Magazine article USA TODAY

Big Brother Is on the Move

Magazine article USA TODAY

Big Brother Is on the Move

Article excerpt

Thousands of people went missing in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Weeks later, government officials, family members, friends, and a shocked and grief-stricken world still had not counted the dead or located the displaced and scattered survivors.

Lawmakers and technology researchers have been gearing up for years with high-tech devices to enable us to keep track of our citizens under all circumstances. Centralized databases electronically tied to computerized "dog tags" may be the wave of the future. Despite all of their convenient advantages, there are disturbing potential consequences that may outweigh the benefits, suggests Greg M. Sarwa, author of the novel, The Cattle, in which things go dangerously wrong when the government enacts the "Real ID Act of 2005."

In real life, meanwhile, the U.S. is about to deploy a new system of national identification, as mandated by the "Federal Real ID Act." Gov. Tommy Thompson of Wisconsin already is electronically "tagged" for digital access to his medical records. For years, automobiles have been outfitted with satellite tracking devices to locate cars in an emergency or when one is stolen. Florida has a new law requiring a "unique personal identifier" to recognize individuals in court cases, and John Roberts, the new Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, argued years ago for a revised national identification system.

Companies like Microsoft, Hewlett Packard, and defense contractor Northrop Grumman certainly are not hesitant about the idea. …

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