Despite concerns about possible erosion of privacy, many nations have successfully implemented national identification cards of varying types. Provided here is a brief guide to national ID cards around the world.
What Is a National ID Card?
A national ID card is a card that is issued to all citizens of a particular nation. In most countries, all residents above a certain age (often 14 or 15) are required to carry a card. However, some countries automatically issue cards at birth.
Most countries that have national ID cards have made them compulsory. In some places, failure to produce the ID card upon request by a police officer can result in a hefty fine or even several hours' detention in jail. ID cards have also become a basic required document for banking, use of national health care services, obtaining a driver license and other tasks. Some countries require the ID card to be carried along with the driver license when operating a motor vehicle.
What Information Is Contained on the ID Card?
The included information varies widely from country to country, but typically includes name, date of birth, photo, and address. However, some cards are much more extensive. The new cards that are being introduced in China are among the most complete. Chinese cards will contain information on the bearer's work history, religion, ethnicity, even reproductive history and landlord's phone number.
What Are the Privacy Concerns?
National identification cards are generally linked to nationwide information databases. It has been repeatedly shown that cards tend to gradually creep into uses that were not initially intended. Many have expressed concerns that citizens could be tracked through their identity card usage.
Additionally, governments may not yet be equipped to handle the data security and identity theft risks of national ID cards. Lost or stolen cards could be a gold mine for identity thieves.
Usefulness of National Identity Cards
Proponents claim that the cards are useful in combating everything from tax fraud to illegal immigrations. However, opponents argue that the cards infringe on privacy and cost a great deal of money, while offering little in the way of positive returns. The debate has been raging for decades, and is unlikely to abate anytime soon.