USACM Chair Testifies on Electronic Employment Eligibility

By David Bruggeman
May 13, 2008

We mentioned this last week, but are just getting to posting about the hearing on the blog.

USACM's Chair, Dr. Eugene Spafford, testifies on employment verification systems

On May 6, Eugene H. Spafford, chair of USACM, testified before the Social Security Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee on electronic employment verification systems (EEVS). USACM has testified before on this issue, with Dr. Peter Neumann speaking to the same subcommittee on the same topic last June. Citing several potential problems, some already evident, in a pilot system (E-Verify) operated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) to electronically check on employee work eligibility. Dr. Spafford urged Congress to include sufficient safeguards to ensure that both employers and employees are adequately protected from technical failures and abuses of the system.

Dr. Spafford identified three major concerns regarding E-Verify: the accuracy and timeliness of system results; the security and privacy protection afforded to information kept in the system; and the technical feasibility of multiple approaches to creating such a system. He added that these concerns are also applicable to related programs such as the REAL ID Act, which established standards for state-issued driver’s licenses, and US-VISIT, a U.S. immigration and border management system.

Historically, Dr. Spafford said, decisions to hire someone willing to put in an honest day’s work are made by individuals. “Requiring that decision to be overruled by technology is a not-insignificant change that would remove or penalize human judgment in exigent or compassionate circumstances, especially in cases of error,” he said. He also noted that any widespread shift toward mandating an employee verification system has significant social as well as technological impacts.

In his testimony, Dr. Spafford referenced points from Dr. Neumann’s testimony. They included: the high failure rates of using data, particularly Social Security Number (SSN) records, to drive these employee verification systems; the risks to IT systems with large databases of personal information from abuse, theft, and corruption; potential burdens on small business owners who may be required to obtain, maintain, and secure appropriate computer access methods; availability of the system to victims of disasters such as Hurricane Katrina; and challenges to budget and design criteria from scaling prototypes into large systems.

The complete testimony from the hearing is available online, as well as other information on the hearing, and
the full USACM press release on the testimony
. We intend to follow this issue as EEVS legislation bills are considered by Congress.