Real ID technologies: A two-way street

States should not leave technology choices to DHS

Washington and other states should be more involved in choosing technologies for meeting the Real ID Act of 2005 requirements, according to an industry group.

The states should not leave the decision about the best technology solely up to the Homeland Security Department, the Smart Card Alliance's Identity Council recommended in a new statement.

The group's assertion follows the signing of a memorandum of agreement last month by Washington state and the DHS to launch a pilot program to offer upgraded driver's licenses that may serve as proof of U.S. citizenship in crossing the U.S. border. The Smart Card Alliance believes the memorandum allows DHS alone to select the technology specifications for the enhanced driver's license.

States considering additional pilots should insist on having input into the technology decisions, the group said.

"We believe that the technology chosen for enhanced driver's license pilots should be a cooperative decision between states and DHS and that the decision should consider whether the chosen technology meets states' requirements for citizen privacy and security," the statement said.

The smart card alliance warns against selecting long-distance radio frequency identification tags for enhanced driver's licenses under the Real ID Act. It states that this is a possibility for the Real ID Act because the Homeland Security Department has selected long-distance RFID for another border crossing card to meet Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative requirements.

One of the dangers of long-distance RFID is its potential lack of security due to its capability of being skimmed by unauthorized readers, according to the Government Accountability Office report. However, DHS officials have said that risk can be addressed by limiting the information that can be skimmed to a single number. That number must be linked with a secure departmental database in order to obtain personal information about the cardholder.

Furthermore, GAO recently noted the high failure rate of long-distance RFID in tests performed in the U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology pilot program for identifying visitors as they exit the United States.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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