Jeffrey Paul: You Don't Need To See My ID

Jeffrey Paul

You Don't Need To See My ID
18 January 2020
( 423 words, approximately 2 minutes reading time. )

More and more often, I’m asked for ID to do things that no reasonable person would see a true need for identification to do.

Things your demand for ID will not enable or affect:

  • learning my identity, name, or address (see below)
  • protection against liability
  • protection against damage
  • protection against violence or terroristic acts
  • the ability to enforce a contract against me, which is the same as:
  • the ability to sue me
  • the ability to call the police and have me arrested for crimes

Remember, an extremely high quality fake ID costs less than $200 in the USA. If you think one couldn’t fool you, you don’t know how good they are these days: simply ask anyone 19 or 20 in that country to show you theirs. Demanding a government ID doesn’t give you the information or opportunities you think it does.

Additionally, the name on a credit card is not identification. My bank issues me corporate sub-account Visa cards for any name I provide them. My staff all use stage names related to their job title, so that staff turnover does not change the name, email address, or contact info associated with their role in my organization, to insulate external parties from the effects of staffing changes. Each of them have corporate credit cards issued in their stage names with my organization.

I think that many people are so accustomed to showing an identification credential in their daily life, that they think nothing of it. The fact is, when you show ID, you waive your right to anonymity—that is, your right to privacy. But it’s not just you. By showing ID, you tell any vendors of products or services that “it’s okay to demand ID from everyone to do business, even when it’s not required”. That’s not okay, and you should not send that message, even if you don’t care about your own privacy, or “have nothing to hide”. The normalization of everyone giving up privacy by default is what is to be avoided, even if you personally don’t care about your individual privacy.

Some people, noble people, peaceful people, nonviolent people, doing not-illegal and important work, do need privacy to be effective. When you do business with people who ignore the privacy rights of their customers, you make the whole world more hostile toward these sorts of people doing important work.

If you run a business, think hard about why you are asking for someone’s ID, and if you really need it. In almost all cases, you do not.

About The Author

Jeffrey Paul is a hacker and security researcher living in Berlin and the founder of EEQJ, a consulting and research organization.