I was going to blog my way through a week without my photo ID but I have to admit that I found my driver license at the bottom of a clothes drawer last night while packing to go to Black Hat later today. I was looking forward to the blogs I would get from my experience at the airport, hotel and trade show but I've decided to take the easy way out. For a moment I was tempted to pretend I hadn't found it. After being reassured by the Ziff Davis (publisher of eWEEK and this blog) travel agent that I should be able to get through security at Southwest Airlines using my temporary California license along with a major credit card in my name (I was planning on taking my expired U.S. passport along too) I chickened out. What if security wouldn't let me through? Even if they did, I was pretty sure that I'd be marked for special searching. And even though I can hear the cries of "if you ain't got nothin' to hide why are you cryin' about a little extra search at security" I have to say that I can't stand being patted down by TSA. It makes the experience of flying, which I used to enjoy so much, just that much more demeaning. I also wondered what might happen to me if I really did experience a problem at the check point. Would it be marked as odd if I didn't stand there arguing vociferously for 45 minutes trying to get through security to get on my plane? Because what I would have done in that case is calmly walked away, gone to a different security check point, used my (now found) completely out-of-date-but-still-valid driver license and gone through the checkpoint, probably with no more than a "step through" from the TSA agent at the metal detector. Would someone have followed me and given me hassle about not producing my valid photo ID from the beginning? OK, yes, all of this went through my head. What can I say? I test security products; I have to think about these things. Ultimately, I decided that my blog of living without a photo ID just wasn't worth the petty hassles I would likely face by trying to use my temporary license. (I should note that a temporary license in California is a piece of paper with a state seal watermark that comes out of a standard laser printer.) What I found in the five days of living without a photo ID is that it's actually pretty easy. I looked up the statutes for driving while not in possession of a valid license card. It's a problem, but one that, by my reading (AND I'M NOT A LAWYER AND THIS ISN'T LEGAL ADVICE) that is dismissed if you produce a license that was valid at the time of arrest in court. Fortunately, I commute to work using BART public transit so I didn't have to drive to get to San Francisco from my home in Oakland. And the cab ride to and from the Department of Motor Vehicles was only $10 each way. Even though I didn't have my photo ID, I did have all the passwords to my online bank and credit card accounts. I was able to move large (to me, probably not to many others reading this missive) amounts of money between accounts, pay bills and order things off the Internet with no problem. It turns out that the security code on the back of a credit card is roughly the equivalent of having a photo ID for credit card transactions on the Internet. In places where I needed a photo ID, I had plenty of other context around me to provide the proof needed for me to say, "I am Cameron Sturdevant" and have others who did not know me, believe it. As I've written before, I think this shows that the security checkpoints I encountered worked as designed. They were flexible enough to permit business to carry forward even when one piece of authentication was missing. It was interesting that I was able to buy $250 worth of groceries at a Safeway in Oakland without being asked for my photo ID (I think it's because I used a Safeway loyalty card), but I was prevented from buying $56 of books when the clerk at A Different Light bookstore in San Francisco asked to see some ID. I used cash instead. What is still more interesting to me as a security problem is how a 14-year-old picture of me and an incorrect address, combined on my driver license, can replace all the other things that make me Cameron Sturdevant.
No Photo ID, Day 2-Finding my License
I was going to blog my way through a week without my photo ID but I have to admit that I found my driver license at the bottom of a clothes drawer last night while packing to go to Black Hat later today. I was looking forward to the blogs
Modernizing Authentication — What It Takes to Transform Secure Access