ID card can learn lessons from history

Sep 25, 2009
A conference will explore the long, unsuccessful history of attempts to develop a reliable technology of identification.

(PhysOrg.com) -- Identity theft is increasingly prevalent in today's society, yet we have repeatedly failed to develop a reliable technology of identification to prevent misuse and forgery.

What has driven the expansion of identification techniques over time and in different societies? Why have so few of them worked?

And with controversial ID cards currently at the centre of the political agenda, and the public concerned about a ‘Big Brother’ state, what is the best solution likely to be?

These and other questions about the documentation of identity will be discussed this weekend (26/27 September) at Identifying the Person: Past, Present, and Future, a public conference at St Antony’s. Over 25 experts from around the world will explore the history, current practices and prospects of documenting individual identity on an international scale.

Professor Jane Caplan, Professor of Modern European History at St Antony’s and conference co-organiser, said: 'Attempts to find a dependable way of sustaining reliable ID on a large scale are beset with difficulties, as the historical record shows. As such, this topic is directly relevant to current UK proposals for ID cards and the development of a national identity register for the first time since 1952.

'It is also relevant to controversial global projects for enhancing and controlling mobility, including, for example, passports, profiling, and border controls. At the same time, however, we will show the origins and purposes of ID are more varied than public debate currently suggests.'

The conference will feature contributions from members of the International Network ‘The Documentation of Individual Identity: Historical and Comparative Perspectives since 1500’. Known as ‘IdentiNet’, and convened by Professor Caplan and Professor Edward Higgs (Essex University), this is an interdisciplinary group of academics based in Oxford’s Faculty of History and sponsored by the Leverhulme Trust. Their aim is to explore the history of individual identification on a comparative global scale from the early modern period to the present.

Topics to be discussed include:

• The search for a ‘foolproof’ technology of identification to prevent misuse, forgery and identity theft - this has a long, unsuccessful history.

• The ethical issues raised by electronic databases and new biometric technologies.

• How the history of state ID is that of distinguishing between legitimate and illegitimate people and movements. This is apparent in the dual purpose of passports, intended to both secure borders against illegal immigrants and security threats, and to enable travel for the legitimate.

• The importance of civil status registration as the basis for securing social and political entitlements.

• The mixed status of certain ID documents and the problem of ‘function creep‘ - a document issued for one purpose comes to be used for other unintended purposes.

Research into individual identity documentation has developed relatively recently among widely scattered researchers. By bringing together worldwide scholars, this conference aims to extend knowledge of why and how individuals have been ‘inscribed’ in durable records in different societies and periods, and how this has influenced relationships between citizens and states, the functioning of social structures and commercial systems, and the sense of who we are.

Provided by Oxford University (news : web)

Explore further: Under some LED bulbs whites aren't 'whiter than white'

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Breakthrough in split second 3D face imaging

Mar 24, 2006

Face recognition technology that could revolutionise security systems worldwide has been developed by computer scientists at Sheffield Hallam University. The new specialist software can produce an exact 3D image of a face ...

U.K. biometric ID card faces questions

Mar 30, 2006

The introduction of biometric national identification cards to the United Kingdom now seems like an inevitability. Yet doubts have been raised by a committee in the House of Commons itself about whether existing technology ...

Recommended for you

Four questions about missing Malaysian plane answered

6 hours ago

Travelers at Asian airports have asked questions about the March 8 disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 while en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. Here are some of them, followed by answers.

Under some LED bulbs whites aren't 'whiter than white'

Apr 18, 2014

For years, companies have been adding whiteners to laundry detergent, paints, plastics, paper and fabrics to make whites look "whiter than white," but now, with a switch away from incandescent and fluorescent lighting, different ...

Freight train industry to miss safety deadline

Apr 16, 2014

The U.S. freight railroad industry says only one-fifth of its track will be equipped with mandatory safety technology to prevent most collisions and derailments by the deadline set by Congress.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.

Health care site flagged in Heartbleed review

People with accounts on the enrollment website for President Barack Obama's signature health care law are being told to change their passwords following an administration-wide review of the government's vulnerability to the ...

Under some LED bulbs whites aren't 'whiter than white'

For years, companies have been adding whiteners to laundry detergent, paints, plastics, paper and fabrics to make whites look "whiter than white," but now, with a switch away from incandescent and fluorescent lighting, different ...

Impact glass stores biodata for millions of years

(Phys.org) —Bits of plant life encapsulated in molten glass by asteroid and comet impacts millions of years ago give geologists information about climate and life forms on the ancient Earth. Scientists ...

Researchers successfully clone adult human stem cells

(Phys.org) —An international team of researchers, led by Robert Lanza, of Advanced Cell Technology, has announced that they have performed the first successful cloning of adult human skin cells into stem ...