Friday, August 21, 2009

Is PASS ID Just REAL ID Reanimated?

As I've said here before, it wasn't too long ago that the REAL ID program appeared to be dying a slow death from the steady drip of states voicing their opposition. Unfortunately, an improved yet totally unacceptable version of the act has been gaining steam in the Senate, no doubt buoyed by support from the President and Homeland Security Chief Janet Napolitano.

Also, little media attention has been given to this new proposal, or the threat it STILL poses to an individuals right to privacy. My hope is that once the health care fight is over, this lack of attention will begin to change.

Today I'm going to include a recent short article on this subject by Richard Esguerra of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). But first, some background:

PASS ID would - just like Real ID - endanger victims of domestic violence by failing to adequately shield their addresses, raise fees associated with identification cards, expose consumers to identity theft and fail to improve our nation's security. Consider what just happened with the hacking of 130 million peoples credit card numbers? Do we really want to create a database with all of our personal information in it too?

In fact, PASS ID proposes to move forward on the one key component of REAL ID that privacy advocates were most opposed to: the creation of a national identification card.

Thankfully, a broad coalition of privacy organizations have joined forces (18 in all I believe) to oppose the bill - rightly advocating for the repeal, not the reform of Real ID. But I'll get to them in future posts.

Here's EFF's update and take:

Proponents seem to be blind to the systemic impotence of such an identification card scheme. Individuals originally motivated to obtain and use fake IDs will instead use fake identity documents to procure "real" drivers' licenses. PASS ID creates new risks -- it calls for the scanning and storage of copies of applicants' identity documents (birth certificates, visas, etc.). These documents will be stored in databases that will become leaky honeypots of sensitive personal data, prime targets for malicious identity thieves or otherwise accessible by individuals authorized to obtain documents from the database.

Despite some alterations to the scheme, PASS ID is still bad for privacy in many of the same ways the REAL ID was. And proponents of the national ID effort seem blissfully unaware of the creepy implications of a "papers please" mentality that may grow from the issuance of mandatory federal identification cards. Despite token provisions that claim to give states the freedom to issue non-federal identification cards, the card will be mandatory for most -- the PASS ID Act seeks to require everyone to show the federally recognized ID for "any official purpose," including boarding a plane or entering a federal building.

At the moment, health care reform is commanding tremendous attention and effort on the hill, so the PASS ID Act seems to be on the backburner for now. But after the August recess, anything can happen. So stay tuned for more about PASS ID and critical opportunities to flag your opposition to this flawed national ID scheme.

That about sums up my own thoughts for today. Click here to read the entire EFF post.

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