Australia Internet filtering a test case for global clean-feed
Implementation of the Australian Federal Government’s ISP-level filtering could spark worldwide adoption of Internet content filtering, according to IDC head telecommunications analyst, David Cannon.
Australia's Minister for Broadband, Senator Stephen Conroy, released the long-awaited Internet filter trial report yesterday and announced the Government’s plan to introduce a mandatory ISP-level filtering legislation to Parliament.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if most other governments head down this path in the not-to-distant future,” Cannon said. “If this is implemented in Australia and is done successfully, it would be a good case for other countries with much larger populations and broadband access to start looking at it.”
Cannon criticised the unbridled nature of the Internet, claiming existing regulations were too lax. He saw online content control as an inexorable and necessary outcome.
“At this point in time, it’s just too open, free-flowing and too uncontrollable for any of the existing formalities website owners adhere to,” he said. “When a website warns you of content intended for adults, you can just click right through it.
“Anybody that has a good understanding of how the Internet works would agree there needs to be some sort of governance in terms of rules around how the Internet should work and what types of information is ultimately available online.”
While wary of Australia becoming the next “Great Firewall”, like China’s stringent Internet censorship regime, Cannon claimed the ISP filtering plan would be dictated by society and less so by Government.
“I believe there is going to be a collective agreement around the filter and it’s ultimately something that will be governed by the moral standards of society and trying to find a balance with free speech activists,” he said. “Trying some sort of balance is the key issue at hand.”
Despite the storm of controversy the Internet filter trial cause when it was first announced, Cannon was confident the proposed legislation would sit favourably with most consumers. He pointed to a number of ISPs that have stepped out in support of the content filter as well as iiNet, which had dismissed the filter trial as a “waste of taxpayers’ money” before doing a backflip.
“It is a palatable thing and I think the majority of users in Australia, particularly those that pay the bills – mums and dads – will agree with that,” Cannon said.
What is the 'Clean Feed'?
The Australian Federal Government is pushing forward with a plan to force Internet Service Providers [ISPs] to censor the Internet for all Australians. This plan will waste tens of millions of taxpayer dollars and will not make anyone safer.
The filter will do almost nothing to prevent the people who are willfully making, trading, and accessing child sexual abuse material. This type of material is not distributed in the open and we need to fund police to continue to infiltrate and prosecute the groups of people responsible for creating and distributing such material.
The filter will not prevent children from accessing inappropriate material. The proposed category of censored sites will not be wide enough to provide assurances to parents. Parents will be much better served by installing one of the many voluntary filters that are currently available and ensuring that their children are adequately supervised and aware of risks they may face online.
The list of material to be banned includes much more than child sexual abuse material. The category of material that has been 'refused classification' includes websites about euthanasia, controversial movies such as 'Ken Park' and 'Baise-moi', and many games that are designed for people over 16 years of age.
Despite being almost universally condemned by the public, ISPs, State Governments, Media and censorship experts, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy is determined to force this filter into your home.
EFA Filtering Fact Sheets
Get an overview of the scheme by checking out EFA's Filtering Fact Sheets.
http://www.efa.org.au/mandatory-interne ... ct-sheets/
What is the Government's plan?
Minister Conroy has announced that he will introduce “mandatory ISP-level filtering of Refused Classification (RC) –rated content.”1
◦The filter will be based on URL filtering of a blacklist of between 1,000 and 10,000 URLs.
◦The list of URLs will be based on the current ACMA blacklist, and will be supplemented by lists from international organisations (probably IWF).
◦RC computer games will be excluded from mandatory filtering until the completion of the R18+ review.
◦Additional funding will be available to encourage ISPs to offer voluntary filtering systems.
Filtering will not inhibit the access of people determined to create, distribute or receive child sexual abuse material
The proposed filter will only filter unencrypted web (HTTP) traffic. Not only will it be trivial to circumvent by those who want to, but it will not be able to stop the distribution of illegal child sexual abuse material on encrypted peer-to-peer networks, where the greatest majority such material is traded.
