Objections to the National ID Card Asked and Answered

By: Danielle E. Huntley, Esq.  

There are two primary objections raised when discussion of a national biometric ID card is raised. The first is that it will drive the undocumented further underground, and the second is that it is too severe a privacy invasion.


The first objection, that a national ID card will drive the undocumented further underground is valid to a point, but I do not think it is anymore valid than claiming that driver’s licenses drive non-licensed drivers further underground. To drive in the United States you need a license, and it is relatively simple for an officer to check the validity of that license. To work in the United States we need a similar way for employers to efficiently check the identity of an employee and whether they are authorized to work in the United States. Without a simple, efficient and accurate system in place to check the work eligibility of prospective employees, a void is created that enables unscrupulous employers to exploit the undocumented, and incentivizes those looking for work to come to the United States and be at the mercy of those same employers.


The second objection is weightier because the Federal Government would have unique biometric data from U.S. Citizens (NB - USCIS already has biometric data from legal permanent residents). I think the best way to overcome this legitimate fear, is to think of all of the data that the Federal Government has on each of us right now, and that we have no way to restrict or control its dissemination in a secure way. Biometrics, if done right, could provide that security. The goal of a biometric national ID card would not be the capture of an individual’s entire life story or entire biometric profile, but just enough information to prove that you are who you say you are.


Additionally, the entity that holds the national ID card’s biometric data would need to treat that data like the IRS treats tax and financial information in its custody. For example, let’s say that the FBI is investigating an individual for suspected money laundering. The FBI cannot simply access IRS records and examine that individual’s tax returns and other financial disclosures. By statute, the FBI would need a court order to compel the IRS to disclose the financial information it has in its custody. Similar, strong non-disclosure laws would be important to protect biometric data collected for a national ID card.


Next up employer sanctions…