NEW YORK, Oct. 23 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ – Entrepreneur Steven Brill, whose critically-acclaimed book “AFTER” chronicled the homeland security and civil liberties challenges facing the United States following the September 11th terrorist attacks, has formed a company with key players in the homeland security industry that will offer a private, voluntary, biometrically secure identification card providing access to a fast line at entrances to airports, office buildings, train terminals, arenas, and other security bottlenecks across the United States.
Brill’s partners in Verified Identity Card, Inc. (V-ID) are TransCore, the nation’s leading transportation integrator specializing in electronic toll collection, including the E-ZPass(SM) system throughout the Northeast, and ChoicePoint, the nation’s preeminent provider of identity verification and background screening services.
Put simply, the V-ID is designed to be the one card anyone needs to qualify for access to faster lines at security checkpoints. It will allow convenient passage for those who volunteer to be screened, at the same time that it contributes to homeland security efforts by allowing protective
measures to be concentrated more rationally on those who have not been
screened. V-ID will also take extraordinary measures from its inception to insure the privacy of its cardholders.
Those applying for the card will volunteer to go through a process that verifies their identity, determines that they are not on a terrorist watch list and do not have a disqualifying felony conviction record, and then scans and stores their thumbprints. They will then receive their card within a matter of days and be able to present it at all venues recognizing the card – where a scanning device will match the card to the holder’s thumbprint to assure that the card is only being used by the person who applied for it.
V-ID expects to begin operations at some demonstration sites in the first half of 2004.
In addition to TransCore, ChoicePoint, and Brill (who will serve as V-ID Chairman and Chief Executive Officer), partners in Verified Identity Card, Inc. include The Private Equity Division of Lehman Brothers, and The Civitas Group LLC, a Washington-based firm that supports enterprises developing new solutions to homeland security challenges. Civitas’ CEO is Michael Hershman, former chief executive of Decision Strategies, the international security advisory firm.
V-ID will not collect or keep, let alone disseminate, any information related to how or where its cardholders travel. To ensure that V-ID keeps this and other promises related to protecting the privacy of its members, V-ID will ask a major civil liberties or privacy rights organization to select an ombudsman to monitor V-ID’s performance and issue public reports about it. V-ID will pay for the ombudsman, who will be supervised by the outside organization.
“Every day I worked on the book,” Brill explained, “I’d confront another example of how in the September 12th Era we needed a new solution to the old problem of balancing security with liberty and privacy, not to mention balancing our new need for added security with the problem of not having bottlenecks every time one of us wants to go into a building or a theater, or get on a train or airplane. Sure, a lot of those bottlenecks faded away in the year after the attacks,” Brill added, “but many haven’t, and, more important, there are now all kinds of new efforts underway, many encouraged or even mandated by Congress or the Department of Homeland Security, to secure venues like ports, ferries, sports arenas, industrial facilities, and office buildings. Those efforts will be accelerated overnight and could become chaotic after there is any kind of new attack.”
“The answer,” Brill continued, “should not be a national I.D. card. It won’t work, will be too expensive, and will present the worst kind of threat to our civil liberties. Nor can the answer be simply to have millions of hourly-wage, private guards going through the motions of checking us and our bags as we move through all the bottlenecks of our daily lives. That’s the worst of all worlds: no real added security but high expense and intolerable inconvenience and multiple, routine invasions of our privacy. The V-ID is, I think, the real, long-term, balanced answer.”
“Having a V-ID card,” Brill explained, “will mean that you are who you say you are and can prove it – if you want to – by presenting a card along with your thumb or fingerprint that will verify that you are the person to whom the card belongs.”
“Virtually all of the increased risks we face in today’s society begin with a single person or small group of people,” said ChoicePoint Chairman and CEO Derek V. Smith. “The V-ID card will combine the benefits of managing that risk more effectively with the highest principles of privacy protection, creating a program that meets ChoicePoint’s vision of a safer, more secure society through the responsible use of information.”
“The V-ID program capitalizes on our proven strengths in automated data capture and real-time account validation which enables our customers to accurately process more than 14 million transactions per day,” explained John Worthington, TransCore’s president and CEO. “This initiative is a logical extension for TransCore’s rapidly expanding homeland security business that provides border crossing optimization and asset tracking at critical ports of entry across the country.”
“In working over the years with major corporations and other clients in the public and private sectors, it has always struck me as illogical that when it came to credentialing people for access to secure locations no one had attempted a common solution that would save money and time and provide consistent security standards, as well as consistent privacy standards,” said Michael Hershman, president and CEO of Civitas Group llc. “After September 11th, the need for such a solution became even more obvious. The V-ID system will be that solution.”
The overriding business premise of the V-ID is that the costs and inconvenience of having multiple cards and requiring multiple processes to obtain those cards for various security and identification purposes can be spread across one system. Employers who need to secure their office buildings and industrial plants, government agencies with responsibility for securing other key facilities, or owners of venues such as sports arenas or stadiums will be able to use one common card, with one common security standard that allows those who have it to get on a line that can move more quickly because cardholders have been pre-screened.
“The logic is clear,” Brill concluded. “Someone who is pre-screened so that he can drive a truck containing hazardous materials, or so that he can work at a major financial institution ought to be able to get on a fast line at an airport or a train terminal. And someone who has volunteered to be screened so that he or she can get on a fast line at the airport, ought to be able to use the same card to get onto a fast line at a ferry or a sports arena, if and when those venues begin more careful security checks.”