In order to address concerns about the sexual exploitation of children, greater investment is required in police investigations who are able to infiltrate the secretive groups where this child sexual abuse material is distributed and charge those who are creating and sharing this material.
Mandatory filtering will not protect children from inappropriate content
The list of URLs that will be filtered is only a tiny fraction of the material on the internet that may be considered harmful to children. A mandatory filter cannot address the bulk of inappropriate content, and the government is not in a position to determine what each parent believes to be suitable or not for their individual children.
The biggest risks that children face online are not the risk of exposure to inappropriate content, but the risk of inappropriate contact with others. In order to protect children online, we propose the following measures:
◦greater education for parents about the availability of voluntary filtering systems that can be tailored to block a much larger range of material;
◦greater education for parents and children about the risks that children face online, and how to address those risks.
Material that is 'refused classification' (RC) includes much more than child sexual abuse material
Only 18% of the URLs on the current blacklist contain child sexual abuse material (212 of the 1,175 URLs). The rest of the material is X18+ content (41%), R18+ content (5%), and 'other' (a whopping 36%). See libertus.net's breakdown for more information.
The National Classification Code defines what material is to be Refused Classification in Australia. The code states that the Classification Board must refuse to classify films, publications, and computer games that:
(a) describe, depict, express or otherwise deal
with matters of sex, drug misuse or addiction,
crime, cruelty, violence or revolting or
abhorrent phenomena in such a way that they
offend against the standards of morality,
decency and propriety generally accepted by
reasonable adults to the extent that they
should not be classified; or
(b) describe or depict in a way that is likely to
cause offence to a reasonable adult, a person
who is, or appears to be, a child under 18
(whether the person is engaged in sexual
activity or not); or
(c) promote, incite or instruct in matters of
crime or violence
The code additionally states that all computer games that are unsuitable for a minor to see or to play are to be refused classification.
The only material that is illegal to possess in Australia is child sexual abuse material.
In all states and territories except for Western Australia and certain prescribed areas of the Northern Territory, it is legal for adults to view and own material that has been refused classification. Australia's classification regime has always been about empowering adults to make appropriate choices and restricting only the public sale and demonstration of RC material. The filter, however, will attempt to prevent all Australians from accessing, rather than selling, prohibited material.
The list of material that will be banned under a mandatory filter is much broader than illegal child sexual abuse material. Based on previous decisions of the Classification Board, it includes:
◦Information about euthanasia;
◦Movies such as Ken Park or Baise-Moi;
◦Books such as Join the Caravan and Defence of the Muslim Lands
◦Many, many computer games, because Australia lacks an R18+ rating, although the filter will not immediately ban such games.
Items that have been banned because they 'promote, incite or instruct in matters of crime or violence' include things such as:
◦A satirical article title "The Art of Shoplifting" in a student newspaper (see libertus.net's summary of the case).
◦A computer game that features "an amateur graffiti artist [...] who uses graffiti and tagging as a way to protest the corrupt Dystopic city of New Radius, in a future world where freedom of expression is suppressed by a tyrannical, Orwellian city government" (wikipedia) because it "provided elements of promotion of the crime of graffiti." (see libertus.net's summary of the decision).
Outstanding technical issues
The clean-feed, if attempted, will be a technical disaster. The Internet does not work in a manner that would let a filter be effective, and the World Wide Web contains far more content than could ever be effectively rated by a Government organisation. The host of technical hurdles include:
◦Only illegal material published on web sites could be targeted, completely missing other methods of distribution such as BitTorrent.
◦Any determined user - including children - could bypass the filter quickly using an anonymizer service, open proxy, or VPN connection.
◦The clean feed would be less customisable and effective than a PC-based filter.
In short, as the best experts in the country unanimously agree, Conroy's plan does not make sense technically.8
There are free-speech concerns.
