Real ID opposition sparks revisions to national driver's license standard

Pass ID drops controversial proposals, but not all think law's revision went far enough

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Privacy, data security conerns

Privacy and civil rights advocates have blasted Real ID and said that it would result in the creation of a de facto national ID card that could be used to track and snoop on individuals. They have warned that the proposal to link state driver's licenses databases together would greatly increase the potential for data compromise and data theft.

As a result of such concerns, the DHS, which is the agency in charge of implementing Real ID has been pushing back compliance deadlines. After stating earlier that individuals with standard state-issued licenses would not be able to board commercial aircraft starting May 2008, the DHS now says state licenses will be acceptable as identification by federal agencies until December 2014. Individuals age 50 or older will not have to show Real ID cards until December 2017.

Today's proposed bill has received a decidedly mixed response so far. The Center for Democracy and Technology, (CDT), which in the past has expressed concern over the privacy and civil rights implications of Real ID, today welcomed the proposed legislation.

"We think it addresses the main privacy issues we had with Real ID," said Ari Schwartz, executive director of the Washington-based think tank. The removal of the database linking provision, the proposal to limit the official purposes for which the card would be needed and the changes relating to the machine readable data are all good steps, Schwartz said.

The changes effectively counter the likelihood of the card being used for tracking people, while also meeting the 9/11 commission's recommendations, he said. The decision to revise Real ID rather than repeal it altogether as some have called for is a good step, Schwartz said. "We think this was a pragmatic approach," he said.

But Janice Kephart, director of national security policy at the Center for Immigration Studies, blasted Pass ID, saying it would do nothing to improve security. "It is in fact a dumbing down of ID verification [practices]," Kephart said. "I would call in a Pass on anything ID Act."

"It would not conform at all to the 9/11 commission standard and would help terrorists get on airplanes," she said. The proposed legislation will only introduce confusion, give states money without accountability, roll back airport security and eliminate information sharing between states, she said.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which has been an ardent critic of Real ID, today expressed dissatisfaction with the proposed bill. It said in a statement that while Pass ID included some welcome privacy protections, the legislation "could ultimately resurrect the discredited Real ID Act and become the basis for a National ID."

The statement pointed to the widespread opposition to Real ID in many states and said the law should have been repealed rather than "fixed."

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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