Sunday, April 20, 2008

How criminals will benefit from the REAL ID legislation

Forgot to publish this post for some reason, just noticed today.

“State a point for or against the National ID System, or a facet thereof. Please include references in addition to the book.”

A national ID system is a system used by the government of the country to track the people in the country. It has generally consisted of a unique identifier, with the possibility of appearing on an ID card which would be issued by the government. These types of identification systems have lead to many concerns over privacy, since they often become used for more than they were intended to do. The United States currently uses the Social Security number, which when originally created, “the numbers would only be used by the Social Security Program.”, however as people realized the value of a system which has an unique identifier for all the citizens in the country, it's use began to spread. Currently the Social Security number is used for a large variety of things, from obtaining a job to applying for a credit card. A citizen without a Social Security number would have a enormous number of problems doing things that most people take for granted.

The current legislation for the REAL ID system in the United States would in effect create a new standard for a national ID. It does this by establishing a new set of guidelines for what states would have to include in drivers licenses or other identification cards. If a state does not meet these criteria, “the penalty is barring people without a REAL ID from flying and from entering any federal buildings, such as a courthouse, Social Security Administration office or the office of an elected federal official.” This is a huge infringement on state's rights. When did the federal government get the ability to decide how and who the state's will issue drivers licenses or other identification cards to?

Proponents of the legislation say that the REAL ID act say that it “is necessary to prevent terrorists, criminals, and illegal immigrants from successfully obtaining and using fraudulent driver's licenses.” however, there are no facts proving the legislation will do this.. Criminals currently still obtain legal documents that are supposed to be difficult to obtain, what makes it that much harder for them to obtain the new forms of identification? The average citizen is who this would really affect. If they lose or need to obtain a new ID for any reason, it would become much more difficult for them to do so. The new IDs would also be a prime target for identity thieves. They contain much more information about the citizen, and as proposed the information would be contained in a 2D bar code, or some other computer readable information on the card.

This also brings up the privacy concerns related to having all of your information in a central location. It is not unlikely that the new IDs would be used widely, since drivers licenses are already used in this way. Whenever you need to present identification, you would just have to let a computer scan this card. This allows easy tracking of nearly every aspect of ones life. The data centers containing the information associated with these cards would be under constant attack by identity thieves, since this would become the most centralized location of personal data anywhere. It's foolish to believe that having this information would not lead to abuse of the information. Whenever data is collected, it is always possible for a leak to occur even in the most secure facility, because someone the data now exists where someone (legitimately or not) can access it.

The benefits to having the REAL ID system in place are few and often misleading. The ease of having only one card to prove your identity is a trade-off with losses in both security and privacy. The increased security measures required would force a huge cost on the states to implement these features, which would undoubtedly never become completely secure. This just makes it harder for a normal citizen to obtain identification, while criminals would have access to these cards, giving them the benefits of this system, instead of stopping them. Some of the reasons given for enacting the bill are to fight terrorism and reduce identity theft, but there is no convincing evidence that the legislation would accomplish that, but it does increase the centralization of personal information, which is likely to attract abuse instead of prevent it.