IDs - Not That Easy: Questions About Nationwide Identity Systems

Article Source: Stephen T. Kent and Lynette I. Millett, eds., Committee on Authentication Technologies and their Privacy Implications, National Research Council, National Academies Press, 2002
Publication Date:
Time to Read: 1 minute read
Written By:


Lynette I. Millett

Search for the full article on Bing



This report looks at proposals to create a national identity card for people in the United States.


Policy Relevance:

A national identity card that was secure against fraud would be costly and technically difficult to create, and should not be done unless a compelling case is made for it.


Key Takeaways:
  • After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, several proposals for national identity systems, a “national ID,” were put forward, perhaps in the hope of help track or monitor individuals to prevent crime.

  • These systems would be costly and have serious implications for privacy. Alternatives should be considered, and a system should only be adopted if a very compelling case can be made for it.

  • A national ID would have to provide much better protection against identity theft than current systems.

  • To resist fraud, a national identity card would need to include biometric data, not just a picture. But setting up such a system would be costly and difficult.

  • Once the goals of a nationwide system were agreed upon, public review with input from all interested groups and communities would be important.



Deirdre K. Mulligan

About Deirdre Mulligan

Deirdre K. Mulligan is a Professor in the School of Information at UC Berkeley, a faculty Director of the Berkeley Center for Law & Technology, a co-organizer of the Algorithmic Fairness & Opacity Working Group, an affiliated faculty on the Hewlett funded Berkeley Center for Long-Term Cybersecurity, and a faculty advisor to the Center for Technology, Society & Policy. Professor Mulligan’s research explores legal and technical means of protecting values such as privacy, freedom of expression, and fairness in emerging technical systems.