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A dumb idea
(Published August 27, 2001)

Shame on the person in Mayor Anthony A. Williams’ administration who concocted the idea of creating DMV identification cards for children as young as 2 years old, complete with fingerprints. It is quite disturbing that Mayor Williams did not recognize the lunacy in such a proposal before he sent it on to D.C. City Council for approval.

According to city officials quoted in The Washington Post, the proposal was designed with a noble purpose — to improve the search for missing children. The voluntary program, with information to be collected in the schools, would give the government instantaneous access to children’s photographs and fingerprints. Sherryl Hobbs Newman, director of the Department of Motor Vehicles, calls it a plan "that will enable us to protect and assist the parents and children of the District of Columbia."

However, Newman also told the Post that she thinks the government "should use the technology we’re developing to get that information to whomever needs it."

Whoa. The Orwellian possibilities of how the government would use that information about children, once collected, are frightening — especially when the gatekeeper seems so willing to share. The ID cards would expire every two years, but a child’s indelible fingerprints could remain in government computers forever.

The council, to its credit, has announced it will hold a public hearing on Oct. 3 on the mayor’s controversial proposal. Absent council action, the mayor’s plan can go into effect on Nov. 16.

Technological advances have made possible many positive changes in people’s lives. Government officials who care about protecting personal privacy should recognize this plan, which could be rife with abuse, would not be one of them.

Everything that’s possible shouldn’t necessarily be done.

 

Copyright © 2001 The Common Denominator