Backlash grows against US government ID plans

A privacy committee of the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has joined the growing opposition to the controversial Real ID bill, which proposes to create a national standard for driver's licences and other forms of state-issued identification.

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A privacy committee of the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has joined the growing opposition to the controversial Real ID bill, which proposes to create a national standard for driver's licences and other forms of state-issued identification.

In comments submitted to the DHS earlier this week, the department's Data Privacy & Integrity Advisory Committee called the Real ID Act "one of the largest identity management undertakings in history" and said it raises serious privacy, security and logistical concerns.

"These include, but are not limited to, the implementation costs, the privacy consequences, the security of stored identity documents and personal information," the committee noted. It also cited other concerns such as mission creep, redress and fairness issues.

The Real ID Act of 2005, passed as part of a wider effort to combat terrorism, sets minimum national standards that states must use when issuing drivers licences and other forms of identification. This includes a photo ID, documentation of birth date and address, proof of citizenship or immigration status and verification of Social Security numbers.

States are required to hold digital images of each identity document for between seven and 10 years. The cards themselves will include all of the standard elements found on most drivers licences today and will be machine-readable to allow for the easy capture of information from the card.

States are not mandated to issue Real ID cards. However individuals would need Real ID-compliant cards for air travel or for getting into federal buildings such as courthouses and nuclear facilities or for receiving federal benefits. Under the act, all state driver's licence databases would be linked with each other in one system with shared access.

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