Although the initiative is intended and marketed as a tool to help protect children from the dangers of the Internet, this paternalistic scheme raises some troubling issues that affect all Australians. As a source of daily information, the Internet increases in importance every day. Do we really want the Government of the day deciding what Australian adults can and can't see? Do we want Australia to join a censorship club in which Burma, China and North Korea are the founding members?
◦The list of prohibited sites will probably be secret, so it will be hard to know what content the Government has effectively banned.
◦Filtering will be compulsory in all homes, even where there are no children.
◦It is unknown whether there will be any way to have content removed from the prohibited list.
◦How far will the list go, now and in future? Will it filter out material on sexual health, drug use, or terrorism? Euthanasia and anorexia have been touted by Government MPs as topics worthy of filtering.9
The Clean Feed is bad policy.
In short, even if it worked the filter would be terrible policy. By censoring the entire country's Internet access down to the level of a child of indeterminate age, it robs Australian adults of ability to make their own decisions about what content they view.
◦Most Australians don't want the filter.Support for this overly broad policy is virtually non-existent, even from child-protection organisations. A recent survey shows that 51.5% of Australian net user strongly oppose the plan, while only 2.9% strongly support it.10
◦One size doesn't fit all. A single filter list can't deliver results that are appropriate for all parents, teens and children, with no way to customise the filter for your household.
◦The protection for children is minor at best, an illusion at worst. The clean-feed does nothing to protect children from real threats like cyber-bullying, online sexual predators, viruses, or the theft of personal information. It may provide a false sense of security to parents, reducing effective monitoring of their children's online activities.
◦The money is better spent elsewhere. The filter will cost tens of millions of dollars to attempt. Yet the Government's own studies admit education is more effective than filtering in protecting children, and that "content risks" are less dangerous than other risks.11
◦No other democracy has a scheme comparable to the clean-feed. Comparable systems in Europe only filter a handful of illegal sites, and then only to prevent accidental access.
June 18th, 2010.
Govt wants ISPs to record browsing history
Companies who provide customers with a connection to the internet may soon have to retain subscriber's private web browsing history for law enforcement to examine when requested, a move which has been widely criticised by industry insiders.
The Attorney-General's Department yesterday confirmed to ZDNet Australia that it had been in discussions with industry on implementing a data retention regime in Australia. Such a regime would require companies providing internet access to log and retain customer's private web browsing history for a certain period of time for law enforcement to access when needed, according to Australian internet service provider sources.
Currently, companies that provide customers with a connection to the internet don't retain or log subscriber's private web browsing history unless they are given an interception warrant by law enforcement, usually approved by a judge. It is only then that companies can legally begin tapping a customer's internet connection.
In March 2006, the European Union formally adopted its data retention directive (PDF), a directive which the Australian Government said it wished to use as an example if it implemented such a regime.
"The Attorney-General's Department has been looking at the European Directive on Data Retention, to consider whether such a regime is appropriate within Australia's law enforcement and security context," a statement from the Attorney-General's Department to ZDNet Australia said yesterday. "It has consulted broadly with the telecommunications industry."
The EU regime requires that the communications providers from certain EU member states retain necessary data as specified in the Directive for a period of between six and 24 months.
One internet service provider (ISP) source told ZDNet Australia that the Australian regime, if implemented, could go as far as recording each URL a customer visited and all emails.
That source said such a regime "would be scary and very expensive".
Another industry source said Australians should "be very f***ing afraid".
They said the regime being considered by the Australian Government could see data held for much longer than EU Directive time of 24 months — it would be more like five or ten years.
"They seem quite intent [on implementing the regime]and they keep throwing up the words 'terrorism' and 'paedophiles'," the source said. "We're talking browsing history and emails, way beyond what I would consider to be normal SMS, retaining full browsing history and everything."
The office of the Attorney General has since denied that the data retention regime would involve recording users' web browsing history.
Internet Industry Association (IIA) chief executive officer (CEO) Peter Coroneos also confirmed that the industry was having discussions with the Attorney-General's Department.
