FAQ: How Real ID will affect you Published: May 6, 2005, 4:00 AM PDT By Declan McCullagh Staff Writer, CNET News.com TrackBack Print E-mail TalkBack
What's all the fuss with the Real ID Act about? President Bush is expected to sign an $82 billion military spending bill soon that will, in part, create electronically readable, federally approved ID cards for Americans. The House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved the package--which includes the Real ID Act--on Thursday.
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More ... What does that mean for me? Starting three years from now, if you live or work in the United States, you'll need a federally approved ID card to travel on an airplane, open a bank account, collect Social Security payments, or take advantage of nearly any government service. Practically speaking, your driver's license likely will have to be reissued to meet federal standards. News.context
What's new: The House of Representatives has approved an $82 billion military spending bill with an attachment that would mandate electronically readable ID cards for Americans. President Bush is expected to sign the bill.
Bottom line: The Real ID Act would establish what amounts to a national identity card. State drivers' licenses and other such documents would have to meet federal ID standards established by the Department of Homeland Security.
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The Real ID Act hands the Department of Homeland Security the power to set these standards and determine whether state drivers' licenses and other ID cards pass muster. Only ID cards approved by Homeland Security can be accepted "for any official purpose" by the feds.
How will I get one of these new ID cards? You'll still get one through your state motor vehicle agency, and it will likely take the place of your drivers' license. But the identification process will be more rigorous.
For instance, you'll need to bring a "photo identity document," document your birth date and address, and show that your Social Security number is what you had claimed it to be. U.S. citizens will have to prove that status, and foreigners will have to show a valid visa.
State DMVs will have to verify that these identity documents are legitimate, digitize them and store them permanently. In addition, Social Security numbers must be verified with the Social Security Administration.
What's going to be stored on this ID card? At a minimum: name, birth date, sex, ID number, a digital photograph, address, and a "common machine-readable technology" that Homeland Security will decide on. The card must also sport "physical security features designed to prevent tampering, counterfeiting, or duplication of the document for fraudulent purposes."
Homeland Security is permitted to add additional requirements--such as a fingerprint or retinal scan--on top of those. We won't know for a while what these additional requirements will be.
Why did these ID requirements get attached to an "emergency" military spending bill? Because it's difficult for politicians to vote against money that will go to the troops in Iraq and tsunami relief. The funds cover ammunition, weapons, tracked combat vehicles, aircraft, troop housing, death benefits, and so on.
The House already approved a standalone version of the Real ID Act in February, but by a relatively close margin of 261-161. It was expected to run into some trouble in the Senate. Now that it's part of an Iraq spending bill, senators won't want to vote against it.
What's the justification for this legislation anyway? Its supporters say that the Real ID Act is necessary to hinder terrorists, and to follow the ID card recommendations that the 9/11 Commission made last year.
It will "hamper the ability of terrorist and criminal aliens to move freely throughout our society by requiring that all states require proof of lawful presence in the U.S. for their drivers' licenses to be accepted as identification for federal purposes such as boarding a commercial airplane, entering a federal building, or a nuclear power plant," Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner, a Wisconsin Republican, said during the debate Thursday.
You said the ID card will be electronically readable. What does that mean? The Real ID Act says federally accepted ID cards must be "machine readable," and lets Homeland Security determine the details. That could end up being a magnetic strip, enhanced bar code, or radio frequency identification (RFID) chips.
In the past, Homeland Security has indicated it likes the concept of RFID chips. The State Department is already going to be embedding RFID devices in passports, and Homeland Security wants to issue RFID-outfitted IDs to foreign visitors who enter the country at the Mexican and Canadian borders. The agency plans to start a yearlong test of the technology in July at checkpoints in Arizona, New York and Washington state.
Will state DMVs share this information? Yes. In exchange for federal cash, states must agree to link up their databases. Specifically, the Real ID Act says it hopes to "provide electronic access by a state to information contained in the motor vehicle databases of all other states."
Is this legislation a done deal? Pretty much. The House of Representatives approved the package on Thursday by a vote of 368-58. Only three of the "nay" votes were Republicans; the rest were Democrats. The Senate is scheduled to vote on it next week and is expected to approve it as well.
White House spokesman Scott McClellan has told reporters "the president supports" the standalone Real ID Act, and the Bush administration has come out with an official endorsement. As far back as July 2002, the Bush administration has been talking about assisting "the states in crafting solutions to curtail the future abuse of drivers' licenses by terrorist organizations."
Who were the three Republicans who voted against it? Reps. Howard Coble of North Carolina, John Duncan of Tennessee, and Ron Paul of Texas.
Paul has warned that the Real ID Act "establishes a national ID card" and "gives authority to the Secretary of Homeland Security to unilaterally add requirements as he sees fit."
Is this a national ID card? It depends on whom you ask. Barry Steinhardt, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's technology and liberty program, says: "It's going to result in everyone, from the 7-Eleven store to the bank and airlines, demanding to see the ID card. They're going to scan it in. They're going to have all the data on it from the front of the card...It's going to be not just a national ID card but a national database."
