Wired has an article on how to have a national ID card that doesn’t threaten civil liberties.
The truth is, any identification system is inherently neutral; it can either respect privacy or threaten it. But this distinction was lost in the noise until last fall, when media mogul Steven Brill promised a middle way: a volunteer ID card that, he says, would protect both privacy and security. His company, Verified Identity, hopes to have cards and turnstiles in place by February.
…a privacy-friendly card is feasible if it follows one simple rule: verification, not identification. In other words, the card would confirm identity but wouldn’t allow the government to pick you out of a crowd. There’s a model: In 1995, Canadian entrepreneur George Tomko invented an innovative technology that made it possible to lock packets of data in encrypted files, using a fingerprint as a private key. After clearing a background check, the users of a Tomko-like card would receive a digitized packet of information that said, for example, they were cleared to cross a particular border. They’d download the parcel onto a card and lock it with a thumbprint.
Read the whole thing. The most relevant, in my opinion, is the conclusion of the article that says that according to Steven Brill the pressure for ID cards will be overwhelming after the next attack, so a well-designed one is better than a desperate one. It is not entirely without merit to say that rather than fixating on whether ID cards threaten privacy, civil libertarians and techno-positivists should explore security measures that might actually thwart terrorism. This might take the wind off the governments’ sail to introduce feel-good solutions that are invasive, threaten privacy and are ultimately less safe.