DHS issues proposed Real ID regs

The Homeland Security Department has proposed standards for state-issued identification cards under the Real ID Act of 2005. The proposal was published in the Federal Register March 1, and is open for public comment for 60 days.

The proposal outlines measures that states will be required to implement for driver's licenses and other identification cards by May 11, 2008, if they want the cards to conform to the act. Among the requirements are:
  • Applicants for cards must present documentation to establish their identity and prove they are U.S. citizens or legal immigrants. States may establish an exceptions process.
  • States must verify the documents presented, using applicable technologies.
  • All state-issued cards must include machine-readable technology such as a bar code or magnetic stripe, as a guard against counterfeiting.
  • Each state must maintain a database of driver's license information and make it available to all other states seeking information about license holders.

The act does not require states to issue Real ID identification cards, but cards that do not comply will not be acceptable as identification for federal agencies, according to the proposed rule. Provisions for issuing non-Real ID cards are primarily intended for people who hold more than one driver's license or state-issued identification. The proposed rule holds that a person can only have one Real ID card at a time.

The proposed rule also highlights the specific questions DHS is particularly interested in hearing from the public about. They include:
  • Should the list of documents acceptable for establishing identity be extended?
  • Should data stored in the machine-readable format be encrypted for prevention of misuse, or would such encryption make law enforcement more difficult?
  • What would it cost to build the necessary technology infrastructure to allow law enforcement to access encrypted machine-readable data?
  • States may choose to issue cards that comply with another law, the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, that requires all travelers through the U.S. to have a valid passport or alternate identification. If they do, can they incorporate a technology that complies with that initiative, such as radio frequency identification, in addition to the Real ID's machine-readable requirement?

Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), ranking minority member on the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, applauded the security requirements of the act and the proposed rule. But he expressed some reservations over the costs.

"The regulations come almost two years after the law was passed and not much more than one year before the May 2008 deadline for state-issued documents to meet the more stringent standards," he said. "Some states will need more time to reconfigure their systems, and many will need help meeting the start-up costs attributable to Real ID implementation."

The proposal designates a five-year phase-in period. If it becomes final, all state identification cards issued after May 11, 2008, must comply. As state residents renew their licenses and other cards after that date, the percentage of compliant cards will grow and states will be required to have reissued all cards by May 11, 2013.

About the Author

Technology journalist Michael Hardy is a former FCW editor.

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