EPIC Report: “REAL ID Implementation Review: Few Benefits, Staggering Costs”

Source: Electronic Privacy Information Center

Throughout its history, the United States has rejected the idea of a national identification system. Yet, the Department of Homeland Security continues to push forward a system of identification that has been widely opposed. The REAL ID Act mandates that State driver’s licenses and ID cards follow federal technical standards and verification procedures issued by Homeland Security. REAL ID also enables tracking, surveillance, and profiling of the American public.

May 11, 2008 was the statutory deadline for implementation of the REAL ID system, but not one State is in compliance with the federal law creating a national identification system. In fact, 19 States have passed resolutions or laws rejecting the national ID program. The Department of Homeland Security has faced so many obstacles that the agency now plans an implementation deadline of 2017 — nine years later than the 2008 statutory deadline.

Homeland Security claims that it is making strides in implementing the national ID program. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff encourages the use of the REAL ID system for a wide variety of purposes unrelated to the law that authorized the system. In an opinion column written by Secretary Chertoff after the publication of the final rule in January, he said, “embracing REAL ID” would mean it would be used to “cash a check, hire a baby sitter, board a plane or engage in countless other activities.” None of these uses for the REAL ID have a legal basis. Each one creates a new risk for Americans who are already confronting the staggering problem of identity theft.

Last year, EPIC submitted detailed comments to the DHS on the draft proposal for REAL ID. With the assistance of many experts, we attempted to address the enormous challenge in the project proposal. In the following report, EPIC details the many problems with the final plan to implement this vast national identification system. The REAL ID system remains filled with threats to privacy, security and civil liberties that have not been resolved.

Full report (PDF; 450 KB)

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