Vos papiers, s’il vous plait!
Ihre Ausweispapiere bitte!
Let’s see some ID!
That’s the way it is now — and pretty much has been, increasingly, since WWI, before which one might have roamed fairly free of official fetters. Now it’s all photo ID and holograms, watermarks and RFIDs. The only upside to all of this I can see, apart from whatever increased security we might gain, not a fit subject for a fillip, is a fascination with the intricacies of proof of authenticity. When ID is required, counterfeiters will offer their services, and so begins another round of cops and robbers.
The European Community has a site that aims to help the policier in all of us tell das Ding from the duff. The Public Register Of Authentic Identity And Travel Documents Online, or PRADO ((Not that Prado, of course. But clearly someone was thinking art. Not sure I like the conflation with security.)), offers up detailed pictures and descriptions of all manner of European identity document. Here you can sink into a private James Bond fantasy (“Fodden. Simon Fodden” just doesn’t cut it, though.) as you pore over British diplomatic passports, for example. PRADO lets you examine a graphic for each page and page part in the document, and even offers a minor magnifying function so that the whorls and moiré patters can be better appreciated. Thus, you learn that if you subject the inside cover of the diplomatic passport to UV light, a yellow crown appears, as in the graphic on the left.
Yearning to see a Maltese identity card? A Belgian residence permit? It’s all here in various shades of blue, in what is, for me at least, a curious combination of transparency in government and tightness in security.