Coalition urges rejection of RFID in driver's licenses

A coalition of nearly two dozen organizations from across the political and ideological spectrum is urging the Homeland Security Department to reject use of radio frequency identification chips in driver’s licenses.

In a Jan. 13 letter to DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff, the coalition cited several reasons, including a lack of RFID standards, potential for data theft from remote devices and lack of adequate safeguards.

As required by the Real ID Act of 2005, DHS officials are drafting regulations and establishing standards, which state governments must implement by May 2008 as minimum security features in state-issued driver’s licenses and personal identification cards. If they don’t, individuals with noncompliant licenses and ID cards could be barred from flying on an airplane or entering a federal facility.

New York and West Virginia have rejected the use of RFID chips in licenses because of changing standards or high costs, according to the letter. Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW), one of the signatories of the letter, indicated a federal chip mandate for driver’s licenses would cost $17.4 billion.

“Local and state law enforcement agencies have already implemented many processes and technologies to use existing security features,” the letter states. “Mandating drastic change to new unproven technologies might actually weaken the security of citizens at state and local levels and decrease the ability of law enforcement and the states to prevent identity theft, fraud or other criminal acts.”

The Real ID Act has been controversial since Congress passed it last year. It stamped out a collaborative process among state and federal officials and others to develop national security standards for driver’s licenses. Representatives from state motor vehicle offices said the act imposed conditions that would be too costly and couldn’t be accomplished without federal financial assistance. Privacy advocates have contended the act essentially creates a national identity card and fear data theft, among other abuses.

In addition to CAGW, the coalition includes the American Conservative Union, American Civil Liberties Union and Americans for Tax Reform.


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