Focusing public attention on emerging privacy and civil liberties issues

National ID and the REAL ID Act

EPIC Report: "REAL ID Implementation Review: Few Benefits, Staggering Costs" (May 2008)

EPIC Press Release: "Homeland Security Department Announces Deeply Flawed Regulations For National ID System" (January 11, 2008)

EPIC Comments on REAL ID Draft Regulations (May 8, 2007)

CAMPAIGN



Stop REAL ID: Reject National Identification

Latest News/Events

  • Supreme Court to Consider Law that Protects Privacy of Drivers' Records: The Supreme Court is set to hear arguments in Maracich v. Spears, a case involving the Drivers' Privacy Protection Act. The Court agreed to hear the case after a lower could ruled that impermissible uses of personal data held by DMVs were "inextricably intertwined" with permissible uses. The Supreme Court previously said that the law "establishes a regulatory scheme that restricts the States' ability to disclose a driver's personal information without the driver's consent." EPIC filed an amicus curiae brief in support of the Petitioners, urging that the Court overturn the lower court's judgment. EPIC's brief details the staggering amount of personal information contained in driver records, particularly as a consequence of the REAL ID regulations. EPIC argues that "changes in technology have increased the risk of the underlying harm that Congress sought to address. Therefore, the Court should narrowly construe the statutory exceptions." The EPIC amicus brief is joined by twenty-seven technical experts and legal scholars. For more information, see EPIC: Maracich v. Spears, EPIC: The Driver's Privacy Protection Act, and EPIC: National ID and REAL ID. (Jan. 8, 2013)
  • EPIC Requests Clarifications on New Passport Application: EPIC has filed comments with the State Department regarding Form DS-5513, a new passport application that requires unusually detailed information about the background of some passport applicants. For example, applicants are asked to provide their mother's place of employment at the time of their birth. The agency claims that such information is necessary "when the applicant submits citizenship or identity evidence that is insufficient to meet his/her burden of proving citizenship or identity." EPIC wrote that the State Department needs to provide more information about the purposes of the data collection for the public to meaningfully assess the impact. For more information, see EPIC National ID and REAL ID. (Apr. 28, 2011)
  • Real ID Remerges on House Agenda: Despite the fact that twenty-four states have rejected the REAL ID Act of 2005, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), Rep. Peter King (R-NY), and Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) issued Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano a letter warning against any further extension of REAL ID. The letter stated that not implementing REAL ID "threatens the security of the United States." The letter follows the arrest of Khalid Ali-M Adawsari on charges of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction. According to the House Judiciary Committee, DHS is planning to extend the deadline for implementation to January 15, 2013. The current deadline for states to be materially compliant is May 11, 2011. EPIC previously released a report, testified to Congress, and submitted comments stating that REAL ID included few protections for individual privacy and security in its massive national identification database. For related information see EPIC: National ID and the REAL ID Act, EPIC: Biometric Identifiers, and the Privacy Coalition’s Campaign Against REAL ID. (Mar. 4, 2011)
  • Worker Biometric ID Under Consideration in US: Senators Charles Schumer and Lindsey Graham have proposed a new national identity card. The Senators would require that "all U.S. citizens and legal immigrants who want jobs" obtain a "high-tech, fraud-proof Social Security card" with a unique biometric identifier. The card, they say, would not contain private information, medical information, or tracking techniques, and the biometric identifiers would not be stored in a government database. EPIC has testified in Congress and commented to federal agencies on the privacy and security risks associated with national identification systems and biometric identifiers. For more information, see EPIC: National ID and the REAL ID Act, EPIC: Biometric Identifiers, and the Privacy Coalition’s Campaign Against REAL ID. (Mar. 24, 2010)
  • EPIC Report: "REAL ID Implementation Review: Few Benefits, Staggering Costs." At a REAL ID workshop at the Berkman Center, EPIC today released a new report on the Department of Homeland Security’s national identification proposal, the REAL ID system. "May 11, 2008 is the statutory deadline for implementation of the REAL ID system. Yet on this date, 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 with the REAL ID system that the agency now plans an implementation deadline of 2017." See EPIC Report: "REAL ID Implementation Review: Few Benefits, Staggering Costs" and EPIC Comments on the Draft Regulations. (May 13)
  • Alaska Joins Other States in Rejecting REAL ID System. Just two weeks after DHS granted all 56 states and territories extensions that would allow state licenses and ID cards to remain “valid for federal purposes” past May 11, 2008, Alaska has passed legislation against the REAL ID national identification scheme. SB 202 (pdf) states, "A state agency may not expend funds solely for the purpose of implementing or aiding in the implementation of, the requirements of the federal Real ID Act of 2005." DHS has said it “made extensions available for states that needed additional time to come into compliance, or to complete ongoing security measures,” implying that states that received extensions had agreed to implement the national identification system. However, Alaska is just the latest in a number of states that have declared unequivocally that it will not implement the REAL ID scheme. (April 11)
  • Idaho Rejects REAL ID System; State Rebellion Spreads. Idaho has enacted legislation to reject the REAL ID national identification scheme. HB 606 (pdf) prohibits the Idaho transportation board and department from implementing the national ID system and "to report to the governor and to the constitutional defense council [...] any attempt by agencies or agents of the U.S. department of homeland security to secure implementation of the REAL ID act of 2005, through the operations of that department." Last year, the Idaho Legislature passed a joint memorial (pdf) opposing REAL ID, but that bill had no force of law. Idaho joins several states in rejecting the national ID system even though they have all received extensions from the Department of Homeland Security allowing their state licenses and ID cards to remain “valid for federal purposes” past May 11, 2008. (April 9)
  • DHS Caves, Gives Extensions to All States Though Some Reject REAL ID. Several states are rejecting the Department of Homeland Security’s REAL ID program, which would create a national identification system, but DHS granted all states extensions that would allow state licenses and ID cards to remain “valid for federal purposes” past May 11, 2008. Four states (Maine, Montana, New Hampshire and South Carolina) have expressly rejected the system and none asked for an extension. The Department of Homeland Security said it “made extensions available for states that needed additional time to come into compliance, or to complete ongoing security measures,” implying that states that received extensions had agreed to implement the REAL ID national identification system. However, a number of states have said that these extensions do not constitute an agreement to implement this national ID scheme, including California (pdf). (April 3)

