Politics, Technology, and Language

If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought — George Orwell

Proving who you are

Posted by metaphorical on 1 December 2006

I just got back from DMV, turning my NJ driver’s license into one from NY State, so I note that one of today’s top stories is “Homeland Security assigns terror scores to travelers.” It’s yet another way to harrass people over their identities, in a context where we never used to care about identity at all (hard as it is to remember, only a few years ago no ID was needed to get on a plane and could use someone else’s ticket–hey, remember tickets?).

Of course, sometimes identity does count, and identity fraud is in fact a huge problem. From today’s (UK) Guardian:

Three guilty of identity fraud which netted millions

Police believe the internet-based enterprise, which operated from Notting Hill, west London, ran undetected for 10 years. Huge numbers of compromised credit cards were used to buy electrical goods, later sold to customers on eBay

At the DMV, a very dynamic welterweight kind of guy sitting near me was ranting to his son, and anyone he could interest, about how hard it has always been to get the kid’s identity documents straight. For him to get a driver’s license, he needs both a birth certificate and a social security card. Unfortunately, they don’t list the name exactly the same way – the birth certificate includes the mother’s maiden surname at the end (four names total)–“that’s how it’s done in Puerto Rico, where my son was born!” he said–while the SocSec card does not. You would think the DMV, at least the one up on 125th Street and Lexington–the heart of Spanish Harlem–would see this all the time and be able to deal with it.

The father complained that they were going to have to deal with this problem for the rest of their lives, which unfortunately is true (they’re going to end up at SocSec this afternoon, I’m sure, to get a four-name card). Back in October, I wrote about how these naming problems are plaguing our new databases of voter registrations (“The Next Voting Debacle?“).

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