"There has been some preliminary discussions with the Attorney-General's Department about a proposal for a data retention regime in Australia, but I think those discussions are at a very early stage," Coroneos said. He said the IIA hadn't "seen any firm proposals yet from the government".
"It's more along the lines of [the Attorney-General's Department asking]'What do you see the issues of being if we were to move to a position similar to the EU'," he said.
"But as I say, there wouldn't be any intention, I wouldn't think, to move to any policy position on this unless there was a full public debate about the proposal."
If the idea were to move to a more "serious proposal", Coroneos said the IIA's view would be "to engage not only with the industry but also the community in a proper discussion".
Electronic Frontier Australia (EFA) chair Colin Jacobs said the regime was "a step too far".
"At some point data retention laws can be reasonable, but highly-personal information such as browsing history is a step too far," Jacobs said. "You can't treat everybody like a criminal. That would be like tapping people's phones before they are suspected of doing any crime."
He added that browser history could reveal all sorts of personal information. "And furthermore, the way the internet works, it's a huge amount of data to be kept and it requires some snooping on the part of the ISPs into which [web]pages people are looking at."
In February, the senate passed a Bill allowing ISPs to intercept traffic as part of "network protection activities". According to an ISP source, it's likely another Bill would be required for a data retention regime to be implemented.
"It is likely that new legislation will be required to put any [data retention]obligations in place," the source said. "It seems to be early days yet, and we have an election looming, which means there will be some time required to get any new law in place."
Biometrics becoming the norm for Aussie banking
Nov 30, 2009
Australian banks are taking a closer look at biometric authentication as a means of reducing fraud, thanks to an improved business case, increased consumer concerns about personal data and some impressive breakthroughs in technology.
In June, National Australia Bank became the first Australian bank to roll out a biometric-based solution for customer authentication, implementing a voice-based system for telephone banking customers.
Tim Cullen, head of direct channels with NAB, said the voice authentication has "far exceeded expectations."
"Nine out of ten customers when offered it are taking up the service," he said.
Cullen said the bank initially experienced some technical problems with the biometric-based technology when attempting to enrol users, but eventually managed to iron these issues out. The bank is now hoping to expand the option to mobile phone banking users, he said.
"Expanding voice biometrics into mobile Internet banking just seemed a logical extension from a usability perspective," he said.
Cullen said he would also consider deploying the solution to an online payments environment in a bid to help reduce card-not-present fraud.
As banks around the world gradually deploy chip-based cards with PIN authentication, Cullen points out fraud is simply shifting to card-not-present environments.
"For us it's about real-time monitoring of card-not-present transactions...but we certainly could move to voice and outbound (calls) for certain transaction types."
Voice is just one of many biometric identifiers that can be used for the purposes of identification and authentication. In the US, biometric security specialist Global Rainmakers has been targeting banks with its HBOX iris scanning system.
Iris scanning is different to retina scanning, which requires the emission of light and close contact between the scanner and user.
Former Bank of America executive Jeff Carter now sits on the board of Global Rainmakers and says by the first quarter of 2010 the company will have the technology deployed in a mobile phone to allow remote authentication.
"It will go into a phone that has a high enough resolution to complete the registration," he said.
Fraud remains a major driver for banks considering the use of biometric-based authentication.
Customers have high expectations of the way banks manage their data said Cullen. "I think while banks are very protective over data, some other organisations aren't. So having a biometric protecting your identity provides added peace of mind."
"One of the questions we ask is what inconvenience are customers willing to accept for peace of mind, and I think tolerance in today's world is reasonably high, especially in terms of online banking" said Cullen.
In this case however, Cullen said the successful acceptance of voice biometrics has largely been as a result of its ease of use.
"There's probably not a lot of new technologies out there that create a safer experience that are easier to use or create a better customer experience."
01 December, 2003.
UK to consider national biometric ID cards, database
U.K. government is set to consider legislation next year for the establishment of compulsory biometric identity cards and a central database of all U.K. subjects, it was announced by the government last week.