At the moment, state driver's licenses aren't easy for bars, banks, airlines and so on to swipe through card readers because they're not uniform; some may have barcodes but no magnetic stripes, for instance, and some may lack both. Steinhardt predicts the federalized IDs will be a gold mine for government agencies and marketers. Also, he notes that the Supreme Court ruled last year that police can demand to see ID from law-abiding U.S. citizens.
Will it be challenged in court? Maybe. "We're exploring whether there are any litigation possibilities here," says the ACLU's Steinhardt.
One possible legal argument would challenge any requirement for a photograph on the ID card as a violation of religious freedom. A second would argue that the legislation imposes costs on states without properly reimbursing them.
When does it take effect? The Real ID Act takes effect "three years after the date of the enactment" of the legislation. So if the Senate and Bush give it the thumbs-up this month, its effective date would be sometime in May 2008.
2. "Damn. I mean, you knew it was coming. Have you seen" In response to Reply # 0
The so called "issues" with getting ID nowadays tho?
My boy told me they were doing a trial run with the mechanics for this shit with military ID and that shit was around the corner back in like 2000. I don't know how true that was, but hey- it seemed inevitable for many reasons.
Burn Your License By Annalee Newitz, AlterNet Posted on May 18, 2005
During the Vietnam War, people protested the draft and U.S. policy in Vietnam by burning draft cards. It was a symbolic gesture -- a way of refusing to be counted as a citizen willing to fight a morally dubious battle, a way to avoid becoming a statistic in the graveyards of the cold war.
As of last week, we have a new card to burn. I'm talking about the new driver's licenses and ID cards ushered into existence by the passage of Rep. James Sensenbrenner's Real ID Act, which zoomed through the House and Senate without debate by piggybacking on an appropriations bill. It mandates that all licenses include a digital photo, as well as "machine-readable technology with defined minimum data elements." In other words: your license will include some kind of tech -- probably a magnetic stripe or radio frequency identification (RFID) chip -- containing all your personal information.
Because there will be national standards for how this information can be stored, it appears anyone will be able to acquire readers for them. You can expect machines to start reading your cards in bars, buildings, state parks, taxicabs, and stores. Say your local bar owner decides to install a mag stripe reader so the bouncers don't have to look at IDs. When you slide your card through the reader, a lot more than your age will be revealed. Although the Department of Homeland Security has yet to decide what the "minimum data elements" will be, it seems likely they'll include at least the information currently visible on your card: name, age, address, biometrics. Possibly more. If that local bar owner chooses, he can store your information and sell it to a large data company looking to sell marketers a list of people who drink alcohol in urban areas.
Why is this creepy, aside from the idea that going to a bar may mean you get spam about drinking Guinness? Well, suddenly a lot more businesses and other entities will be collecting your personal information in not-very-secure databases. That leaves you much more vulnerable to identity theft and fraud.
And there's more. The databasing doesn't stop with your local bar. The DHS wants to use these cards to create a massive electronic warehouse with everybody's name and information - a warehouse whose contents they'll disclose to Canada and Mexico too. Basically, it will become a citizen-tracking machine if they can ever get it together to make state and federal databases talk to each other. Part of the law does require state DMVs to open their databases to the DHS if they want to continue receiving federal funding, thus potentially creating a vast repository of everybody's photographs, associated with their name, location, and driving records.
This is just the latest step in the strange metamorphosis our driver's licenses have undergone over the past several decades. Originally issued as a simple license demonstrating the holder's ability behind the wheel, the driver's license has gradually become a de facto identity-authentication card. We use it to prove who we are when we write checks, open accounts at video rental stores, and board airplanes.
Driver's licenses and IDs issued under the Real ID Act will reflect the true status of licenses as national ID cards by requiring people to show four (!!) forms of ID to get them, including Social Security cards, immigration papers, and birth certificates (images of which will be kept on file in the electronic identity warehouse). As anti-ID activist Bill Scannell points out on his web site UnRealID.com, abusing the driver's license in this way means the roads will become more dangerous. Someone with an uneasy immigration status might drive without training rather than face the scrutiny required to get a license under Real ID. Plus, everyone is required to put his or her true address on the card, meaning that law enforcement officers, undercover agents, and judges will be forced to hand out their addresses every time they swipe their cards. This policy, Scannell says, leads to "dead cops." I'm not sure how true that is, but he certainly raises a good point for anyone concerned about stalkers or bad guys chasing them down with guns in hand.
In California, many civil liberties groups have been pushing a state bill, S.B. 682, that would limit the state's ability to issue IDs with RFID chips in them. Because one of the main ways that cows are tracked in the Golden State is with RFID chips shot into their ears, many activists have said these IDs would turn humans into cattle. And now the DHS proposes to do the same thing on a national level. I just can't wait to be herded into the giant factory farm of electronic ID -- can you?