Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Usable or Secure?

Overcomplicating things can cost serious money.

By going all-out for security and designing $100 bills thought to be nearly impossible to counterfeit, Uncle Sam succeeded in designing $100 bills that the Treasury found nearly impossible to print.

"...the quarantined bills add up to $110 billion -- more than 10 percent of the entire U.S. cash supply, which now stands at around $930 billion.

The flawed bills, which cost around $120 million to print, will have to be burned." -- From Zachary Ross's piece on Yahoo - http://news.yahoo.com/s/yblog_thelookout/20101206/us_yblog_thelookout/government-cant-print-money-properly.

Given that there is no plan to retire the existing $100 dollar bills, the level of protection this debacle was intended to provide for the US money supply is debatable. And it's doubtful anyone would argue that any currency is impossible to counterfeit. The counterfeiters may well have an easier time developing these superfranklins than the Mint.

The security consultants should have made room at the table for someone with a usability background - or someone with hands-on knowledge of printing currency.

As Franklin himself is so often quoted (paraphrased, really) - "He who sacrifices freedom for security deserves neither."

He who trades a usable product for a secure one will have neither.

Franklin's original quote, in the interest of completeness, is: "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."

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