The Identity Cards Bill is to be considered in the next session of Parliament, the government announced. As proposed by Secretary of State for the Home Department David Blunkett earlier this month, the legislation calls for a system of ID cards carrying biometric identifiers in an embedded chip, linked to a "secure national database," to be created by 2010.
The purpose of the ID cards is to deal with the "21st century challenges" of greater global mobility and advancing technology while combating such problems as illegal working, immigration abuse, ID fraud, terrorism and organized crime, according to Blunkett.
The information that the government is considering for inclusion on the card includes personal details such as a person's home address and telephone number, their National Insurance number (the equivalent of the U.S. Social Security number), medical information and criminal convictions, as well as the biometric information, most likely in the form of an iris, fingerprint or palmprint scan.
The ID cards would be rolled out in two stages, beginning with the biometric identifiers being included on renewed and newly-issued passports and driving licences. Also as part of the first phase, once the national database was available, the government would issue identity cards to European Union and foreign nationals seeking to remain in the U.K., and would also offer an optional card for those who do not have a passport or driving licence. As part of the second phase of the program, to be implemented five years after the launch of the program, the national ID card would become compulsory.
The government estimates residents will be charged about £35 (US$60) for the card, while setting up the basic system will cost taxpayers £180 million, and up to £3 billion to fully implement.
A spokeswoman for the Home Office declined to reveal which technology companies were working with the government on the technical aspects of the ID cards, "for reasons of commercial confidentiality." Companies that have worked with the U.K. government in the past include Oracle Corp. and Electronic Data Systems Corp. (EDS), which has already created a database that is currently holding tax-related information on around 9 million U.K. taxpayers.
Representatives of EDS, of Plano, Texas, and Oracle, of Redwood Shores, California, were not available to comment on possible involvement in the ID card program.
Civil liberty groups such as Liberty contend that along with being expensive and ineffective, the scheme would represent a real threat to civil liberties and personal privacy, while providing no obvious upside.
In a speech to the House of Commons on Nov. 11, Blunkett asserted that the development of specific personal identifiers, or biometrics, "would mean that identity could not be forged or duplicated." But the government's own feasibility study on the use of biometrics issued in February said that such methods "do not offer 100 percent certainty of authentication of individuals" and went on to warn that the "practicalities of deploying either iris or fingerprint recognition in such a scheme are far from straightforward."
Bart Vansevenant, director of security strategy at Ubizen NV, said that his company sees no real value for adding biometrics to ID cards, especially as it would not stop terrorism or fraud. Ubizen has been working on Belgium's electronic ID card scheme, the first in Europe to move beyond the pilot stage, according to Vansevenant.
The Belgian ID cards, which should be fully rolled out in three to four years, use digital certificate technology which is cheaper and more reliable than biometrics, Vansevenant said. "There is no reason that is good enough to explain the use of biometrics. It is still a very immature technology plus you have the additional costs of equipment, support and administration problems," he said.
The biometric card would also only work for tracking U.K. residents, while international terrorists would most likely use foreign passports when trying to gain entry into the U.K. "If this were to work worldwide for combating international terrorism, the system would have to be used worldwide," Vansevenant said. "I don't think the U.K. government could convince other countries to use it."
Vansevenant also expressed serious doubts about the security of a national database. "It is a pretty bad idea, especially the database which would be an ideal target for hackers and terrorists."
Belgium, in contrast, does use a database for holding information obtained on an individual when a card is first issued, but it is completely isolated, has no online element and is not related to other national databases, he said.
In the U.K. government's efforts to track terrorists and other criminals entering the country, Vansevenant suggested the use of a smaller central database holding details of people with criminal convictions that could be used as a sort of blacklist.
"Perhaps the U.K. and the U.S. (which is also proposing the use of biometric data on U.S. passports) are using biometrics and related databases from a marketing point of view and trying to position it as the big solution to the problem of terrorism," Vansevenant speculated. "But even then, it's still a bad idea."
Coalition to revive identity card.
