By Robert O'Harrow Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writer
August 15, 2001; Page A01
[August 15, 2001. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has, for years, been conditioning children and parents for a national ID program beginning with young children. Over 90% of missing children are the subjects of domestic disputes where the so-called "abductor" is well known to all parties. However, the NCMEC "exploits" these sad and unfortunate "victims" by causing the public to believe, through their fund-raising campaigns, that all these children reported missing have been kidnapped by a stranger from some mall parking lot, or something of the like. This becomes the justification for fingerprinting ALL children, at which time donations are taken.
I asked an NCMEC worker recently just how many "missing" children had been located and recovered as the result of using fingerprints obtained under one of their programs. The answer was zero to here knowledge. The other day Chandra Levy's mother was on CNN. The reporter caught her as she was heading out to a fair to fingerprint and photo-ID children under the NCMEC program. Notice too in this following story that, as is typical, EPIC's director, Marc Rotenberg has nothing harsh to say about this newest D.C. scheme. All he does is re-state the obvious without criticizing the program. The national ID scheme, including children, is going nation wide. Your children or grandchildren will be subjected to this type of ID scheme if it is not stopped now. It will be conducted through the schools at first. Initially, it will be "voluntary". Gradually, it will become mandatory under justifications linked to public safety and social services. If you are not resisting and opposing these national ID schemes now, you are, in effect, encouraging this practice... Scott McDonald <email@example.com>]
---[begin forwarded message]---
From: W.G.E.N. [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Tuesday, August 14, 2001 11:20 PM
Subject: NID: D.C. Plans ID Card for Students
Whenever you hear or read that something is "For The Children" you better understand that it is really *FOR CONTROL*. Control and Money - those are the motivating factors behind all this identification charade. Read this article very carefully and be sure to read the parts that are NOT SAID ---like:
"I think people will eventually see the benefits," she said. "New things tend to scare people."
Benefits?????? to whom???
D.C. Plans ID Card for Students
Aim of DMV Database Is Missing Children The ID cards, issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles, could be used to track everything from children's welfare benefits to attendance at school functions.
(D.C. Motor Vehicle Administration)
District officials plan to begin taking digital photographs and fingerprints of schoolchildren this fall as part of a high-tech identification initiative designed to improve the search for missing children.
Under a plan initiated by the administration of Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D), the information about the children would be collected at schools using laptop computers. It would be fed into a centralized computer system, and
the children then would receive ID cards containing bar codes that can be scanned by authorities, officials said.
Children from 2 to 14 initially would be eligible for the new IDs, and parents would have to give their approval before their children can participate. The IDs are to cost $5, although the city may subsidize the fee for low-income residents. The IDs would need to be renewed every two years.
Several officials said they hope the program could be expanded to improve social services by closely tracking youths' involvement in schools and government benefit programs.
Although local law enforcement agencies and private organizations have long snapped photos and taken fingerprints for parents to use in the event of a child's disappearance, the District's initiative is fundamentally different because the government is to maintain the information.
"We want to take advantage of the latest digital technology to implement a process that will enable us to protect and assist the parents and children of the District of Columbia," Sherryl Hobbs Newman, director of the
Department of Motor Vehicles, who is overseeing the plan, said in an interview. "We should use the technology we're developing to get that information to whomever needs it."
It is not clear how much of a problem missing children are in the District. The mayor's office said police list 86 open cases of juveniles reported missing in the 17 months from January 2000 to the end of May. Nationally,
more than 5,000 children are listed as missing at any one time, said a spokesman for a group that tracks the issue. Those numbers include runaways and children taken by estranged parents.
Businesses, governments and military agencies everywhere are linking computers, digital photographs and biometric identifiers -- such as fingerprints and facial scans -- to improve security and better authenticate
the identities of individuals. Many law enforcement agencies use such technology to electronically book prisoners.
But the coupling of technology and biometric information has drawn intense criticism from privacy advocates. And some activists and officials expressed concern about the District's plan, saying the identifying information could
be misused by authorities and hacked by outsiders.
