Bill Keller suggests that every American be issued an “enhanced Social Security card” with a chip including biometric information. In fact, the Federal Bureau of Investigation is well on its way to creating such a system.
Through the Next Generation Identification initiative, the bureau is amassing a huge database of biometric information about Americans. Starting with those who have had contact with the criminal justice system — about one-third of adults, according to recent reports — the initiative will also dramatically expand civil record collections.
Once the F.B.I. has our prints, eye scans and digital photos on file, the need for a plastic ID card will be obsolete: our bodies themselves are the IDs. This is happening without efforts to “distinguish the reasonable and constructive from the invasive and excessive,” in Mr. Keller’s words. Oversight is urgently needed. Without it, Big Brother fears become legitimate, and abuse is inevitable.