Identity Crisis

How Identification Is Overused and Misunderstood

May 1, 2006 • News Releases

Media Contact: (202) 789‑5200

Since 9/11, governments and businesses have increased their demands for identification, believing that identifying people provides security against terrorism. Meanwhile, machine identification and computer technology are changing the consequences of being identified, increasing the threats to autonomy, privacy, and civil liberties. 

In Identity Crisis: How Identification Is Overused and Misunderstood, released by the Cato Institute, director of information policy studies Jim Harper demonstrates how resisting the persistent demands for identification would protect people’s privacy without compromising security.

Instead of identification, Harper calls for authorization and credentialing technologies that allow individuals to decide for themselves how much identity information they want revealed to businesses and the government.

While identification and credentialing are valuable economic processes, “a diverse, competitive identification and credentialing industry would be far better, and far more protective of liberty, than the uniform, government‐​monopolized identification system on the advance today,” writes Harper.

Identity Crisis also explores current identification controversies, such as the REAL ID Act, and addresses security‐​related topics, such as the war on terrorism and identity fraud.

“Identification should be a risk‐​reducing strategy in a social system,” Harper concludes, “not a rivet used for pegging humans onto governmental or economic machinery.”

“Few people in America have done the kind of critical thinking about identity and identification that Jim Harper does in this book,” raves Nuala O’Connor Kelly, the former Chief Privacy Officer of the Department of Homeland Security.

And Justin Oberman, former head of credentialing and identity programs for the Transportation Security Administration, states, “I would have used this book every day to help structure programs and develop policies if I’d had it at TSA.”

About the Author
Jim Harper is the director of information policy studies at the Cato Institute. Harper is a member of the Department of Homeland Security’s Data Privacy and Integrity Advisory Committee. He is also the editor of Pri​vac​il​la​.org, a web‐​based think tank devoted exclusively to privacy, and he maintains online federal spending resource Wash​ing​ton​Watch​.com

About the Book
Identity Crisis: How Identification Is Overused and Misunderstood
by Jim Harper
$22.95 hardback; 220 pages
ISBN: 1–930865-84–8
Publication date: May 2006
About the Institute
The Cato Institute is a nonprofit, public policy research foundation in Washington, DC. It is libertarian or classical liberal in its outlook, and it receives the bulk of its funding from individuals and foundations.
Since 1992 the Cato Institute’s books have been distributed to the trade by the National Book Network (www​.nbn​books​.com)


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