History of National Identification Cards

National ID cards have long been advocated as a means to enhance national security, unmask potential terrorists, and guard against illegal immigrants. They are in use in many countries around the world including most European countries, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand. Currently, the United States and the United Kingdom have continued to debate the merits of adopting national ID cards. The types of card, their functions, and privacy safeguards vary widely.

Americans have rejected the idea of a national ID card. When the Social Security Number (SSN) was created in 1936, it was meant to be used only as an account number associated with the administration of the Social Security system. Though use of the SSN has expanded considerably, it is not a universal identifier and efforts to make it one have been consistently rejected. In 1971, the Social Security Administration task force on the SSN rejected the extension of the Social Security Number to the status of an ID card. In 1973, the Health, Education and Welfare Secretary's Advisory Committee on Automated Personal Data Systems concluded that a national identifier was not desirable. In 1976, the Federal Advisory Committee on False Identification rejected the idea of an identifier.

In 1977, the Carter Administration reiterated that the SSN was not to become an identifier, and in 1981 the Reagan Administration stated that it was "explicitly opposed" to the creation of a national ID card. The Clinton administration advocated a "Health Security Card" in 1993 and assured the public that the card, issued to every American, would have "full protection for privacy and confidentiality." Still, the idea was rejected and the health security card was never created. In 1999 Congress repealed a controversial provision in the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 which gave authorization to include Social Security Numbers on driver's licenses.

In response to the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, there has been renewed interest in the creation of national ID cards. Soon after the attacks, Larry Ellison, head of California-based software company Oracle Corporation, called for the development of a national identification system and offered to donate the technology to make this possible. He proposed ID cards with embedded digitized thumbprints and photographs of all legal residents in the U.S. There was much public debate about the issue, and Congressional hearings were held. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich testified that he "would not institute a national ID card because you do get into civil liberties issues." When it created the Department of Homeland Security, Congress made clear in the enabling legislation that the agency could not create a national ID system. In September 2004, then-DHS Secretary Tom Ridge reiterated, "[t]he legislation that created the Department of Homeland Security was very specific on the question of a national ID card. They said there will be no national ID card."

The public continues to debate the issue, and there have been many other proposals for the creation of a national identification system, some through the standardization of state driver's licenses. The debate remains in the international spotlight -- several nations are considering implementing such systems. The U.S. Congress has passed the REAL ID Act of 2005, which mandates federal requirements for driver's licenses. Critics argue that it would make driver's licenses into de facto national IDs. EPIC and others have called for the repeal of this ill-conceived national identification law.

The REAL ID Act of 2005

History

The REAL ID Act of 2005 creates a de facto national identification card. Ostensibly voluntary, it would become mandatory as those without the card would face suspicion and increased scrutiny. It is a law imposing federal technological standards and verification procedures on state driver's licenses and identification cards, many of which are beyond the current capacity of the federal government, and mandating state compliance by May 2008. In fact, REAL ID turns state DMV workers into federal immigration officials, as they must verify the citizenship status of all those who want a REAL ID-approved state driver's license or identification cards. State DMVs would far move away from their core mission -- to license drivers.

REAL ID was appended to a bill providing tsunami relief and military appropriations, and passed with little debate and no hearings. The REAL ID Act repealed provisions in the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, which contained "carefully crafted language -- bipartisan language -- to establish standards for States issuing driver's licenses," according to Sen. Richard Durbin. After more than two years, the Department of Homeland Security issued draft regulations for state compliance on March 1, 2007.

The National Conference of State Legislatures estimates (pdf) that the cost to the states will be more than $11 billion over five years. This is more than 100 times the $100 million cost that Congress initially estimated. For 2006, $40 million was allocated for start-up costs. It is likely that the cost will be shouldered by the public. The Department of Homeland Security originally estimated that REAL ID will cost $23.1 billion over 10 years. But, when the agency released the final rule in January 2008, it made dubious assumptions and claimed that the national ID system would only cost $9.9 billion.

