There's quite a bit of insecurity in the United States about the prospect of biometric identification cards, an issue that finds its roots in the illegal immigration debates between 2004 and 2006. For civil libertarians, the concept of a card containing your fingerprint, medical data, residence information and – potentially – rings an Orwellian bell. Pro-immigrant activist groups feared the card could be used to discriminate against granting new work visas.
Now Congress is again pursuing the issue of a "smart" national ID, pushing the Obama Administration to consider the use of biometric identification as a simpler means for employer verification of residency and legal working status. Organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union are dusting off their talking points in preparation for the fight. With a decidedly left-leaning Congress and White House, the issue seems dead in the water.
But ignoring the possibilities of a digital biometric ID gives the touchy issue short shrift, for a national biometric ID card need not be an Orwellian intrusion into the private lives of Americans, nor does it need to be a major identity theft crisis waiting to happen. In fact, contrary to the arguments of both hard-line conservatives and privacy advocates, national biometric ID's could potentially turn the United States into a better, more efficient place to live. Let's find out why.