Or: How to conceal the real problems using metaphysics and other mumbo-jumbo...

Here's the story: About a couple of years ago, in Europe, the new "electronic IDs" begun to replace the plain old photo-IDs that we all were used to. What exactly is the electronic ID? The electronic ID has the shape and size of a credit card and, exactly like a credit card, it has a magnetic stripe at its back-side. In this magnetic stripe, among other things, are recorded the identifying data of its holder, i.e. name, surname, photo (in digital format), height, etc, etc.

And where's the Antichrist and 666, The Number of The Beast, you'll ask. The Evil Itself, was rumoured to be hidden inside the magnetic stripe, and was supposed to be used to record the data. Some religiously obsessed people came up with 1000-fold magnifications of such magnetic stripes, in which one was supposed to be able to see the number "666". We all know what, strong belief and emotions can make appear before our eyes. Some self-declared "technical experts" said that the number "666" was used by the format of the information recorded on the stripe (sic), and expressed the suspicion that the Number of the Beast was intentionally selected so, instead of any other number that could be equally used, so that all people would carry with them the Sign of the Beast and become its (the Beast's) slaves.

All that is, of course, 100% logic-free hocus-pocus and technical mumbo-jumbo. Do we need to mention that on the magnetic stripe, whatever information is recorded, is stored in plain bits and not like a photo so that you can magnify it to see any 'hidden' details? Well... try to explain that to old ladies, and sadly enough, also to young people that were running protests and demonstrations carrying big Jesus Christ pictures, crosses, church lights and censers, protesting against the new "evil" electronic IDs that would turn people to slaves of the Beast.

The result? First of all, many people making fuss over the wrong things, making themselves ridiculous as they believed that we are approaching the Second Coming and the Evil is preparing to enslave all of us. Second, other people, supposedly wiser, laughing over the first people that were so eager to believe whatever the Church and their obsessed religious conscience would suspect. And third (so that we can pass to the point of this writeup), leaders of the European Union who were happy seeing that not only appropriate legislation for spying more effectively on their citizens was passed, but also the objections against the legislation were reduced to some laughable mumbo-jumbo from old-fashioned religious people who tend to think that bad things that happen are not strategic results but forms of The Evil.

Life is not a western movie with the "bad" guys and the "good" guys.

If everything was that easy and discreet, all the bad guys would be dead or in prison and we, the good guys, would live happily ever after. When someone uses this kind of 'magical' explanation, attributing bad things to the abstract, faceless Evil, as Umberto Eco says, he is trying to conceal something. Two examples: cancer has been something that for many years was regarded as form of 'Evil', and no-one would search for its causes. Maybe because the smoke industry had interest that nobody would find them out? Who knows... Second example, is president of the US, George Bush. After the 11-S attacks, a crusade against the 'Evil' begun (to which Bush referred to as "the Bad guys", tell me, is it possible that a president uses the term 'bad guys'?...) and of course not an esoteric search of the causes and 'whys' of these attacks. What do you know... A war is less expensive than changing politics...

So, the case with the new electronic ID cards is that having a single 'document' able to store sensitive information about a person, will end up indeed storing sensitive information and consequently, misused. I am not the kind of man to see devils everywhere, but here's an example: In the US, there was a man who used to buy goods from the local supermarket using his credit card. There was a car accident. He killed a young lady by her fault. In the court of law, the lawyer of the family of the deceased presented as evidence for his guilt some receipts from his credit card that showed that he used to buy alcohol regularly. In the end, he was not convicted because it was proved to be the lady's fault, but just the fact that the lawyer could evade his privacy so easily is alarming. After all, the guy may liked having parties all the time. Just the fact that he bought alcohol regularly did not mean that he also used to drive drunk...

They will say, "why having in your wallet a driving licence, an I.D., three credit cards, four ATM cards etc, instead of having just one card for all? Isn't it more convenient?". Yeah, and your privacy goes down the drain... But... if you are involved in no mischief, what do you have to hide, heh?

Update - 3.2.2003

Now, in the US, a whole family was chipped (as demo) by the well known company VeriSign, with the VeriChip*. It is injected somewhere in the (victim's, I say) body (the arm I think) and an external device can communicate with it with RF signals. Because, OK, it is more convenient to have one card instead of carrying twenty cards, but what if you lose that one card? ... big trouble! So, well, errr, you know... you could insert a chip containing all the info the card holds, in your body, so that you can't lose it! And how wonderfully can all this be misused!

* VeriChip is a "Miniaturized, Implantable Identification Technology Chip", more info at http://www.adsx.com/prodservpart/verichip.html

Some info about the new ID cards and the fuss about them

or search Google with "new european identity cards"

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