Linux. Apple/Mac is a well-known one -- but I'll admit I don't know what their behind-the-curtain meddling might be like. Other alternatives I know of off the top of my head include BSD (several flavors -- like Linux, they're derived from Unix, but that's the extent of my knowledge) and Solaris. Do some searching on the web for "windows alternatives" or similar phrases, and you'll find a lot more. Yeah, it'll take some legwork, but isn't it worth it not to have a computer that tattles on you or restricts what you can do with your own files?

Other suggestions and ideas are welcome.