EPIC and 24 experts in privacy and technology submitted detailed comments (pdf) in May 2007 on the draft regulations explaining the many privacy and security threats raised by the REAL ID Act. The fundamentally flawed national identification system is unworkable and the REAL ID Act must be repealed. In particular, the group admonishes DHS for its failure to include adequate privacy and security safeguards for this massive national identification database. DHS's own Data Privacy and Integrity Advisory Committee has refused (pdf) to endorse the agency's plan. "The Committee feels it is important that the following comments do not constitute an endorsement of REAL ID or the regulations as workable or appropriate."

DHS's Final Rule to Implement REAL ID

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff released the agency's final regulations for REAL ID on January 11, 2008. The Secretary scaled back some of the requirements, reduced the cost, and extended the deadline for state compliance. However, Secretary Chertoff also indicated that the REAL ID card would be used for a wide variety of purposes, unrelated to the law that authorized the system, including employment verification and immigration determination. He also indicated that the agency would not prevent the use of the card by private parties for non-government purposes. As part of the cost-saving effort, Homeland Security has decided not to encrypt the data that will be stored on the card.

In an opinion column written by Secretary Chertoff after the publication of the final rule, 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." This is a description of a national identification system, which is illegal in the United States. When it created the Department of Homeland Security, Congress made clear in the enabling legislation that the agency could not create a national ID system. In September 2004, then-DHS Secretary Tom Ridge reiterated, "[t]he legislation that created the Department of Homeland Security was very specific on the question of a national ID card. They said there will be no national ID card."

EPIC Analysis of Final Rule to Implement REAL ID

In a detailed analysis (pdf) of the final rule, EPIC explained that the Department of Homeland Security's REAL ID system includes few protections for individual privacy and security in its massive national identification database. It harms national security by creating yet another "trusted" credential for criminals to exploit. The Department of Homeland Security has faced so many obstacles with the REAL ID system that the agency now plans an implementation deadline of 2017 -- nine years later than the 2008 statutory deadline. It is an unfunded mandate that would cost billions, with the burden ultimately being placed on the individual taxpayer.

Technical experts familiar with the challenges of privacy protection and identification presented the Department of Homeland Security with a variety of recommendations that would have minimized the risks of the REAL ID system. The DHS made some modifications, but left the essential system in place. As REAL ID currently stands, the costs are many and the benefits are few. EPIC also detailed the State rebellion against REAL ID.

EPIC urged the alternative model of a system of decentralized identification. This reduces the risks associated with security breaches and the misuse of personal information. Technological innovation can enable the development of context-dependent identifiers. A decentralized approach to identification is consistent with our commonsense understanding of identification. If you are banking, you should have a bank account number. If go to the library, you should have a library card number. If you rent videos from a store, you should have a video rental store card number. Utility bills, telephone bills, insurance, the list goes on. These context-dependent usernames and passwords enable authentication without the risk of a universal identification system. That way, if one number is compromised, all of the numbers are not spoiled and identity thieves cannot access all of your accounts. All of your accounts can become compartmentalized, enhancing their security. View the full report: Marc Rotenberg & Melissa Ngo, EPIC, REAL ID Implementation Review: Few Benefits, Staggering Costs (pdf) (May 2008).

Resources

Reports on National ID Cards

State Legislation Rejecting REAL ID (19 total)

  • Alaska, SB 202 (pdf) (html) (adopted April 11, 2008)
  • South Dakota, SCR 7 (pdf) (html) (passed February 25, 2008)
  • Tennessee, SJR 0248 (pdf) (html)
  • South Carolina, S 449 (pdf) (html) (enrolled June 5, 2007)
  • Nebraska, (pdf) (html) (adopted May 30, 2007)
  • New Hampshire, HB 685 (pdf) (html) (adopted May 24, 2007)
  • Oklahoma, SB 464 (pdf) (Word) (approved May 23, 2007)
  • Illinois, HJR 0027 (pdf) (html) (adopted May 22, 2007)
  • Missouri, HCR 20 (pdf) (html) (adopted May 17, 2007)
  • Nevada, AJR 6 (pdf) (html) (enrolled May 14, 2007)
  • Colorado, HJR 1047 (pdf) (html) (signed May 14, 2007)
  • Georgia, SB 5 (pdf) (html) (signed May 11, 2007)
  • Hawaii, SCJ 31 (pdf) (html) (adopted April 25, 2007)
  • North Dakota, SCR 4040 (pdf) (html) (signed April 20, 2007)
  • Washington (pdf) (html) (signed April 18, 2007)
  • Montana, HB 287 (pdf) (html) (signed April 17, 2007)
  • Arkansas, SCR 22 (pdf) (signed March 28, 2007)
  • Idaho, HJM 3 (pdf) (html) (signed March 12, 2007); Idaho, HB 606 (pdf) (html) (signed April 9, 2008)
  • Maine, SP 113 (pdf) (html) (adopted January 25, 2007)
  • Utah, HB 449 (html)(unanimously passed by committee on February 19, 2008; lost on House floor)
  • Louisana, HB 715 (html) (passed May 14, 2008; signed July 16, 2008)
  • Virginia, HJR 42 (html); SB 492 (html); SB 1431 (html) (enacted March 31, 2009)
  • Minnesota, HF 3807 (html) (passed House and Senate May 13, 2008; vetoed May 16, 2008); HF 1351 (html) (passed House April 14, 2008; passed Senate April 21, 2008; vetoed April 25, 2008)
  • Arizona, HB 2677 (html) (passed House March 19, 2008; passed Senate May 6, 2008; signed June 17, 2008)

