Thursday, October 04, 2007

National I.D. Debate

Rewrites of Jottings: National I.D. Debate

28 January 1997
The dispute over the Identification (I.D.) System issue raging nationwide makes interesting reading. When we wrote about the topic (Identification information, Mindanao Post, 24 Dec 1996), we had no inkling of the impetus and determination (it was signed 12 Dec 1996) driving the concept that finally emerged on 9 January 1997 in the form of Administrative Order 308.
The uproar raised by the announcement was not unexpected. We did warn that there was opposition to the issue, and that drawing up implementing guidelines would not be easy, which now seems to be confirmed by the scramble to redraft the E.O. wording.
We are not inclined to join the fray and side with either of the two camps (critics vs. supporters). However, should a computer-based ID System eventually be established, we would urge a demand for safeguards against the hocus-pocus that the system will attract.
When Big Blue (IBM) started dominating the computer industry, the expression “garbage in, garbage out” was coined. Data entry at the time used punch cards. The point was driven home with ubiquitous wall signs carrying the provocative word “THINK”.
The “garbage” dictum is as apt today as it was then, maybe more so now, with so many bright minds manipulating computer data, some maliciously.
The danger to the ID system lies at the input stage – the authentication of entries on the dossier (call it what you may, but this is the precise description). Since data entry points will be numerous throughout the country (a centralized system like LTO’s driver’s licensing is too cumbersome), the network must be made foolproof, a Herculean task. At this stage, a method must be devised to guarantee that only one discreet and unique dossier is made for each person, even if that person attempts to enroll/apply at several places in the country.
Digital systems, such as bar codes similar to the Universal Product Code (UPC) used by supermarkets and the magnetic keycards used by advanced hotels, cannot be this guardian. Only analog methods that record an individual’s unique characteristics and features will do ─ fingerprints read by the Automated Fingerprint Identification System, the eye blood vessel pattern read by the Eye Identifier, and security printing used in money. All three combined assures maximum security. Embedded microchips as in Smart cards may be useful but would pose questions of economy and utility.
The next precaution phase would be the revision/update stage. The plastic ID card could be lost and has to be replaced – the point where data entry could be manipulated (tampered). The photo on the ID would have to be updated periodically, again requiring complete replacement, and shredding of the old card (viewed by witnesses, just like in the burning of prohibited drugs).
Forewarned is forearmed.

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