Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Real ID implementation stalled

A lack of federal funding for Real ID leaves states in the lurch:

Recent developments suggest that deployment of the controversial Real ID national identification program still faces significant obstacles related to its $11 billion cost and its privacy and security risks.

...Congress included no mandatory protections for privacy in the Real ID Act, said Leslie Harris, executive director of the Center for Democracy and Technology, a nonprofit advocacy group. As currently conceived, the system does not respect basic privacy principles because it collects too much data, is susceptible to mission creep and has too much centralized information, she said.

“The Real ID Act fails every single privacy principle,” Harris said. “I support hardening driver’s licenses, but we have to do it right. Privacy cannot be an add-on after the fact.”

Despite the fact that legislatures in 17 states have taken action opposing the act, Governor Schwarzenegger has sounded indifferent, reluctant to recognize it as an issue for state government. CA is often on the frontline of privacy battles, serving as the bellwether for the rest of the country. Are state officials sitting this one out?

"We're certainly not the rabble-rousers out there trying to lead a rebellion," said Denise Blair, the assistant deputy director of the California Department of Motor Vehicles, referring to Maine's efforts.

Blair, who favors the Real ID Act, did say, however, that it will cause some administrative headaches for California when more than 3 million more people a year are visiting local motor vehicle offices.

Meanwhile, Washington could soon be the first state to release a hybrid ID that combines Real ID and Homeland Security border crossing card requirements. Adding to the controversy surrounding Real ID's privacy loopholes, this card would be the "first driver's license in the country with an embedded RFID chip readable at 20 feet."
Privacy risks might be heightened in Washington because the card design includes an RFID tag to conform with other border-crossing cards such as DHS’ anticipated People Access Security Service card. The PASS card will use a Generation 2 RFID tag that can be read at 20 feet. The PASS card and the hybrid
ID card in Washington are among the first human-identification programs in the world to use such long-distance RFID technology.

The technology is controversial because it was created for warehouse tracking of goods for sale. This type of RFID tag contains no encryption and can be scanned easily by readers at long distances, thus raising privacy and human-tracking concerns.

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