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The prospect of a national identification card (NIC) is the subject of heated debate. Homeland security proponents are calling for a so-called smart card that contains sophisticated biometric data. The card would be more robust than a traditional driver's license and harder to forge. Other groups argue that enabling the government to track individuals and personal information through smart cards would do little to help distinguish innocent citizens from potential dissidents.
The Department of Homeland Security is re-examining the concept even while the White House publicly is cool to the idea That fact not withstanding, last August, President Bush endorsed the Homeland Security Policy Directive (HSPD-12) that promotes a new set of personnel identification guidelines. Under HSPD-12, all federal and contractor employees must have standards-compliant credentials. Smart technology is expected to be a major component of the interoperable identification cards, which have an October 2005 implementation deadline.
Eventually, if all citizens are issued identification cards, they are anticipated to reflect design basics advanced by the Government Smart Card Interoperability Specification (National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD), the Center for Smart Card Solutions (General Services Administration, Washington, DC) and ISO-7816 (International Organization for Standardization, Geneva, Switzerland). A few of those elements are ID number, on-card memory, tamper-resilient lamination, digitized photograph and signature, smart technology, optical elements and barcode.
Existing social security numbers could serve as NICs; however, the federal government already rejected using social security cards for identification. If a NIC is introduced, it is likely to be managed by the Department of Homeland Security, possibly authorizing different formats for citizens, visa holders and resident foreign nationals.
A rewritable, internal memory strip could hold voluminous data as well as an encryption library, itself. That could help mitigate fraud through a combination of invisible fingerprints, embedded recognition programs and storage for high-density biometrics such as iris scans, retinal scans, voiceprints, photographs or X-ray images.