Friday, January 11, 2008

The REAL ID – Real Smart, or Government Gone to Far?

It was announced today that for Americans born after Dec. 1, 1964, they will have to get more secure driver's licenses in the next six years as part of post-9/11 security rules. Michael Chertoff, Homeland Security Secretary, says the REAL ID program will be inexpensive and reasonable. Civil liberties officials say this is going too far, and some states believe it will cost them plenty.

The REAL ID Act was designed to make it harder for terrorists, illegal immigrants and con artists to get government-issued identification. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) objects to the REAL ID because it involves sharing of personal data among government agencies. The Department of Homeland Security believes to guarantee the safety of the ID, they have to verify it against secure government data. Others like the ACLU are of the opinion that this can only make the chance of security breaches more likely.

The ACLU has a written objection to the law, claiming the REAL ID is the "first-ever national identity card system," which "would irreparably damage the fabric of American life."

What would this REAL ID mean for you? If you’re born after Dec. 1, 1964, by 2014, you would have to present a REAL ID-compliant driver's license in order to board an airplane or enter a federal building. If you’re over 50, the REAL ID would not be required at that time. The over-50 exemption was put in place to give states more time to get everyone new licenses. This age group is also considered low risk for a person being a terrorist, illegal immigrant, etc. By 2017, even for those over 50, a REAL ID-compliant card will be a requirement to board a plane. Of course, there are a lot of other details involved, but you get the idea.

I have to admit, I am not very bothered by this proposal of a REAL ID. You would think I would be, after just having my credit card compromised, and also after having other personal information potentially compromised during a security breach in the handling of Ohio tax information in 2007. There is a chance that if your REAL ID data gets stolen or somehow forged, that you could be in an indescribable mess trying to recover from it. And sure, I remember watching a lot of old movies as a kid, being scared when people in Europe during WWII were constantly asked to “show me your papers” in order to gain access anywhere.

But I remain very concerned about security in this country. Frankly, I don’t think the REAL ID will deter all terrorists and malcontents, but I believe it can help in at least preventing them easy access. I also think that people are deluding themselves if they think, in this day of GPS, cell phones, Internet cookies and other tracking like credit card transactions, and all similar the tracking like supermarket purchases, that they have any privacy left. They don’t.

One big benefit to the REAL ID is evident in their slogan: “One driver, one license." In the case of the hijacker who flew into the Pentagon, he had four driver's licenses and ID cards from three states. The REAL ID should help plug that hole.

It is critical, however, that the Department of Homeland Security make the REAL ID system hacker proof and tamper proof. Failure to do so would make the card not only worthless, but would compromise the security of the people they are trying to protect. I would like to see more details from the DHS on this matter.

So right now, I haven’t heard anything about the REAL ID that would make me lose any sleep. In fact, I would probably lose more sleep if we allow the current ID system to continue on as is. The REAL ID seems like a real good idea. I’ll keep a real open mind, though, so comments are welcome.

Check out my blog home page for the latest information,

No comments: