Real IDs to Become Real in 2010

US Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff announced today that states will be given an additional two years past the original May 11, 2008 deadline to comply with the directives of the controversial Real ID Act. Originally enacted into law in 2005, the Act contains many contentious directives, such as state agencies scanning of personal documents into a nationally-accessible database, giving a uniform appearance to each state's personal IDs, and implementing RFID tagging.

Today, in announcing the new deadline of December 31, 2009, Sec. Chertoff stressed that the process of tightening identification security strictly involves common sense.

Once the deadline has passed, applicants for driver's licenses will need to prove five items to their local DMV: name, birth date, legal status, social security number, and address. These can all be confirmed with birth certificates, passports, permanent resident cards, Social Security cards, or W-2s; and for addresses, a recent utility bill or similar document.

This is all essentially the same process US citizens had to endure 20 years ago to verify their new address for the Postal Service, although now documents will be scanned or copied and stored in the DMV's database. According to Chertoff, some states have already begun doing this.

In addition, states will be required to prepare security plans for DMV offices, license storage and production facilities, databases, and systems.

Chertoff today addressed fears that the federal government was accumulating a central database of citizens' identities - one which would inevitably become the target of attack from malicious users.

"We at the Department of Homeland Security in the federal government will not build, will not own, and will not operate any central database containing personal information," he told reporters. "The data will continue to be held at the state level as it has traditionally been since they began to issue drivers’ licenses."

As for the RFID tagging, Chertoff said: "The magnetic strips, these aren’t RFID. You’d have to actually take the strip and run it into a reader."

While Chertoff's comments do address the state of affairs at present, he did not decisively say whether the magnetic strips will be replaced with RFID by the January 2010 implementation date. He repeated several times, however, his belief that technology makes these IDs better.

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