News Items

Previous Top News

  • DHS Demands REAL ID Compliance From Maine As State Stands Strong Against National ID System. March 31, 2008 was the deadline for states to ask the Department of Homeland Security for an extension that would allow state licenses and ID cards to remain “valid for federal purposes” past May 11. Several states have declared (pdf) that they will not implement the REAL ID national identification system and did not ask for extensions, but DHS gave these states extensions anyway. DHS says (pdf) that Maine has until April 2 to agree to implement the REAL ID requirements or, on May 11, Maine residents will not be allowed to use their state IDs at airports. The state has passed legislation "refus[ing] to implement the REAL ID Act." The national ID proposal has drawn sharp criticism from state governments, members of Congress, civil liberties advocates, and security experts (pdf). (April 1, 2008)
  • DHS Hits Roadblocks In Demanding State Implementation of REAL ID System. Several states are rejecting the Department of Homeland Security’s REAL ID program, which would create a national identification system. States have until March 31 to ask the agency for an extension that would allow state licenses and ID cards to remain “valid for federal purposes.” Four states (Maine, Montana, New Hampshire and South Carolina) have expressly rejected the system and none asked for an extension. DHS has given Montana an extension, though the governor said (pdf) the state would never implement REAL ID. California (pdf) is among the states that requested an extension but said it did not agree to implement the national identification system. The REAL ID proposal has drawn sharp criticism from state governments, members of Congress, civil liberties advocates, and security experts (pdf). EPIC has called the scheme "a real danger to security and civil rights." (March 24, 2008)
  • Montana Governor Urges REAL ID Rebellion. In a letter (pdf) to the governors of 17 states, Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer asked them to band together to reject the REAL ID national identification system. "Today, I am asking you to join with me in resisting the DHS coercion to comply with the provisions of REAL ID," Gov. Schweitzer wrote. "I would like us to speak with one, unified voice and demand the Congress step in and fix this mess." On January 11, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff released the agency's final regulations for REAL ID. The proposal has drawn sharp criticism from state governments, members of Congress, civil liberties advocates, and security experts (pdf). EPIC has called the scheme "a real danger to security and civil rights." (January 21, 2008)
  • National Identification Plan Announced. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff today released the agency's final regulations for REAL ID, the national identification system. The proposal has drawn sharp criticism from state governments, members of Congress, civil liberties advocates, and security experts (pdf). The Secretary scaled back some of the requirements, reduced the cost, and extended the deadline for state compliance. However, Secretary Chertoff also indicated that the REAL ID card would be used for a wide variety of purposes, unrelated to the law that authorized the system, including employment verification and immigration determination. He also indicated that the agency would not prevent the use of the card by private parties for non-government purposes. As part of the cost-saving effort, Homeland Security has decided not to encrypt the data that will be stored on the card. Congress is considering legislation to repeal the Act. View EPIC's press release: Homeland Security Department Announces Deeply Flawed Regulations For National ID System. (January 11, 2008)
  • Homeland Security Expected To Release REAL ID Regulations on Friday. EPIC has learned that the Department of Homeland Security will release the final regulations for REAL ID tomorrow at noon ET. The proposal for a federally mandated national identification system has been widely criticized. EPIC and others (pdf) have detailed security and privacy problems (pdf) with the plan. A coalition of organizations urged the Homeland Security agency to withdraw the proposal. Seventeen states formally opposed REAL ID, and Congress is considering legislation that would repeal the plan. The original deadline for implementation was 2008, but DHS has pushed it back to 2013, in part, because of public opposition. (January 10, 2008)
  • Almost Three Years After REAL ID's Passage, DHS Still Hasn't Released Final Regulations. Almost three years after the passage of the controversial REAL ID Act, the Department of Homeland Security still has not released final regulations. In November, the Department of Homeland Security announced major changes to the planned REAL ID national identification system (pdf). The original deadline for implementation was 2008, but has been pushed back to 2013. Now, DHS may delay implementation until 2018 and significantly reduce the requirements set out in draft regulations released in March. EPIC and others have repeatedly (pdf) detailed security and privacy problems (pdf) with the system that creates a national ID database and imposes federal responsibilities upon state agencies that have neither the trained employees nor the resources to fulfill these responsibilities. The final regulations, originally to be released in September, have yet to be published. For more information, see EPIC's Spotlight on Surveillance for March. (January 8, 2008)
  • San Francisco Mayor Signs Legislation Creating ID Card Without Citizenship Requirements. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom has signed legislation (pdf) that will create city identification cards that would be available to any resident, regardless of citizenship status. In July, New Haven, Conn., began issuing the first such city-sponsored ID cards to undocumented immigrants. Such cards establish legal identity and residency and allow cardholders to access basic city services such as banking, aid for the homeless and library access. (November 28, 2007)
