Prove who you are!

December 19, 2007 at 1:00 am 4 comments

Kim photoLeading up to Christmas, there’s a lot of privacy reports and privacy related news. I’ll try to bring as much as I can to you before we totter off into the greatest display of contemporary society’s obsession with materialistic goods – the Christmas shopping and gift giving period.

But let’s start off with the Department of Invasion into Your Personal Life, sorry, I mean Department of Homeland Security. DHS has decided that whacking two of your fingers into ink to obtain fingerprints isn’t enough. Nope. The DHS is now collecting scans of 10 fingerprints from foreign travellers entering the US at Dulles International Airport. The 10-print system will extend to all other airports in the US in 2008 through which foreigners can enter the US. The DHS is very proud of its biometric technology:

We rely on biometrics, unique physical characteristics like fingerprints, to keep dangerous people out of the United States and at the same time to keep the lines moving so that travel is fast and convenient for legitimate citizens and visitors“.

Mmmm…perhaps they should do some research because it’s pretty well known there are major flaws in biometric technology, particularly when it comes to fingerprint scans. Nine out of ten commercial scanners can be “tricked” by fake fingers for example.

Astutely, the DHS realises that the 10-point scanning system might be a barrier to entry. To overcome this, they might want to come up with a smart advertising campaign to lure us to visit the US. Here’s a great campaign they could use.

Similar stupidity is displayed by DHS’s escalated attempts to get you to prove who you are. A Delaware Online journal article brings us news of two instances where domestic US citizens had to go through hoops to prove their identity. There’s a small fishing village in the Florida panhandle. There are only a few hundred residents and there’s no postal service. Everyone has a post office box and the postmistress knows everyone by name (shock, gasp: you mean the feeling of being in a community still exists??). But the DHS seems to think these people are a pretty suspicious bunch because they’ve all received letters from the DHS saying they have to comply with DHS regulations and identify themselves within 10 days.

The DHS will not accept social security cards or birth certificates as forms of identification. What the?? Are we now living in a world where a birth certificate is no longer a valid form of ID?? The hapless Florida residents have to cough up two forms of ID and they are also required to provide a list of anyone who might receive mail in that post office box and supply identification for them as well. Hello?? Intrusion and snooping into people’s private lives DHS!!

I’m not sure how much more absurd this whole US national security thing can get. Any expectations of privacy that US citizens (and increasingly the rest of us) may have are going down the gurgler as the DHS and US Government seek to track and control. Not only will people (like me) refuse to step foot in the US; the US runs the high risk of becoming increasingly isolated.


Entry filed under: Airport security, Privacy, Surveillance society. Tags: .

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Brad  |  December 19, 2007 at 11:49 pm


    The whole entry business into the USA is getting to the point that tourists and conference attendees will think twice about bothering to go if they have to put up with all these invasive procedures. And, there’s no real guarantee as to what the US government will do with the biometric info they have down the track.

    I have been pondering registering for a conference in the US next year but all this DHS stuff makes me think it will be easier and more friendly to go to a similar conference in Europe instead.

  • 2. thinkingshift  |  December 20, 2007 at 12:15 am

    Totally agree Brad. A number of music groups, ballet companies, orchestras etc – I’ve been reading that they are not going to bother tangling with the US immigration procedures and are staying in Europe or going to Asia instead. A KM conference in Europe sounds a whole lot better to me!

  • 3. Josh  |  January 2, 2008 at 1:53 am

    I agree with you both – it’s dangerous to allow such a violent and evil government like the USA access to our biometric information.

    In saying that, my wife and I are planning to go to LA this year and I’ve not got any real fears about entering the country.


  • 4. thinkingshift  |  January 2, 2008 at 2:04 am

    welcome back to ThinkingShift Josh. I’m intrigued – if you’re concerned about collection of biometric data by the US authorities: (a) why are you going to the US at all?; and (b) why are you not worried about what will happen with the data?


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