The push to establish a massive national identification database is meeting increased resistance from numerous state governments and thoughtful citizens around the country. Originally touted as a way to combat drivers license forgery and to make us “safer” by fighting terrorism, power-grabbing Feds and the sheep that staff many state agencies are rushing this country towards all-out tyranny in an effort to implement the REAL ID Act. Fortunately, the REAL ID Act is finally encountering some real opposition.
With full implementation due in 2009, and at an unfunded cost of at least $23 billion, the REAL ID Act of 2005 sets minimum standards that all states must meet when issuing state IDs such as driver’s licenses. It also mandates the creation of a national computerized system of records (database) containing all of the information that is given to obtain state-issued IDs. This information would include your name, address, date of birth, physical description, license number, photograph, fingerprint(s) and Social Security number. REAL ID cards must be “machine-readable,” meaning that they would most likely have credit card-style magnetic strips or embedded RFID chips, like newer passports (read my article, “Flawed security tech endangers citizens”).
It’s the giant database idea that bothers me the most, as such a database will no doubt be used to spy on, track and otherwise surveil innocent citizens. Government powers always end up being abused in some fashion, and this database would be no exception. In addition, all of the REAL ID “machine-readable” information would be available to any entity that requires identification and has a card reader. This would create yet another black-marketable database to be sold to, or stolen by, the highest criminal buyers. Do you really want the local pub to scan your ID into their database? Everywhere you go someone is checking IDs. Heck, I had to show my ID last week just to buy some spray paint at Wal-Mart. Quoting security expert Bruce Schneier, “As computer scientists, we do not know how to keep a database of this magnitude secure, whether from outside hackers or the thousands of insiders authorized to access it. And when the inevitable worms, viruses, or random failures happen and the database goes down, what then? Is America supposed to shut down until it’s restored?”
The fact is that IDs do not increase security. Again, quoting Schneier, “All the 9/11 terrorists had photo IDs. Some of the IDs were real. Some were fake. Some were real IDs in fake names, bought from a crooked DMV employee in Virginia for $1,000 each. Fake driver’s licenses for all fifty states, good enough to fool anyone who isn’t paying close attention, are available on the Internet. Or if you don’t want to buy IDs online, just ask any teenager where to get a fake ID.” Those with the right skills and equipment can easily forge all IDs, including the proposed REAL IDs.
If the notion of living in a totalitarian information police state does not appeal to you, you have until May 8 to make your thoughts known to the Department of Homeland Security, which is taking comments until that date. Visit http://action.eff.org/site/Advocacy?id=287 for more information. Be sure to also forward your comments to your sate and federal elected representatives. So far, five states have passed legislation refusing to go along with the REAL ID Act. Oklahoma should be the sixth.