Committee approves bill to strip some IT requirements from Real ID

A Senate committee has approved a bill designed to make state-issued driver’s licenses more secure. The legislation would eliminate controversial information technology requirements from a law passed in 2005.

Backers of the measure, the Providing for Additional Security in States' Identification Act (PASS ID) Act, say it corrects the privacy and cost concerns associated with obligations of the Real ID Act, passed in 2005.

States have complained that the provisions of the Real ID law requiring them to upgrade their driver's license programs with new technology so that the programs are accessible to other states would be hugely expensive. As a result, some states have passed legislation preventing compliance with the Real ID law.

An amended version of the PASS ID bill, originally introduced June 15, was approved by Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee July 29.

The National Governors Association and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano support PASS ID.

Napolitano told the committee July 15 that it would cost states an estimated $1.5 billion to update their systems and electronically verify applicants’ information as required by Real ID.

However, critics of PASS ID have argued the measure, as originally proposed, didn’t go far enough to enhance security. Meanwhile, some privacy advocates, such as the American Civil Liberties Union, have opposed the measure because – as in the case of Real ID – they say it would be an invasion of privacy and amount to a national identification card.

The version of the bill that passed the committee includes several amendments meant to deal with privacy and security concerns that some senators expressed during a hearing July 15.

Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), who introduced the bill, said in a statement that the amended version of PASS ID wouldn’t require states to open to other states their motor vehicle departments' databases that contain identity documents and personal information. However, Akaka’s office said the added amendments would:

  • Deal with industry concerns about privacy limitations on uses of data Machine Readable Zones on driver’s licenses and identification cards.
  • Provide resources for states to eventually verify the birth certificates of applicants electronically.
  • Make clear that the Homeland Security Department retains its authority to bar people from boarding a federal aircraft.
  • Require an annual assessment of the PASS ID Act by DHS’ Privacy Office and the Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Office.

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