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A new ID system will make US citizens more secure, according to the government

Trust in government data responsibility is at an all time low internationally, following Britain’s lost of millions of citizens' personal data including addresses and bank information.  In the U.S., the sentiment is slightly better, as there have been no major publicly acknowledged data losses despite regular attacks on government systems by hackers.

Now the U.S. federal government is looking to put even more data in government hands, hoping that it can keep up its good record of responsibility.  The plan is part of ambitious post 9/11 rules passed by the federal government in order to make citizens "safer." 

All U.S. citizens born after Dec. 1, 1964, must obtain new driver's licenses within six years.  These driver's licenses will contain additional information and ways of extracting info quickly, and the citizen data will be shared between government branches; something that had not previously been done on this scale.

The basis of this development is the REAL ID Act, passed into law by Congress in 2005.  The system aims to thwart terrorists, illegal immigrants and con artists
by preventing them from manufacturing fake IDs.  The program has been met with skepticism from state officials both due to costs involved and privacy concerns.

Due to this resistance, the plan has been pushed back from more rapid adoption to about 6 years, with the key deadline being 2011 and additional measures being enacted within three years of that.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff worked on promoting the currently confidential set of rules for the project through a state and federal government advisory board.  He said, "We worked very closely with the states in terms of developing a plan that I think will be inexpensive, reasonable to implement and produce the results.  This is a win-win. As long as people use driver's licenses to identify themselves for whatever reason there's no reason for those licenses to be easily counterfeited or tampered with."

The Department of Homeland Security (DOHS) originally estimated a total cost of the program at $14.6 billion USD, the cost of which would be shared amongst the states.  Now, the DOHS is stating that it will only cost $3.9 billion USD total.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has been vocally opposing the initiative, which they say violates citizens' rights to privacy.  Furthermore, they point to instances of what happened in Britain, and say that with more proliferated citizen data throughout the federal and state government, it will be far easier to lose citizen's valuable private information.  The ACLU says the initiative is effectively the
"first-ever national identity card system," and "would irreparably damage the fabric of American life."

The over 50 exemption was given to help give states time to adjust their older citizens to the law.  However, even the older folks will need one of the new IDs in order to board a plane by 2017.

The new licenses will include three additional security layers, but no microchips -- yet.  This will likely comfort some of RFID's vocal opponents.  Secretary of State offices will now take pictures for licenses at the start, instead of the end the application process, so upon rejection, the person will be put in the system in case they try to return or forge a license.  Additionally, it'll mandate all states to perform social security checks when licensing.

This program is representative of the major government drive in recent years to increase security, even at the expense of cost and privacy.  Many of the stateside logistics are already in place in some states; others will be forced to update their procedures.  Meanwhile on the federal level, the government must embark on the massive task of network citizen data between its branches and attempting to keep this data secure.





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