August 03, 2011
Fake IDs From China Of High Quality

A Washington Post article on a Chinese company that is making very high quality fake IDs and selling them to American college students and credit fraudsters suggests to me something about the future of privacy: We are in a identification technology arms race between elaborate identity faking and identity verification capabilities. The inevitable result: less privacy. Less anonymity.

To the naked eye even the practiced eye of most bartenders and police officers the counterfeits look perfect. The photo and physical description are real. So is the signature. The address may be, too. The holograms are exact copies, and even the bar code can pass unsophisticated scans.

If drivers licenses were only rarely and poorly faked then police and financial institutions would have much less incentive to, for example, deploy biometric scanners to verify identity. But since the capabilities of the fakers and deceivers keep growing and the amount of identify faking and theft grow as well an escalating response by the verifiers (e.g. bar bouncers, bank tellers, police) is a foregone conclusion.

When will bartenders start scanning drivers licenses and taking pictures of patrons to upload to an ID check database on the web? Will pictures be insufficient? Will young people need to get their fingerprint or retina scanned every time they enter a club? How soon will this change come? Will banks start asking for a fingerprint or retina scan when you sign up for an account?

What's the technologically fanciest form of ID check you've experienced to date and where did it happen? Are defense contractors the biggest users of biometric ID technology? Or do other industries lead the way in use of cutting-edge means to identify who enters their premises?

Update: With so many pictures of people up on the web facial recognition technology will make it easy for you to identify anyone you see.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2011 August 03 07:32 PM  Surveillance Identification

PacRim Jim said at August 4, 2011 1:40 AM:

China seems a bottomless sea of criminals, from hackers, to product pirates, to human smugglers, to food adulterers, to....
Cui bono? Why on earth did the U.S. re-establish relations with China? Precisely how has it benefited America?
And the relationship's not going to get better. In fact, it may soon deteriorate into a war over Taiwan.

LarryD said at August 4, 2011 8:20 AM:

A rethink of identity documents is needed, I believe.

In most cases, a merchant is really only interested in being assured that they'll be paid, so they don't really need a government id, any valid debit or credit card actually issued to the customer will do. Or the customer can pay cash. Or use the merchant's own prepaid "gift" card (really a merchant specific debit card).

When establishing a relationship with a new customer, does a bank really need to see any id? Requiring the customer to physically appear so the bank can create biometric identification for it own use would seem sufficient, but I could be missing legal requirements.

Places that serve alcohol are legally required to care about their customers age, that implies a birth certificate, or something derived from it, as long as the chain of identity is verifiable.

Any company that has security concerns probably issue their own id badges, with at least a photo of the employee.

A lot of fakes get by because the document itself is only visually checked, its a lot harder if they can be electronically checked against a database maintained by the issuer.

J said at August 4, 2011 10:43 AM:

Heck, Busch Gardens, a local theme park, uses fingerprint biometrics to associate a season pass holder with the card.

The card carries a bar code, and the entrance turnstiles have a fingerprint scanner. You scan your card, then press your finger to the scanner. If the bio matches, the gate drops. If not, it triggers a red "attention" light to draw over an attendant, who either resets eh scanner and has you try again, or asks you for ID to verify a name match with the name on teh season pass.

Fancier than what my bank does...


PacRim Jim said at August 4, 2011 10:49 AM:

Whatever the outcome, Americans will lose yet more freedom.
America as America is fast vanishing, accelerated by the omnipresence of the Internet, hostile foreign powers (primarily pugnacious China), and complicit American politicians on the left.

Xiaoding said at August 4, 2011 12:52 PM:

God bless China, land of the free, home of the brave!

Used to be America, until bendoveritis became the norm. America the sheep.

Got to love how the Chinese give the finger to the man! Used to be Ameicans were the ones doing that!

Cosmop said at August 4, 2011 1:20 PM:

Drop the drinking age to 18 (where it should be) and there won't be a problem. This is just the market correcting because the drinking age is too high.

Arbitrary aardvark said at August 4, 2011 1:55 PM:

Those "complicit American politicians on the left" these days are republicans, insisting on IDs for voting, and once they have them for voting they'll insist on them for other things, and make analogies to voting. what i blogged on this topic earlier today:

the toughest i've run into was at a bar, where they scanned my state ID in a little box and told me my drinking license had expired.

JJ said at August 4, 2011 2:08 PM:

The one area where we really SHOULD have secure identification is voting. Voting is the exercise of political power, and should be reserved for those who are actually eligible, not whomever shows up with a utility bill.

Claude Hopper said at August 4, 2011 3:10 PM:

My neighbors just went through an IRS audit. Their names: Ilene and Ben Dover

disgruntled said at August 4, 2011 4:02 PM:

I wonder if the Chinese can help us find out which of Obama's many Social Security Numbers is authentic. Hell, that won't even take high tech.

not anon or anonymous said at August 4, 2011 5:27 PM:

or we could lower the drinking age to 18 again and make that angle much less important. MADD should not be dictating liberty in this country.

Man in the Middle said at August 4, 2011 6:30 PM:

Guess we're behind the curve locally. I'm still amazed at how often I'm offered an unsigned credit card to pay for a purchase.

Lou Gots said at August 4, 2011 10:25 PM:

Absurd. No honest man is concerned with keeping his identity secret. Critter trash slink around with their faces covered; the upright are well known to all in their community. Furthermore, one's identity is entirely social. It consists only of how we are known to others. Each of us already knows who he himself is. Thus the very idea of anonymous identity is an oxymoron. The solution to identity theft is better identification, not less.

anonyq said at August 8, 2011 7:02 PM:


Fingerprints are actually relative easy to fake but are cheap to check which makes it a smart choice for the amusement park as the only thing they loose is a visitor that may otherwise have paid for entering the park. A bank has to deal with a real money loss which also attracts more criminals

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