N.Y. steps forward with Real ID

New York will become the fourth state to implement a hybrid identification card that may be used for border crossings and as a driver's license complying with upcoming Real ID Act regulations, Secretary Michael Chertoff and Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D) announced.

In recent months, officials in Arizona, Vermont and Washington have said they intend to produce similar hybrid ID cards in cooperation with DHS.

However, New York's plan appears to be unique in that it is part of a three-pronged approach. Spitzer said the state will issue the hybrid ID card, which it is calling an "enhanced" driver's license; a non-enhanced driver's license in compliance with Real ID suitable for use for entering airports and federal facilities; and a New York State driver's license that can be used for driving and basic identification.

"As a result of this comprehensive license agreement, New York will offer three separate and secure licenses all used for different purposes," Spitzer said in an Oct. 27 news release.

Under the Real ID Act of 2005, states must meet new national guidelines on collecting, verifying, storing and publishing personal information for driver's licenses, and on sharing that information with other states. The legislation has been controversial due to concerns about identity theft, security and privacy, and also due to its estimated price tag of $11 billion over five years. Some IT experts say Real ID will increase the risk of identity theft, while others say it will protect against identity theft.

Due to the concerns, seven states have passed laws against implementing Real ID, and an additional 10 state legislatures have approved resolutions calling on Congress to repeal the Act, according to the American Civil Liberties Union of New York.

"Spitzer is snatching defeat from the jaws of victory," said the ACLU's Barry Steinhardt in a statement released on Oct. 27. "According to the Department of Homeland Security's own numbers, Real ID will force Americans to pay nearly $100 to get a driver's license. The fact that Spitzer is willing to plunge his state into fiscal irresponsibility, while exposing his constituents to massive identity theft, is unfathomable. "

Spitzer, in his release, suggested that New Yorkers may choose to carry only a New York state license, along with a U.S. passport, to cross borders and enter federal facilities, rather than utilizing a Real ID Act-qualified license. "The state-approved license will simply say 'not for U.S. government purposes,'" Spitzer said in the release.

The Real ID Act, if fully implemented, will result in 200 million ID cards being issued nationwide along with readers, enrollment centers, and supporting IT systems.

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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