  • UK Moves Forward on National ID Despite Massive Data Loss. On November 20, the UK government announced the biggest loss of personal information in the UK's history. Two unencrypted computer disks containing the personal records of all families in the UK with a child under the age of 16 went missing en route from the Revenue and Customs department to the National Audit Office. Since the announcement of the data breach, opponents to the national ID card system have called on Prime Minister Brown to scrap implementation plans. Instead of backing down on its plans, however, the UK government has stated that it will re-evaluate the ID system and “start afresh” with more checks and balances. The government says the new system will hold only core identity information and biometrics, and will not have any tax, benefit or other financial records stored. Biometric and biographical information will also be stored in separate databases. The government did not comment, however, on the need for the collection and centralization of such vast stores of information in the first place. (November 26, 2007)
  • EPIC, Experts Urge Supreme Court to Strike Down Indiana Voter Photo ID Law. In a "friend-of-the-court" brief (pdf) filed today, EPIC and 10 legal scholars and technical experts urged the U.S. Supreme Court to invalidate an Indiana law requiring individuals to show a government-issued photo ID card before allowing them to vote. "Not only has the state failed to establish the need for the voter identification law or to address the disparate impact of the law, the state's voter ID system is imperfect, and relies on a flawed federal identification system," called REAL ID, they said. For more information, see EPIC's page concerning the case and the National Committee for Voting Integrity. (November 13, 2007)
  • San Francisco Preliminarily Approves ID Card Without Citizenship Requirements. On November 13, San Francisco preliminarily approved legislation (pdf) to issue city identification cards that would be available to any resident, regardless of citizenship status. Such cards would establish legal identity and residency and allow cardholders to access basic city services such as banking, aid for the homeless and library access. The San Francisco board will review the bill again before sending it to the mayor, who has indicated his general support. In July, New Haven, Conn., began issuing the first such city-sponsored ID cards to undocumented immigrants. Last month, in a reversal, New York Governor Eliot Spitzer decided to offer three types of driver's licenses for purposes other than driving, including one that would include immigration status. The plan has been heavily criticized for security and privacy problems. (November 13, 2007)
  • Homeland Security Backs Down on Flawed REAL ID Plan. The Department of Homeland Security has announced major changes to the planned REAL ID national identification system (pdf). The original deadline for implementation was 2008, but has been pushed back to 2013. Now, DHS may delay implementation until 2018 and significantly reduce the requirements set out in draft regulations released in March. EPIC and others have repeatedly (pdf) detailed security and privacy problems (pdf) with the system that creates a national ID database and imposes federal responsibilities upon state agencies that have neither the trained employees nor the resources to fulfill these responsibilities. The final regulations, originally to be released in September, have yet to be published. For more information, see EPIC's Spotlight on Surveillance for March. (November 5, 2007)
  • NY Governor Changes Plan, Supports REAL ID. In a reversal, New York Governor Eliot Spitzer has decided to offer three types of driver's licenses for purposes other than driving. Spitzer's original plan offered one driver's license to all applicants regardless of immigration status. The new plan includes a REAL ID-compatible license (opting NY into the national ID system); a border card with long-range RFID technology; and a driver's license that will include visa information turning a state license into a federal immigration document. EPIC has repeatedly detailed security and privacy problems with a national ID system, use of RFID technology in ID documents, and the imposition of federal responsibilities upon state agencies that have neither the trained employees nor the resources to fulfill these federal responsibilities. For more information, see EPIC's Spotlight on Surveillance for March, Comments (pdf) on the REAL ID Draft Regulations, and RFID page. (October 31, 2007)
  • Test Run of Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative Causes Long Delays. Federal agents along the U.S.-Mexico border are conducting a test run of new border entry procedures under the Western Hemispehre Travel Initiative, which creates different requirements for identification, including mandating the use of long-range RFID technology. The new procedures created major delays for travelers, causing business and tourism problems. In comments (pdf) to the State Department and Homeland Security, EPIC recommended against the use of "long-range" RFID technology (which transmits personal data to remote tracking devices) in the proposed "PASS card" for travel between the United States, Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean. EPIC explained that the tracking technology would jeopardize the privacy and security of US travelers. See EPIC's Spotlight on Surveillance on WHTI and page on RFID. (October 21, 2007)
  • U.K. Government Proposes Massive Merging of Personal Data. The U.K. government is facing much public criticism over its proposal to merge the General Register Office, which registers births and deaths, with the Identity and Passport Service. The General Register Office also includes other personal data, such as parentage. Critics are calling the proposed merger a "chilling" harbinger. (October 10, 2007)
  • Belgium Begins Issuing National ID Cards to Children. Belgium has begun issuing national identification cards to citizens of all ages. It is the first country to do so. Many countries set a minimum age for issuing national ID cards; for example, a person in Britain must be at least 16 years old. The Belgium ID card also will be used as an Internet-protection measure, the government says. From age 6, children can receive a PIN to allow them access to children's-only groups online. (October 4, 2007)
