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Articulo Donna Howell. 28/01/08

Donna Howell

The clock's ticking for Real ID, a driver's license overhaul created by Congress to deter terrorism. Its countdown to changes in 2014 holds some worry that airport security lines could be thrown into chaos this spring.

The Department of Homeland Security laid out extended deadlines for Real ID with a final rule issued Jan 11. The agency must now pass the roadblock of state dissent and cross a technology gap to reach its goal.

The basic idea is that Real ID-adherent driver's licenses will become necessary to board commercial flights and enter federal facilities. These licenses would include a digital photo, anti-tampering features and a machine-readable area including a bar code where data could be stored. Many public and private entities might eventually require these kinds of IDs.

Yet 17 states passed legislation against Real ID last year. Perceived problems stretch from privacy fears that Real ID would amount to an Orwellian national ID card, to concerns that it might foster rather than fight identity theft, to worries about cost and difficulty of implementation.

It's a system that probably can't come into being and probably shouldn't, says Timothy Sparapani, senior legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union.

"DHS has been aware of problems with the way the Real ID Act was written since May 11th, 2005," he said, referring to the date it was signed into law. "They failed to go back to Congress to ask for modifications or repeal."

But whether Real ID is a boondoggle or boon depends on whom you ask.

"For an extra $8 per license, Real ID will give law enforcement and security officials a powerful advantage against falsified documents," Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said in a statement issued earlier this month. "And it will bring some peace of mind to citizens wanting to protect their identity from theft by a criminal or illegal alien."

States are supposed to enroll license holders under age 50 by late 2014 and those over 50 by 2017.

The goal is not to establish a national ID card, Homeland Security says, but to set common standards by which states issue licenses.

To comply, states must collect substantial identifying information to grant a license, including proof of the right to be in the U.S. The statute says that in order to get any Real ID funding help, states should be able to share license data with other states.

Technology groups are split on Real ID.

The Information Technology Association of America trade group lauds Homeland Security for its "clear and reasonable" approach.

"Some critics have mischaracterized Real ID (as) a huge national database that a hacker could gain access to," said ITAA President Phillip Bond. "That's not the case."

But the Association for Computing Machinery urges caution.

"As a result of Real ID requirements, more information might be stored in a (new) set of databases that are going to be accessed by thousands of people around the country, along with some existing databases," said Eugene Spafford, chairman of the ACM's U.S. policy committee. "The combination of that information will make it easier to commit identity theft and fraud."

How To Implement It?
It's yet to be discovered what difficulties, if any, might be faced by residents of states that have balked at Real ID. Meanwhile, states that haven't said no to Real ID are trying to figure out how to implement it.

Mike Marando, a spokesman for the California Department of Motor Vehicles, said the state has filed an extension that will allow it time to continue working with Homeland Security "to address privacy and funding issues, which continue to be a concern."

To comply in the short run, states don't have to do much that they don't do already, the ACLU says. But states that don't formally request and get an extension by early May could, by DHS rule, find their licenses invalid for boarding commercial aircraft or for entering federal facilities and nuclear plants.

Chertoff has said other forms of ID would be acceptable to fly, but what might happen in May remains up in the air. States that have passed legislation against Real ID are Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Maine, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Washington. Seven go so far as to bar its implementation, the ACLU says: Georgia, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Washington. And Idaho and Colorado, come close.

"What if they do call the bluff of states and say the only thing we'll accept at the airport to board a plane is a driver's license from a state that said it will comply?" Barry Steinhardt, director of the ACLU's Technology and Liberty Program, asked at a Friday press conference. "Are they really ready to effectively shut those airports down, if residents have to go through secondary scrutiny? We don't think that will happen."

Can File Extension
The ACLU says states can file for a Real ID extension without committing to enacting Real ID. That would let their residents fly this spring without a secondary ID.

There's a lack of accord between the statute and Homeland Security rule making, the ACLU says. It says DHS is kicking the statute down the road for future presidential administrations to deal with.

The ITAA's Bond, however, sees benefits ahead.

"Once you can really, securely say who you are is who you are, it opens the door to more online services," he said. "You could do online verification of your identity for almost any government aid program, or other things in which money and benefits are being dispersed."

Bond also sees the development of Real ID requiring DMV modernization, and thus generating business for systems integrators and others.

"Software will have to be written . . . (you'll need) almost every imaginable subcomponent and new hardware — all the pieces around identity management," he said. "It could be a significant lift to many components of the IT industry."

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Fecha: 28/01/08

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