Friday, June 7, 2013

Antonin and Me

Some of us are up in arms at the Supreme Court ruling that it is a-okay to take DNA swabs of suspects  and use them to search databases of open crimes.

I do hate to be on the same side of a fight as Justice Scalia, and I can't say I agree with his weird "we should continue to live in the 18th century as the Founding Fathers would have wanted it" philosophy.  But still.  One does have to ask, "Where does it end?"

In the debate following the decision, some have said it would not be amiss to swab at birth, and have the data right there in a national database.

Now, don't go all panicky just yet.  Think of all the data our government already has on us.

Some were outraged when the government began to require we all have social security identification cards.  Back then it was illegal to use those identification numbers for anything other than social security.  So imagine the panic when colleges began to use the number as student ID.  Now imagine not using the number as an ID for nearly everything.

To be honest, even though I was of the generation when by the time you had finished applying for college, you'd be very likely to have your SSN memorized, it truly chills me that this number has become the ID that follows us throughout every stage of our lives.  While we are encouraged to develop computer passwords that will be so complicated no one can break in, including ourselves, that one nine-digit number links us to every important thing we do.

And then there is the fingerprint.  My fingerprint went into that creepy database when I took the licensing exam for psychology, because what greater security need is there than to keep track of those licensed professionals?

Being a lifelong underachiever, and having been minimally employed since I walked away from a psychology practice that was being governed by the bottom line of managed care rather than the interests of the patient, I have no idea what other high status positions require fingerprinting.  My guess is, more than you or I would imagine.

And then there are drivers' licenses, which, as with the social security card, were met with distrust by those individuals who felt that living in a free country meant that our names and photos should not be on file.  Of course, it is becoming commonplace to require photo ID to vote, and to not carry such an ID, which is maintained by the state and might as well be considered a national database given the technology, has nearly become unfeasible.  The fact that its original purpose was to be as proof of the qualification to drive a car is ancient history.

So what is the big deal about just collecting that DNA?  Don't fight it.  It's just a matter of time.

And RFID, those little electromagnetic chips that are in the tags on the clothes you buy to prevent shoplifting, are also being used to track inventory.  And -- why not? -- your purchase history.  In fact, those of us who are annoyed at having to carry around so many cards for ID, to charge purchases, to borrow library books, might just step up and volunteer to have one of those chips put right under our skin.  If you don't mind the fact that you can be followed by your cell phone signal, why would you care about a chip under your skin?

So we have here the inevitable creepy centralized tracking of us.  And most of us don't mind.  But there is one exception, and I just have to wonder why.

Those same folks who brought you voter ID, who believe the ability to track us all will keep us safe from terrorists, will fight to their death (actually, to your death) for the right to bear arms without ID, license or registry.

Go figure.

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