REAL ID Act faces mounting opposition

| Thursday, May 10, 2007

Privacy advocates continue to build a coalition of groups challenging a proposed plan for a national identification system, dubbed the REAL ID Act.

The Real ID Act of 2005 requires states to have uniform requirements for driver’s licenses and other state-issued identification cards, as well as linking a database of each state’s ID holders. The cards would have a computer chip or similar technology that could be read by computers, which could be used to download personal information about an individual.

A “notice of proposed rulemaking” proposing minimum standards for the system recently closed. During the comment period, organizations representing nonpartisan, privacy, consumer, civil liberty, civil rights and immigrant organizations launched a national campaign to solicit comments to stop the REAL ID system.

The groups are concerned about a number of issues. Among the concerns is a belief that the national ID system presents an increased threat of counterfeiting and identity theft. The groups also contend there is a lack of security to protect against unauthorized access to the document’s machine-readable content.

The opponents argue that the REAL ID program has potential to create a false belief that it is secure and immune to forgery.

On the cost side, the opponents foresee increased cost to taxpayers and diverting of state funds intended for homeland security. All this could lead to increased costs for obtaining a license or state-issued ID card.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center and Privacy International are leading the public challenge against the REAL ID system. More than 50 organizations and 130 bloggers encouraged those opposing the program to submit comments to the docket.

The groups’ efforts obviously paid off, as the more than 3,000 comments on REAL ID had been received by the comment period deadline – and that number continues to grow at an impressive pace even two days later.

The REAL ID system has other challenges to face as well. Five states have enacted legislation essentially mandating the states will not participate in the program. Those states are Montana, Maine, Idaho, Arkansas and Washington.

For more information on EPIC and the coalition’s efforts opposing the REAL ID system, visit privacycoalition.org.

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