August 20, 2010
An AUSTRALIAN COALITION government would revive the controversial Howard-era plan for a national access card to identify every individual receiving government benefits, shadow treasurer Joe Hockey has revealed.
On the eve of what Prime Minister Julia Gillard says will be a ''cliffhanger'' federal election, Mr Hockey has told The Age that giving everyone a single identifier for access to health and welfare benefits could lead to ''massive improvements in productivity in health and welfare''.
But instead of everyone having a card, this time the identifier could be in electronic form.
Advertisement: Story continues belowIn other developments as Australians prepared to go to the polls tomorrow:
■ Ms Gillard rushed out a new policy in a bid to win the family vote, sweetening her parental leave plan with the additional promise of two weeks' paid leave for new fathers.
■ The Coalition revealed plans to cut a further $1.5 billion from the federal education budget, including programs to help the poorest students succeed at school and enter university.
■ Internal emails seen by The Age revealed the Greens had been trying to ''stack'' calls to Melbourne talkback radio kings Neil Mitchell and Jon Faine with pro-Bob Brown messages.
■ Liberal leader Tony Abbott launched himself into a final campaign marathon, vowing to keep going for 36 hours until poll eve tonight.
Mr Hockey, revealing plans to revive the access card, said it would open the way for e-health systems to allow diagnosis using the internet, and give doctors access to patients' records.
The lack of an identifier and suitable software had left Labor's e-health initiative becalmed, despite heavy spending on development. ''We've got to have a single identifier for each patient, and software systems that can speak to each other, and get GPs and other professionals to have a computer on their desk to access the system,'' Mr Hockey said.
As human services minister in the Howard government, Mr Hockey led the drive to introduce the access card over objections from privacy advocates. The plan ran into trouble in the Senate, and was then dumped by the Rudd government, which cited cost and privacy concerns.
Mr Hockey said the failure to get the card introduced was his biggest regret in politics. Asked if he would try to introduce it again if the Coalition wins, he replied: ''Absolutely - but only if we get fair dinkum consolidation (of agencies' IT systems) to give better use of technology.
''Whether you go a card or not, I don't know. Everyone has a Medicare card already, but that's old technology. We're spending $140 billion to $150 billion a year on health and welfare, but what productivity improvements have there been in service delivery? None.''
In recent months Health Minister Nicola Roxon and Human Services Minister Chris Bowen have revived aspects of the access card plan, floating a single system to store individuals' health information, and to allow government agencies to share a single IT platform.
Mr Hockey nominated tax reform, increasing workforce participation by young people, mothers and older people, and reform of Commonwealth-state relations as priorities if he becomes treasurer, along with getting the budget into surplus.
He said an Abbott government would bring in a tax specialist from the private sector to head its tax reform task force over the next year, rather than leave it to Treasury secretary Ken Henry.
But he expressed confidence in Dr Henry and Reserve Bank governor Glenn Stevens.
Ms Gillard used her final address to the National Press Club ahead of election day to announce the extension of Labor's 18-week paid parental leave scheme with an extra two weeks' leave for fathers.
From July 2012, fathers and secondary carers who meet work and income tests will receive two weeks' leave paid at the federal minimum wage, currently $570 a week.
The opposition said the announcement showed Labor was panicking. ''This is a very, very small step to boost an impoverished scheme,'' said Coalition spokeswoman for the status of women, Sharman Stone.
Leaked internal research by Labor, reported last night, suggested the party was ahead nationally, but could lose the election due to big swings in New South Wales and Queensland.
Ms Gillard said in her Press Club address: ''We are in one of the closest election contests in Australian history with the starkest of choices to be made.
''I present to the Australian people the better plan for a strong economy and for the benefits and dignity of work. I present with a better plan to help you manage your cost of living.''
Mr Abbott likened the race to a cricket match. ''It's as if there's five minutes to go in a test match, the scores are level and we've got to make sure we win.''
He wanted to give Australians the ''best possible chance'' to change a bad government.
