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The government will be watching you soon

It’s quite possible that by 2008 everyone in the United States will be required to obtain a new, “real ID.”

That is if President George W. Bush signs the Real ID Act that Congress has already passed.

The “anti-terrorist” bill would require that all citizens carry a high-tech, electronically readable ID card that details their name, age, sex and address. It would be required for anyone to get a job, open a bank account, collect social security or receive any government services. Most likely, these IDs will take the place of drivers’ licenses and it will be up to the Department of Homeland Security to decide whether state-issued licenses meet their new, nation-wide standards.

But really, it goes beyond just the headache that the even longer-than-usual DMV lines would induce.

In order to obtain the ID, four pieces of identification are required, such as a driver’s license, birth certificate, social security card and a bill that has been sent to one’s house. On top of that, with personal information scanned and collected in databases, the threat of identity theft is a serious one. Imagine restaurants and bars (or any other place that might scan your ID for age or identity verification) storing your private information or selling it. We’ve already seen the latter happen with the Internet, where one seemingly innocuous online purchase can mysteriously lead to a host of sales calls or irritating spam.

The bill requires that the ID be machine-readable, but what’s most troubling is that it’s left up to Homeland Security as to whether that’s through a bar code or potentially a radio frequency identification chip, which can be read from afar. Imagine your identity and personal information being silently broadcasted to anyone with the correct reader.

Despite living in a society saturated with technology, we are still a bit suspicious of having the most private of our information scanned and kept in the depths of cyberspace. Or perhaps it is our experience that has taught us to be wary.

Promises of increased security, especially in a period rife with talk of security threats and terrorism, are all too appealing. With a national standard for IDs, airport security could be sure of an ID’s authenticity, rather than dealing with 50 different ones. The question is whether it’s worth the threat. We don’t think so.

Forgive us if we’re unable to trust that the Real ID Act is necessary for our safety during a time when we’re bombarded with news of our government’s grand-scale intelligence failures.

Until we can create technology completely safe from hackers, no one’s personal information should be put at risk. Our fear is not just of private citizens and hackers, but also of the government being able to track our every move. That kind of power was never intended for a government like ours. Last we checked, the U.S. Constitution has been interpreted to grant rights of privacy to its citizens.