Federal Id Act May Be Flawed
The Real ID Act President Bush signed on May 11 as part of an omnibus spending bill is supposedly designed to make it harder for impersonators to acquire driver’s licenses, but critics say the act will allow both authorized and unauthorized people to access considerably more personal data about citizens, and would actually raise the likelihood of identity theft and other abuses.
Privacy Journal publisher Robert Ellis Smith says the Real ID scheme “builds a purported real identity on a document that we all know is built on fragile documents.” The act requires driver’s licenses to be standardized as machine-readable documents that contain personal identifiers, but opponents expect this measure will encourage many more merchants to scan customer licenses and supply this information to data brokers such as LexisNexis and ChoicePoint, whose databases were recently broken into by identity thieves.
ACLU legislative counsel Timothy Sparapani calls attention to the fact that, under the Real ID Act, “We will have all this information in one electronic format, in one linked file, and we’re giving access to tens of thousands of state DMV employees and federal agents.”
Some people opposed to certain provisions of the law acknowledge that the legislation will complicate the attainment of licenses by impostors, but others say the specter of fraud will not be entirely dissipated.
For instance, applicants can still obtain licenses without providing a photo ID, and foreign passports are valid as proof of identity.
University of Pittsburgh professor Joseph Eaton says it is relatively easy to send authentic U.S. birth certificates to the wrong people through chicanery. A 2002 study from the National Academy of Sciences concludes that it would be easier to create a national ID system than to maintain its security.
Abstracted by the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center(NLECTC) from the Los Angeles Times (05/31/05) P. A19; Menn, Joseph .