The immigration reform measure the Senate began debating yesterday would create a national biometric database of virtually every adult in the U.S., in what privacy groups fear could be the first step to a ubiquitous national identification system.
Buried in the more than 800 pages of the bipartisan legislation is language mandating the creation of the innocuously-named “photo tool,” a massive federal database administered by the Department of Homeland Security and containing names, ages, Social Security numbers and photographs of everyone in the country with a driver’s license or other state-issued photo ID. Employers would be obliged to look up every new hire in the database to verify that they match their photo.
For now, the legislation allows the database to be used solely for employment purposes. But historically such limitations don’t last. David Bier, an analyst with the Competitive Enterprise Institute, agrees with the ACLU’s fears.
“The most worrying aspect is that this creates a principle of permission basically to do certain activities and it can be used to restrict activities,” he said. “It’s like a national ID system without the card.”
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