"I find it kind of scary," said Mary M. Levy, analyst and counsel for Parents United for the D.C. Public Schools, an advocacy group. She said many parentsmight not want police using the data for investigations.
D.C. Council member Kevin P. Chavous (D-Ward 7), chairman of the council's Education Committee, said he shares Levy's concerns, but he supports the program. "Generally, I think it's a good idea," he said. "I am a little
concerned about the Big Brother aspect."
Council member Phil Mendelson (D), who is on the Education Committee, said he was unaware of the plan but is glad it is voluntary. He said the government nevertheless must act slowly because of the privacy issues involved. "We need to be very careful about . . . obtaining such detailed information," he said.
At the request of the mayor, council Chairman Linda W. Cropp (D) introduced a resolution July 6 that would amend local regulations to allow for the child ID cards. There was no debate at the time, and no hearings have been scheduled.
The resolution takes effect 45 working days after its introduction, unless the council votes against it, officials said.
Newman said she is sensitive to privacy concerns. Although the system would greatly ease the collection of information about individual children, she said, it would also be configured to limit how much information officials
"I think people will eventually see the benefits," she said. "New things tend to scare people."
The District's initiative would be the most sophisticated in the nation to focus primarily on children, according to officials at Polaroid ID Systems, who have worked with the DMV to create the program.
The only similar program is in West Virginia, which began offering child IDs two years ago. The District plan differs from it in one key respect: District DMV officials intend to go into the schools with portable equipment
to collect children's information. Only about 5,000 children have been photographed or fingerprinted in West
Virginia, in part because officials there require parents to bring their children to motor vehicle offices, according to Mary Jane Lopez, a spokeswoman for the DMV there.
District motor vehicle officials described the program as a chance to use their year-old digital driver-licensing system to help authorities find missing children by providing instant access, including over the Internet,
to recent photos and other identifying details.Officials have also begun planning ways to expand the program to improve the delivery of social services for eligible children, "from day one of their lives," said to Sandra Villeneuve, a regional account manager at Polaroid ID Systems who has attended planning meetings in the mayor's office.
Among other things, school officials might use the bar code on students' ID cards to monitor attendance in school and at events. Social services officials might use the card to track a child's benefits, officials said. Newman said that if the program unfolds as planned, the use of an ID card may become obligatory for some young people who receive social services and already provide much of the information to city officials. "What we're doing
is actually making it more convenient . . . condensing it in one card," she said.
Some parents expressed concern about how the DMV would control access to the system and limit uses of the data. Iris Toyer, the mother of a 9-year-old at Stanton Elementary School, said: "I find it invasive. I do not know who will have access to it. I do not know how it will be used, regardless of what they say."
Privacy specialists also criticized the plan, saying the city's apparent aims for the program are too open-ended to justify the risks of gathering so much information about children in one place. "There are always benefits. There are also risks that tend to be understated," said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center. "Now you're talking about kids."
An official from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Childen also questioned the wisdom of the District's plan. Spokesman David Shapiro said there's no question that investigators searching for missing children need access to a current photo as quickly as possible. But, Shapiro said, authorities can usually get the information they need from parents. Oftentimes that includes a child's fingerprints. During the last decade, through community- and business-sponsored programs, the center has helped create 12 million children's "passports" containing photographs and information about individual children. Police agencies and other groups have done the same thing.
"It's the national center's view that only parents should maintain this information," Shapiro said, adding that a major concern is that outsiders or officials might misuse information collected in a database. "There's always that potential. . . . Security is a major issue."
As in the District, West Virginia officials envision a major expansion of the program in the coming years. Lopez said officials there are considering using the ID cards to improve security and track attendance at schools. They
may also want to create IDs for children in foster care programs to ensure they get proper services, she said.
"I think it ought to be mandatory," Lopez said. "I just think it ought to go nationally. . . . That database could be used for many things."
Staff writer Sewell Chan contributed to this report.
© 2001 The Washington Post Company
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