Why Electronic Employment Verification Is a Bad Idea


When Americans (led by Lou Dobbs) scream "do something about illegal immigration" at the top of their lungs, you know we're going to get saddled with a bunch of awful ideas. One of those is Electronic Employment Verification, or EEV. EEV is a plan to create a big federal database of everyone eligible to work. Before a potential employer could give you a job, you'd have to be "cleared to work" by the Feds. Even worse, it will just be an API call to a big database in the sky.

In theory, this seems like a great solution. After all, if we just had a nice API call to make to determine whether or not to give jobs to people we could remove the magnet of lucrative jobs, right? In theory. The problem is the world's a messy place.

in the pilot program that DHS has been running, the error rate is 4.1%. If you do that math (55 million new hires each year in the US), that works out to 11,000 people mistakenly classified as ineligible to work every day! Of course, that won't be you, right? Of course, the error rate is bound to get better, right? Of course, there will be a swift and fair adjudication process, right? If you believe that you don't understand IT or the government very well.

What's worse, it won't even solve the immigration program. It will simply make the value of your identity data all the greater. If you make something worth more, it's more likely to be stolen. Rather than solving the illegal immigration problem EEV will more likely simply increase the incidence of identity theft. Your government at work. Rather than making you safer from identity theft, they're going to make you more susceptible.

Even if you're not one to go in for Orwellian scares about Big Brother growing out of a national ID system, this one has to make you wonder what people in Washington are thinking.

What can you do? Call you congressperson tomorrow and tell them EEV is a bad idea. Give your credentials. Make sure they understand people in their district will have a harder time getting employment. Increasing a tiny bit of friction in the job process is likely to cause big costs for business and government.

For more information and details on EEV, read Jim Harper's excellent policy analysis on it. Disclosure: he quotes me.