- with AAP
NXP To Supply Security Chips For German Electronic ID
AUGUST 20, 2010
AMSTERDAM (Dow Jones)--Netherlands-based NXP Semiconductors NV (NXPI) said Thursday it has secured a contract from the German government to supply security chips for a new electronic national identity card that will replace the current paper-based IDs.
NXP said the chip, known as SmartMX, will ensure the ID card can be used for several electronic services, while offering protection against privacy breaches.
The Eindhoven-based company didn't give financial details.
It is common practice, that government contracts related to ID's are made with more than one chip supplier, for security reasons.
German chip maker Infineon Technologies AG (IFX.XE) expects to also get a deal from the German government. "We are quite certain that we will be one of the two suppliers for the security chips for the new national identity card," Helmut Gassel, President of the Chip Card & Security operations at Infineon said. He added the talks about the contract at a very advanced stage.
The new ID, a substitute for the current paper-based card, will be issued as of November this year and over 60 million cards are expected to be rolled out in the next 10 years, NXP said.
Holders will be able to use it as a travel document within the European Union, and some northern African countries such as Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt. They can also use it for a number of other services, such as online banking and shopping, airline-passenger check-in and online tax declaration.
Senators push Obama for biometric national ID card
Two U.S. senators met with President Obama on Thursday to push for a national ID card with biometric information such as a fingerprint, hand scan, or iris scan that all employers would be required to verify.
In an opinion article published in Friday's edition of the Washington Post, Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) say the new identification cards will "ensure that illegal workers cannot get jobs" and "dramatically decrease illegal immigration."
Schumer and Graham pitched the idea to President Obama during a private meeting Thursday at the White House. Graham said afterward that Obama "welcomed" their proposal for a new ID card law; the White House said in a statement that the senators' plan was "promising."
This push for a national ID is part of what the senators say is a necessary overhaul of immigration law, including additional border security, more temporary workers, and a form of amnesty for illegal immigrants already in the United States. It comes just two days before a rally in Washington, D.C. sponsored by groups including the AFL-CIO, Farmworker Justice, and the National Council of La Raza that also calls for amnesty.
Linking national ID cards to immigration reform is a popular idea in Washington political circles. After all, if every U.S. citizen has a biometric-equipped cards, the thinking goes, it's easy to order employers not to give a job to someone without one.
But concerns about privacy, security, and federalism have torpedoed each one of these proposals so far. A similar national ID plan--which also required that employers do verifications--sunk President Bush's broader proposal for immigration reform in 2007. A proposal three years earlier by Rep. David Drier (R-Calif.) to create federal ID cards with Americans' photograph, Social Security number, and an "encrypted electronic strip" with additional information was even less successful.
Then there was the controversial Real ID Act, which tried unsuccessfully to compel states to standardize their drivers' licenses. But a libertarian grassroots revolt, including an anti-Real ID vote a few weeks ago in the Utah legislature, has halted Homeland Security's plans. (Rep. Ron Paul, the former Republican presidential candidate, argued it would do little to curb legal immigration.)
Under the Schumer-Graham proposal, extracting biometric information from hundreds of millions of Americans is no trivial task. It could mean extraordinary lines at regional Social Security offices--and an inconvenience for Americans switching jobs who haven't had their retina or DNA scanned in and stored on the ID card.
"We would require all U.S. citizens and legal immigrants who want jobs to obtain a high-tech, fraud-proof Social Security card," the senators' opinion article says. "Each card's unique biometric identifier would be stored only on the card; no government database would house everyone's information. The cards would not contain any private information, medical information or tracking devices."
A Wall Street Journal article published March 8 included an interview with Schumer during which he said: "It's the nub of solving the immigration dilemma politically speaking...If you say they can't get a job when they come here, you'll stop it." It said the most likely type of biometric data to be included would be a scan of the veins in the top of the hand.
"Our framework remains a work in progress," Graham said in a statement after Thursday's meeting. "The president welcomed the framework and indicated that he needs time to review the structure. We will share our ideas with our colleagues in the weeks ahead, so we can finally solve this difficult problem."