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01/27/2005 Archived Entry: "RFIDing visitors"

A disturbing story from ZNet: "The United States is eyeing a controversial tracking technology to aid tightened immigration controls at border crossings to Mexico and Canada. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security plans to begin issuing special identification devices to foreign visitors arriving by foot and by car by July 31, according to a Tuesday announcement from the agency. The devices will contain microchips storing a unique identification code that's linked via government computers to document holders' names, countries of origin, dates of entry and exit, and biometric data. " Why not just tattoo them on the arm?

And lest U.S. Citizens feel neglected by those who want surveillance uber alles...

Privacy advocate and technology commentator Declan McCullagh has distributed an email with the Subject: "Highlights from new bill revamping state drivers licenses." He writes, I managed to get a copy of the bill and have placed it here. A few highlights:

* The law gives the Dept of Homeland Security the power to set requirements for drivers licenses. This is similar to a bill that we discussed last year. An excerpt from a column I wrote about it: "A Senate bill introduced last month in response to the 9/11 Commission's report would give the Department of Homeland Security unfettered power to regulate state drivers' licenses and ID cards. The House version takes a similar approach. Both measures say federal agencies will only accept licenses and ID cards that comply--a requirement that would affect anyone who wants to get a U.S. passport, obtain Social Security benefits, or even wander into a federal courthouse. States would be strong-armed into complying."

* This bill requires "a common machine-readable technology, with defined minimum data elements" and the presentation of a Social Security Number before a license can be issued.

* States get $$$ from the feds if they share their data in a national database that provides "electronic access by a state to information contained in the motor vehicle databases of all other states" that includes "motor vehicle drivers' histories, including motor vehicle violations, suspensions, and points on licenses."

* In another section, the Dept of Homeland Security receives the blanket authority to waive "all laws" that could stand in the way of erecting more barriers at borders.

* Federal immigration law is changed to bar aliens who have "engaged in a terrorist activity" -- they now would be unable to enter the U.S. legally.

* The definition of terrorist activity is broadened (for starters, it includes the PLO). It also covers anyone providing "communications" to an organization the U.S. dislikes. Should ISPs be worried?

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