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I could have been somebody

People have often heard the phrase "to be someone" but whether you can prove you are that one has never been easy.  The Microsoft blog notes that having an identity is necessary for just about anything these days.  "In the U.S. and abroad, fundamental rights and services like voting, healthcare, housing and education are tethered to legal proof of identification – you can’t participate if you don’t have it. Yet nearly one in six people worldwide – the majority of them being women, children and refugees – live without it. The lack of legal documentation not only strips access to critical services, it puts those trapped in the 'identity gap' at risk for larger issues including displacement and child trafficking."  In fact the ID2020 coalition -- of which Microsoft is a part -- claims identity is a "fundamental human right" and is working towards universally providing it.

Article 6 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights stipulates that "Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law." The Sustainable Development Goals (2015-2030) include target 16.9 which aims to "provide legal identity to all, including birth registration, by 2030." Critically, this must include the >20M refugees worldwide.

But wait a minute.  Doesn't this "fundamental right" collide with it's Woke opposite, the fundamental right not to present identification.  The American Civil Liberties Union has repeatedly argued that ID is onerous, expensive, discriminatory and oppressive. In a recent fact sheet the ACLU made the following arguments against identity:

Millions of Americans Lack ID. 11% of U.S. citizens – or more than 21 million Americans – do not have government-issued photo identification.

Obtaining ID Costs Money. Even if ID is offered for free, voters must incur numerous costs (such as paying for birth certificates) to apply for a government-issued ID.

Minority voters disproportionately lack ID. Nationally, up to 25% of African-American citizens of voting age lack government-issued photo ID, compared to only 8% of whites.

States exclude forms of ID in a discriminatory manner. Texas allows concealed weapons permits for voting, but does not accept student ID cards.

How can having ID be both a right and oppressive at the same time?  To understand the apparent paradox it's useful to look at the actual technical mechanism of what "being someone" means. "There are three parts to identity: claims, proofs, and attestations."

  1. An identity claim is an assertion made by the person or entity.  "My name is XY and I am eligible to [vote, work, live, be] here" is the essential claim in the voting example.
  2. Proofs. A proof is some form of document that provides evidence for the claim.  The proof demanded by the law is cited as "government-issued photo ID".  The ACLU wants student ID cards and other proofs to be accepted.
  3. Attestations. "An attestation is when a third party validates that according to their records, the claims are true. " In the former case government attests; in the latter a university.