Sun sees support for national ID
McNealy, pushing Java technology, backs broad system
“THIS IS MORE THAN than a sea change,” McNealy said to reporters at an industry conference in Orlando. “I have not spoken to one person who hasn’t flipped a switch to say, ’You’re darn right, I want to know who’s getting on a plane with me.’” Sun developed the Java computer platform, which could someday provide the language needed for a smart-card identification system to deal with computers at airports, shopping malls, research facilities and other locations where McNealy said anonymity could prove dangerous. “Absolute anonymity breeds absolute irresponsibility,” he said. “We need a thumbprint Java card in the hand of everybody in the country.” Civil libertarians have heaped scorn on McNealy, but he dismissed their concerns.
“I’m tired of the outrage. If you get on a plane, I want to know who you are. If you rent a crop duster, I want to know who you are,” he said. McNealy said it would be the job of Congress to decide when people can be anonymous and when they cannot. He warned that the United States faces “a huge efficiency tax” for security if it does not adopt a simple system of identification. “Hiring 50 humans isn’t going to solve that problem,” he said. McNealy appeared at a symposium sponsored by Gartner, the high-tech consulting and analysis firm. McNealy also responded to remarks made at the conference the previous day by Steve Ballmer, chief executive of Microsoft Corp.
Ballmer said Sun’s Liberty Alliance Project, an identity authentication and authorization service meant to speed on-line transactions, “has absolutely no probability of mattering to the world.” Microsoft will compete with a similar service called Passport. Microsoft will go it alone on its service, while Sun is working with dozens of companies from eBay Inc. to General Motors Corp. (MSNBC is a Microsoft - NBC joint venture.) McNealy said Thursday the number of partners could grow into the thousands. He said the strength of his system was that each partner would maintain its own customer list and could arrange data sharing with one another on their own terms. “Hertz and United Airlines can work out their own deal instead of going to Microsoft and saying ’How much do we have to pay you?’” McNealy said. Microsoft believes its customer base of 120 million will make it dominant in the field. Sun is betting the flexibility of its system will make it more appealing to merchants.