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
preventing them from manufacturing fake IDs. The program has been met
with skepticism from state officials both due to costs involved and privacy
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.
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
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.