  • New York and San Francisco Consider ID Cards for Undocumented Immigrants. San Francisco and New York are debating proposals to create city identification cards that would be available to any resident, regardless of citizenship status. Such cards would establish legal identity and residency and allow cardholders to access basic services such as banking, aid for the homeless and library access. In July, New Haven, Conn., began issuing the first such city-sponsored ID cards to undocumented immigrants. More than 1,500 people have applied for the cards. (September 18, 2007)
  • Federal Government Restricts Volunteers From Assisting With Disaster Relief. The federal government is launching an ID program for rescue workers to keep everyday volunteers from helping at a disaster scene. A prototype of the new first responder ID card is already being issued to fire and police personnel in Washington, D.C. Proponents say the system will allow professionals to be on scene faster and keep untrained volunteers away. But critics decry the government's decision to restrict who can volunteer in times of crisis. (September 3, 2007)
  • DHS Warns States That Reject REAL ID. In a speech to the National Conference of State Legislatures on August 8, DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff told states that citizens in states that do not implement REAL ID will have to use passports for federal purposes, such as entering courthouses or flying domestically. Passports currently cost $97 each, and the State Department admitted in July that there is a significant backlog in processing passports because of, among other things, "inept planning, underfunded preparations, popular misunderstanding of poorly crafted government advertising," Secretary Chertoff's remarks have yet to be added to the DHS Web site under "Speeches and Statements," though remarks from August 16 and 17 have been. Seventeen states have passed legislation against REAL ID. There also are bills to repeal REAL ID in both the U.S. House and Senate. For more information, see EPIC's Spotlight on Surveillance for March. (August 20, 2007)
  • New Haven, Conn., Issues ID Cards to Undocumented Immigrants. Starting today, New Haven will allow undocumented immigrants to buy municipal identification cards. These are the first city-issued ID cards that allow undocumented immigrants access to city services such as libraries and a chance to open bank accounts. Supporters say the cards, which are available to any New Haven resident, will improve public safety, but critics contend it will increase undocumented immigration into the city. (July 24, 2007)
  • Senate Rejects Pro-REAL ID Portion of Immigration Bill. An amendment to delete the requirement that employers demand REAL ID cards from new hires survived an unsuccessful attempt to kill it today. Montana Senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester sponsored the anti-REAL ID amendment, stating REAL ID is an unreasonable government intrusion into Americans' private lives. In April, Montana became one of the 16 states to pass legislation against REAL ID. There also are bills in both the U.S. House and Senate that would repeal the national identification scheme. For more information, see EPIC's Spotlight on Surveillance for March. (June 27, 2007)
  • House Approves $50M in REAL ID Grants. By a vote of 268-150, the House today passed a Homeland Security funding bill that included $50M in grant money to states to implement REAL ID. This is a small fraction of the estimated cost of the national identification system. The Department of Homeland Security has estimated that REAL ID will cost $23.1 billion over 10 years. The House approves the funding as Tennessee joins 15 other states in rejecting REAL ID. There are also bills in both the U.S. House and Senate that would repeal the national identification scheme. For more information, see EPIC's Spotlight on Surveillance for March. (June 15, 2007)
  • Fifteen States Have Passed Anti-REAL ID Legislation. As the deadline for compliance draws closer, more states are opting out of the controversial REAL ID national identification system. The states that have passed anti-REAL ID legislation are: Arkansas (pdf), Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Maine, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Carolina, and Washington. The resistance to REAL ID is growing. In May, more than 60 organizations and 215 blogs joined a campaign to submit comments against REAL ID. There are bills in both the U.S. House and Senate that would repeal the national identification scheme. EPIC and 24 experts in privacy and technology submitted detailed comments (pdf) explaining the many privacy and security threats raised by the REAL ID Act. For more information, see EPIC's Spotlight on Surveillance for March. (June 5, 2007)
  • Congress Debates Bills That Broaden Uses of REAL ID. The House (pdf) and Senate (pdf) are debating immigration bills that include provisions broadening the uses of REAL ID cards and licenses, which do not exist. Both bills create a national employment eligibility verification system, which would use REAL ID cards for identification and eligibility verification. The Senate bill forbids the use of non-REAL ID cards in the verfication system after 2013. Both bills permit the DHS Secretary to prohibit the use of certain documents for employment verification. This would give the DHS Secretary the power to mandate the use of a national ID card, such as the REAL ID card, as the sole acceptable document for employment eligibility verification in the United States. EPIC Executive Director Marc Rotenberg is expected to testify at a Congressional hearing on the House bill next week. For more on the bills, see EPIC's Spotlight on Surveillance for May. (May 31, 2007)
  • Georgia and Nevada Join Revolt Against REAL ID. Georgia and Nevada have become the ninth and tenth states to pass legislation against REAL ID. The Georgia bill allows the governor to delay implementation "until the Department of Homeland Security has issued regulations that the Governor finds will adequately protect the interests of the citizens of Georgia." Nevada passed a joint resolution urging Congress to repeal the fundamentally flawed national identification scheme. Eight other states have passed anti-REAL ID legislation. Washington (pdf) and Montana (pdf) chose to opt-out completely. Colorado (pdf) and Idaho refuse to spend any money on REAL ID implementation. Arkansas (pdf), Hawaii, Maine, and North Dakota are calling for its repeal. There are bills in both the U.S. House and Senate that would repeal REAL ID. (May 16, 2007)
