SAN FRANCISCO--The Constitution Project today released a nationwide survey of state wiretap statutes, a representative of the organization announced here at the Computers Freedom and Privacy Conference.
The survey is the first of its kind and includes all 50 states and the District of Columbia, said Peter Swire, a law professor at Ohio State University and a member of the Constitution Project Committee at Georgetown University.
The project was done in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and of the passing of the USA PATRIOT Act last October, which gives states broad freedoms in allowing the interception of oral, wire or electronic communications of citizens. Many privacy experts are concerned that widespread ignorance of new wiretap laws could lead to unprecedented breaches of privacy.
"The PATRIOT Act has created a homework assignement for all of us," said Swire. "We all need a debate about the nature of security in the future."
Also at the conference, a panel debated the potential and possibility of a national ID card system, another proposal made in the wake of Sept. 11. Most experts agree that a system would solve a lot of problems, but none agreed on the feasibility of a system.
Dierdre Mulligan of the National Research Council detailed a report which outlines the problems and challenges of establishing a national ID system. The main problem, she said, is that there has been no debate about the goals of such a system, nor how it would work.
"Everybody is focusing on the card aspect of the system, but the card is a trival part of a much larger infrastructure," she said.
Another speaker, Andrew Schulman, pointed out that the biggest problem in creating an ID systems is that so far the debate is being led by technology vendors, such as Oracle Corp., who stand to benefit from the adoption of a system.
"The national ID card system is major pork for the IT industry," he said. "Theres a lot of talk about sliding the scale from privacy to security, but no discussion about how it would work, and would it work in the [Sept. 11] sense. Would a national ID card system have kept [suspected hijacker]Mohamed Atta from getting on that airplane?"
One system that has potential is being advocated by the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators. The organization is attempting to set standards for drivers licenses as well as a means for state goverments to link up their driver identification records and databases.