Thursday, January 14, 2010

Mikey Hicks, 8, Can’t Get Off U.S. Terror Watch List - NYTimes.com

Mikey Hicks, 8, Can’t Get Off U.S. Terror Watch List - NYTimes.com: "At some point, someone named Michael Hicks made the Department of Homeland Security suspicious..."

A problem with identity in the real world is that it's hard to uniquely identify someone. A name is rarely unique enough (even for me, with a rather unique name, there are at least two other people in the U.S. with the same name). Adding the middle name certainly helps, but is not full-proof.

Adding other attributes, like a street address, certainly helps, but those attributes tend to change often, so you have to have a history of them which complicates things greatly. It's hard to determine this is the John Smith who used to live at 123 Main Street.

The other option is biometrics: fingerprints or even just a photo. But now you need online databases, software and readers which are expensive (and what do you do when they break?). Plus you have to worry about privacy and theft of the data.

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