Jim Harper

Director of Information Policy Studies, Cato Institute

Identity Crisis: Identity and Public Policy
33 minutes, 15.4mb, recorded 2006-11-30
Topics: Security
Jim Harper

Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, public officials have been under increasing pressure to employ identity in the name of security. Advancements in identification and surveillance technologies – biometrics, identity cards, databases, RFID, and so on – threaten privacy and civil liberties, enable identity fraud, and subject people to unwanted observation.

Soon after joining the Cato Institute, Jim Harper participated in a Congressional panel to examine proposals for a national ID card. This experience was the springboard for his book, Identity Crisis: How Identification is Overused and Misunderstood, a superb primer on identification, identification theory, and identity policy. In his presentation he reviews four identifiers and examines how they would be applicable to a Federal identification system.

He also reviews the current identification law (passed without a separate debate or vote) and how some states are reacting to it. He tallies the possible costs to implement it and talks about whether the law is likely to even be useful in identifying terrorists or other targeted groups.

Jim Harper is Director of Information Policy Studies for the Cato Institute. He focuses on the difficult problems of adapting law and policy to the unique problems of the information age. Harper is a member of the Department of Homeland Security's Data Privacy and Integrity Advisory Committee. His work has been cited by USA Today, the Associated Press, and Reuters. He has appeared on Fox News Channel, CBS, and MSNBC, and other media. His scholarly articles have appeared in the Administrative Law Review, the Minnesota Law Review, and the Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterly. Harper is the editor of Privacilla.org, a Web-based think tank devoted exclusively to privacy, and he maintains online federal spending resource WashingtonWatch.com. He holds a J.D. from Hastings College of the Law.


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