[NetBehaviour] Security at What Cost?

marc garrett marc.garrett at furtherfield.org
Tue Feb 26 00:15:47 CET 2008

Bruce Schneier: Security at What Cost?

National ID System Is Not Worth The $23 Billion Price Tag.

he argument was so obvious it hardly needed repeating: We would all be 
safer if we had a better ID card. A good, hard-to-forge national ID is a 
no-brainer (or so the argument goes), and it's ridiculous that a modern 
country such as the United States doesn't have one. One result of this 
line of thinking is the planned Real ID Act, which forces all states to 
conform to common and more stringent rules for issuing driver's licenses.

But security is always a tradeoff; it must be balanced with the cost. We 
all do this intuitively. Few of us walk around wearing bulletproof 
vests. It's not because they're ineffective, it's because for most of 
us, the tradeoff isn't worth it. It's not worth the cost, the 
inconvenience, or the loss of fashion sense.

According to the Department of Homeland Security's own estimates, Real 
ID will cost Americans around $23 billion. So is this a good tradeoff 
for us -- are the security benefits worth the price tag?

When most people think of ID cards, they think of a small plastic card 
with their name and photograph. This isn't wrong, but it's only a small 
piece of any ID program. What starts out as a seemingly simple security 
device -- a card that binds a photograph with a name -- rapidly becomes 
a complex security system.


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