  • DHS Receives More Than 12,000 Comments on REAL ID Draft Regulations. The Department of Homeland Security announced that it has received more than 12,000 comments on its draft implementation regulations for the REAL ID Act. The public comment process was marked with problems. Many people complained that they were unable file comments through the Web site and fax number that DHS provided in its federal rulemaking. One day before the comments were due, DHS finally set up an e-mail address to which people could send comments. REAL ID faces considerable opposition by the public, the States and in Congress. More than 60 organizations and 215 blogs joined a campaign to submit comments against REAL ID. Washington (pdf) and Montana (pdf) passed legislation to opt-out completely. Colorado (pdf) and Idaho will not spend any money on REAL ID implementation. Arkansas (pdf), Hawaii, Maine, and North Dakota are calling for its repeal. Both houses of Congress are debating legislation that would repeal the ill-conceived law. At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing yesterday about REAL ID, Chairman Patrick Leahy said, "The days of Congress rubber-stamping any and every idea cooked up by this administration are over." Sen. Leahy has co-sponsored a bill to repeal REAL ID. (May 9, 2007)
  • EPIC, 24 Experts Call for Repeal of Unworkable REAL ID Act. Today, EPIC and 24 experts in privacy and technology submitted comments (pdf) on the Department of Homeland Security's draft implementation regulations for the REAL ID Act. The group warned the federal agency not to go forward with the REAL ID proposal. The group said that the ill-conceived plan would create new security risks for the American public, such as increasing the risk of and the damage caused by identity theft. Creating a national ID database full of personal documents such as birth and citizenship certificates, making that database accessible to thousands of people, while not requiring adequate security and privacy safeguards, will necessarily make us less secure as a nation and as individuals. "DHS has the obligation to protect the privacy of citizens affected by this system and must do more than the feeble attempts set out in the draft regulations," the group said. (May 8, 2007)
  • Senate Judiciary Committee Holds Hearing on REAL ID. Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing entitled, "Will REAL ID Actually Make Us Safer? An Examination of Privacy and Civil Liberties Concerns." Bruce Schneier, security expert and member of the EPIC Board of Directors, testified against the fundamentally flawed national identification scheme. Schneier detailed the security threats created by the REAL ID Act and the draft implementation regulations released by DHS. He explained that REAL ID would only protect us from terrorists "if the terrorists did exactly what we expect them to. But if they find a way around REAL ID, then it won't protect us at all." Schneier also said, DHS has shown a profound lack of respect for the public and the states. "Today is the deadline for comments on the draft regulations. DHS has testified that final regulations will be released by August or September. It is not possible for DHS to read, review and consider the thousands of public comments it will receive. This tells me that DHS does not intend to make substantial changes to its draft regulations." To take action and submit comments against this fundamentally flawed national identification scheme, visit the Stop REAL ID Campaign. (May 8, 2007)
  • Forty-Three Groups Join Campaign to Stop REAL ID. Today, 43 organizations begin a campaign against the illegal national identification system created by the Department of Homeland Security under the REAL ID program. The national campaign solicits public comments to stop a national ID scheme without adequate privacy and security safeguards; which will make it more difficult for people to get driver's licenses; and which will make it too easy for identity thieves, stalkers, and corrupt government officials to get access to the personal data of 245 million individuals. Several states have rejected the national ID system and there is legislation in Congress to repeal the Act. The draft regulations to implement the REAL ID Act are open for comment until 5 p.m. EST on May 8, 2007. To take action and submit comments against the fundamentally flawed national identification scheme, visit Stop REAL ID Campaign. (May 1, 2007)
  • DHS Privacy Committee Refuses to Endorse Draft Regulations. The Department of Homeland Security's Data Privacy and Integrity Advisory Committee has decided not to endorse the national identification system created by the Department of Homeland Security under the REAL ID program. "The Committee feels it is important that the following comments do not constitute an endorsement of REAL ID or the regulations as workable or appropriate," the committee said (pdf). The committee said the draft regulations did not resolve problems with privacy, redress, management controls, and more. Public comments on the draft regulations are due by 5 p.m. ET tomorrow, May 8. (May 7, 2007)
  • UPDATE: More Than 50 Groups Join Anti-National ID Campaign. A number of groups, including the Coalition Against Prosecutorial Abuse and Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, have joined a campaign against REAL ID. Fifty-four groups are urging the public to submit comments against the illegal national identification system created by the Department of Homeland Security under the REAL ID program. DHS seeks to create a massive system filled with sensitive personal data on 240 million license and ID cardholders nationwide, yet has failed to include adequate privacy and security safeguards. To take action and submit comments against this fundamentally flawed national identification scheme, visit the Stop REAL ID Campaign. (May 1, 2007)
