Monday, February 20, 2006

Schneier on ID cards and slightly fatter wallets

Bruce Schneier, with his usual clarity, has been explaining why ID cards will not cure Fat-Wallet Syndrome.

"..neither a national ID nor a biometric system will ever replace the decks of plastic and paper that crowd our wallets.

For starters, the uniqueness of the cards provides important security to the issuers. Everyone has different rules for card issuance, expiration and revocation, and everyone wants to be in control of their own cards. If you lose control, you lose security...

Another reason is reliability. Your credit card company doesn't want your ability to make purchases to disappear if you have your driver's license revoked.Your airline doesn't want your frequent-flier account to depend on a particular credit card. And no one wants the liability of having their application depend on someone else's infrastructure, or having their infrastructure support someone else's application.

But security and reliability are only secondary concerns. If it made smart business sense for companies to piggyback on existing cards, they would find a way around the security concerns. The reason they don't boils down to one word: branding.

My airline wants a card with its logo on it in my wallet. So does my rental car company, my supermarket and everyone else I do business with...

The companies give you their own card partly because they want complete control of the rules around their own system, but mostly because they want you to carry around a small piece of advertising in your wallet...

That's why you still have a dozen different cards in your wallet. And countries that have national IDs give their citizens yet another card to carry around in their wallets -- and not a replacement for something else."

No comments: