Regnat Populus

The people rule.

RealID or Real Privacy Violation?

Posted by Max Barron on January 3, 2009

I shipped off  a package containing fuzzy slippers, long johns and a bathrobe to Satan today.  He’ll be needing them far more than I, as Hell must have frozen over.  Or unbeknown to me, I entered the Twilight Zone and the whole world flipped on its axis.  I never thought that this would happen, but I agree with the ACLU and disagree with the Heritage Foundation with regards to the RealID Act of 2005.

From Wikipedia:

“The REAL ID Act of 2005 is U.S. federal law which imposes certain security, authentication and issuance procedures standards for the state driver’s licenses and state ID cards, in order for them to be accepted by the federal government for “official purposes”, as defined by the Secretary of Homeland Security.”

Since the passing of the RealID Act there has been a good deal of righteous indignation duly hefted in its direction.  The Act’s initial compliance date was set for May 11, 2008.  However, all 50 states received deadline extensions, and on January 11, 2008 the effective date was pushed out until 2011.  This was done to allow more time to garner support amongst the state governments.  Nonetheless, many state legislatures have passed resolutions to oppose or refuse to be compliant with the RealID Act.  The main reason for their dissension is the outright violation of privacy that is inherent in any national ID system.  The RealID Act requires that states share their DMV’s databases with all other states.  Besides all the data that are on your license or ID card, they will also have to share your complete driving record (tickets, suspensions, violations, points, etc).  Every person possessing an ID or driver’s license from any state will have their private information readily available to government entities in other states (think Joe-The-Plumber x50).  Since a valid, government issued photo ID is required for just about everything from boarding a plane to renting a movie, there is not any feasible way for individuals to simply not participate by not maintaining an ID.  Dissenting state governments hope that enough states will refuse to comply with the federal law to make it impossible for the system to get off the ground, much less work as intended.  Currently there are 20 states that have passed resolutions (not all are bound into law yet) and another 19 that have pending resolutions.  Virginia may also join the ranks of dissenters after lawmakers meet this month, many of whom are calling for Virginia to ignore the federal mandate.

There is a plethora of groups, including the ACLU, that have launched campaigns in opposition to the law for various reasons.  While the violation of privacy is readily apparent, there are a few things that are not, but should be considered when debating the Act’s merit.

  • Many states tie gun registrations to driver’s licenses. (Think anti-prop 8 style blacklists by anti-gun groups across the nation)
  • The vulnerabilities of one state’s DMV become the vulnerabilities of all state DMVs.
  • Identity theft, in theory, will become much easier to accomplish.
  • Implementation costs are estimated at 23 billion dollars.
  • It will allow other state governments and the federal government to bypass current restrictions to access individuals’ information.

Members of Congress have also tried multiple times to amend or repeal the law and have thus far failed to do so. There is also some merit in a constitutionality argument as it appears that this mandate violates the 10th amendment. (I am no constitutional lawyer, if there are any out there with some specifics on this, please contact me).

Personally, I am against the RealID law. I do not relish the notion of having my information readily shared with other state governments. There is already too much potential for abuse, we simply do not need the Helen Jones-Kellys of the world having unbridled access to everyone’s personal information. I also do not cherish the thought of the federal government and any other state government having a one-stop-shop for personal and private data on every ID holding citizen in this country without having to go through the proper state or local channels for access. Handing a nationwide database of personal information to the government is akin to handing a pyromaniac a jug of gasoline and a box of matches.  The abuse or expansion of the database is as inevitable as the fire.


2 Responses to “RealID or Real Privacy Violation?”

  1. Nice writing. You are on my RSS reader now so I can read more from you down the road.

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