Survey: National ID program bad idea, Americans say

Lawmakers pushing for a national identity program will have to move a mountain of opposition among U.S. citizens, according to Gartner Inc.

Forty-one percent of Americans are opposed to creating a national database to identify citizens and visitors to the United States, according to the results of a survey released March 12 by Gartner of Stamford, Conn., a national research and advisory firm.

Only 26 percent of U.S. citizens agreed that such a database should be established.

What's more, survey respondents placed more trust in private institutions, such as banks and credit card companies, than they did in any government agency that might manage a national identity database.

Among government agencies, the FBI ranked as the most trusted to manage a national database, followed closely by the Social Security Administration, according to Gartner. The least trusted of the agencies were the state motor vehicle departments and the Internal Revenue Service, Gartner said.

Interestingly, most adult Americans already have a national identifier on file with the latter two agencies in the form of a taxpayer ID number or a driver's license.

Among those who approved of a national ID card, the Gartner survey showed overwhelming support for using national IDs at airports and as a means to gain entry into the United States, but much less acceptance of them as a means to controlling access to health care and banking services.

The findings were based on responses of 1,120 people to a survey conducted between Jan. 20 and Feb. 18. The poll was administered by Harris Interactive Inc. of Rochester, N.Y.

Although the technology for a national ID program already exists, public opinion to support such a program does not, said Richard Hunter, Gartner's vice president and research director for security. Hunter said the study showed the public is skeptical about public institutions servings as keepers of a national ID database and wary of the potential for abuse.

"The government hasn't done a good job of explaining to the public how it's going to protect from misuse all the information it gathers about them," he said. "If there's a plan, the public doesn't know about it."

About the Author

William Welsh is a freelance writer covering IT and defense technology.

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