[FoRK] Newsroom score: American Taliban

Damien Morton dmorton at bitfurnace.com
Thu Aug 30 22:11:11 PDT 2012

Thinking about ID.

I remember at one point, when I was living in New York, I wanted to do
something but I was told I needed a New York State ID to do it. I cant
remember what the thing I wanted to do was though.

I had my Australian passport, my birth certificate, my Australian
drivers license, and my US Social Security Number. What I couldn't
figure out was how having a New York State ID would identify me any
more than the ID I had. After all, the people at the New York State ID
office would derive my New York State identity from these very

In the US, all forms of identity are derived from only two documents -
a birth certificate and a social security number. In other words, your
full name, parents full names, place of birth, date of birth and
social security number are the root of all identity.

Beyond these root facts exists identity related facts which attest to
continuity of identity, such as your credit history. house ownership
or rental history, payment history at utilities, banking history, etc
etc etc.

Beyond continuity facts are facts which attach a photo to your root
identity, such as passports, drivers licenses and so on.

Presumably, when someone applies for a photo ID, there is an effort
made to ensure that continuity facts are properly associated with the
identity facts, and that the identity being asserted is unique - i.e.
that the same "person" doesn't exist in multiple places, i.e. with
multiple non-overlapping continuities. At the INS, this is resolved
using fingerprints at a national level. How it is resolved at the
state DMV, I dont know.

The thing is, if there is someone who has never been photographed or
fingerprinted as part of an identity, all you have to go on is the
root identity being asserted, along with any continuity facts that
might be available.

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