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Oakland Dual-Function ID/Debit Cards Already Controversial

In one of the nation’s first attempts at combining the concept of identification and financial inclusion, Oakland County in California is ready to launch their dual-function ID/debit card.

Cardholders are not required to use the debit feature, but making it available offers a more convenient way to encourage consumers to establish a financial identity. Identification cards are controversial and privacy advocates argue vehemently against them, citing “big brother” concerns. The addition of the debit feature on this card has also given critics new ammunition, mostly fraud.

From the San Francisco Chronicle:

But the cards are raising serious questions about whether they could expose users to fraud because, unlike regular debit cards, these are inscribed with identifying personal information about the card holder: a date of birth and address.

"The city of Oakland is creating a debit card that violates the privacy of the users and that's outrageous," said Paul Stephens, director of policy and advocacy for the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse in San Diego.

Responding to this, Oakland program directors cite text alerts as one feature that will help consumers manage their debit account:

Deputy City Administrator Arturo Sanchez, who oversees the program, said the fraud issue was inherent to any debit card system. He said Oakland's card has a safety feature allowing users to get text messages the moment it is used.
In Washington, immigration policies are now at the forefront, but at the ground level in communities like Oakland, solving the problem of efficiently delivering services and benefits while building stronger community participation has taken on new and more urgent meaning in an economic environment that is not favorable to the underserved and the agencies that assist them. This may not be the ultimate solution, but it’s a start.

Click here to read more from the San Francisco Chronicle.

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