  • DHS Holds One Town Hall on REAL ID. Seven days before comments are due on the Department of Homeland Security's draft regulations to implement the REAL ID Act (pdf), the agency is holding the only public town hall on the national ID system created. The draft regulations were released on March 1, more than two years after the passage of the REAL ID Act. EPIC and other groups have protested the creation of massive national identification system without adequate privacy and security safeguards. It will also make it more difficult for people to get driver's licenses. And it will make it too easy for identity thieves, stalkers, and corrupt government officials to get access to the personal data of 245 million license and cardholers nationwide. To take action and submit comments against the fundamentally flawed national identification scheme, visit Stop REAL ID Campaign. (May 1, 2007)
  • ID Thieves Use 'Skimmers' to Gather Credit Card Data. This week, New York prosecutors charged thirteen people in a counterfeiting ring where restaurant servers on the East Coast (from Connecticut to Florida) skimmed data from customers' credit cards. The financial data was easily accessed, downloaded and misused by the criminals because anyone with a skimmer device was able to read the unprotected machine readable zones. In the Department of Homeland Security's draft regulations to implement the REAL ID Act (pdf), the agency is proposing to leave the card's machine readable zone open and unprotected, even though its own Privacy Office has recommended (pdf) the zone be encrypted. EPIC has explained that this leaves the personal data vulnerable to misuse. The deadline for public comment is May 8. 2007. (Apr. 21, 2007)
  • Montana Becomes First State to Formally Reject REAL ID. Montana has become the first state to formally reject implementation of REAL ID. Previously, Maine, Idaho, and Arkansas (pdf) passed resolutions declaring opposition to REAL ID, but Montana's law (pdf) declares that it "will not participate in the implementation" of REAL ID and prohibits the state's Motor Vehicle Division from implementing any changes related to the national identification system. Washington is expected to be the second state to formally reject the law when the governor signs similar legislation this week. About 20 states are considering anti-REAL ID legislation. Controversy continues to surround the national ID scheme, and the public is invited to comment on the Department of Homeland Security's draft regulations to implement the REAL ID Act. The deadline for public comment is May 8. 2007. For more information, see EPIC's Spotlight on Surveillance about the REAL ID Act. (Apr. 17, 2007)
  • Washington Is Fourth State to Reject REAL ID. Washington has passed a bill that mandates the state cannot spend money to implement the federal REAL ID Act (pdf) unless certain provisions are met, including privacy and security protections. The states of Maine, Idaho, and Arkansas (pdf) have passed similar resolutions rejecting REAL ID and about 20 states are considering such legislation. Controversy continues to surround the national ID scheme, and the public is invited to comment on the Department of Homeland Security's draft regulations to implement the REAL ID Act. The deadline for public comment is May 8. 2007. (Apr. 5, 2007)
  • Arkansas Becomes Third State to Reject REAL ID. The Arkansas House and Senate have passed SCR 22 (pdf), a concurrent resolution "To Urge Congress and the United States Department of Homeland Security to Add Critical Privacy and Civil Liberty Safeguards to the REAL ID Act of 2005 and to Fully Fund or Suspend Implementation of the REAL ID Act." The resolution rejected the contention that the REAL ID Act (pdf) adds to national security. The resolution said, "identification-based security provides only limited security benefits because it can be avoided by defrauding or corrupting card issuers and because it gives no protection against people not already known to be planning or committing wrongful acts." The states of Maine and Idaho have passed similar resolutions rejecting REAL ID and about 20 states are considering similar legislation. (Mar. 26, 2007)
  • Washington State Pilot Tests RFID-enabled licenses. Washington State and the Department of Homeland Security are jointly testing a project where the state driver's licenses and identification cards will be accepted for use under the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, which regulates travel between the United States, Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean. The Washington State ID cards would include proof of citizenship and other sensitive personal data beyond what current licenses hold. The licenses will include long-range radio frequency identification (RFID) technology, which EPIC has repeatedly warned (pdf) is a privacy and security risk. The Department of Homeland Security's Data Privacy and Intergrity Advisory Committee also has recommended against (pdf) the use of RFID in ID documents. For more information, see EPIC's RFID page and August 2006 Spotlight on Surveillance on the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative. (Mar. 23, 2007)
  • EPIC Recommends Against Use of Universal Identifiers. In comments (pdf) to the Federal Trade Commission, EPIC warned against using universal identifiers, such as biometrics, in authentication systems. EPIC explained that a biometric identifier cannot be changed by a victim once his or her identity has been breached -- a fingerprint is unalterable. "Any move toward universal identifiers, while potentially deterring amateur thieves, increases the potential for misuse once determined criminals steal that data," EPIC said. For more information, see EPIC's Biometrics page. (Mar. 23, 2007)
  • EPIC Appears Before Homeland Security Committee on REAL ID. At a Department of Homeland Security Data Privacy and Integrity Advisory Committee meeting today, EPIC and other groups explained the many security, financial and privacy costs created by the proposed regulations to implement the REAL ID Act (pdf). EPIC explained (pdf) that the ubiquity of licenses; mandate that only REAL ID cards will be used for federal purposes; and proposed universal design for non-REAL ID cards, add up to an atmosphere where people without such cards will be looked upon with suspicion. EPIC's Melissa Ngo said, "Critics of the REAL ID Act and proposed regulations have been labeled anti-security. It is not anti-security to reject a national identification system that does not add to our security protections." (Mar. 21, 2007)