Officials ID better licensing
- By William Matthews
- Jan 14, 2002
State officials who issue driver's licenses want to make it much harder
to obtain fraudulent licenses, in part by giving state officials more access
to government computer databases so they can more thoroughly check applicants'
Licensing officials promise that gaining access to government databases
will not lead to Big Brother-like electronic surveillance of license holders,
as some privacy advocates fear.
The American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA) said
it will urge Congress to pass legislation to create uniform standards for
the states to follow when issuing driver's licenses. Sen. Richard Durbin
(D-Ill.) is drafting such a bill.
The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks made clear the nation's need for more
stringent standards for identification, said Linda Lewis, president of the
association. "The state-issued driver's license is more than a license to
drive," she said. "It is the most widely used domestic document to verify
a person's identity."
Driver's licenses are too often issued without adequate verification
of the recipient's identity, said Betty Serian, deputy secretary of the
Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, and too many types of driver's
licenses are issued.
Serian headed a Special Task Force on Identification Security for AAMVA
and concluded that uniform, nationwide standards are needed for driver's
More than 200 different valid forms of identification are issued by
states, she said. "So how can a bank teller in Maine be expected to know
what a California state driver's license really looks like?" she asked.
AAMVA does not want all state driver's licenses to look the same, but
it does want them all to have common features, including some form of "unique
identifier" that might be a number or a biometric identifier, such as a
fingerprint or eye scan.
Just as important, AAMVA wants much more thorough checking of a license
applicant's identity before a license is issued. That might mean an end
to the current practice of applying for a license and receiving it the same
day, Lewis said.
One method of verification might be to cross-check personal data submitted
by license applicants with government databases. Computers could compare
names, addresses, passport numbers and Social Security numbers and check
police, FBI and Immigration and Naturalization Service records among other
databases, Lewis said.
AAMVA also wants state driver's license databases to be interconnected
so that licensing officials can check other states to see whether applicants
already have a license elsewhere.
Interconnecting databases would not threaten personal privacy, she insisted.
Privacy advocates worry that AAMVA's proposal would create the equivalent
of a national identification card that could leave an electronic trail wherever
its holders are required or choose to use it.
"There has been a lot of misinformation" about more secure driver's
licenses, Lewis said. There would be no "huge database in the sky," she
"We don't want to invade privacy," said Alan Cockman, AAMVA's board
chairman. The association would urge Congress and the states to pass tougher
privacy laws to assure that driver's license information is not abused,