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Editor's Blog and Industry Comments

Real ID final regulations issued by the department of homeland security

25 January, 2008
The American Real ID act has been in debate since its establishment in 2005 culminating in the issue this week of the final regulations relating to the act.
Being 284 pages long with no pictures, the final regulations document of the Real ID act issued this week by the US Department of Homeland Security isn't exactly an easy read and the fact that 200 of these pages are devoted to a kind of FAQ section providing answers to much of the commentary that has accumulated and attempting to justify the decisions made, points to the controversy that surrounds the legislation.

The Real ID act came about in order to prevent terrorists from using falsified driving licenses as identification. In America, as in many countries in the world, driving licenses are often accepted as valid ID for many purposes. According to the Real ID act, only driving licenses issued under this scheme will be accepted by Federal establishments as valid after 2011. Federal establishments include commercial aircraft.

The reason for bringing the Real ID act into effect is because up until now each state had its own license issuing authority and rules without federal consolidation. Now, the regulations apply in all states and must comply with the minimum requirement which are that the license must show the following information:

* Full legal name, date of birth and gender.
* Driving license or ID card number
* Digital full face photograph
* Address
* Signature
* Tamperproof, anti-counterfeit and anti-duplication features.
* Machine readability.

This sounds remarkably similar to a standard international driving license and, despite the controversy, does it go far enough towards the prevention of terrorism? The controversy mainly surrounds privacy issues, data protection and cost along with some trivialities all of which indicate that Real ID goes too far.

However, there's also an argument that it doesn't go far enough. The license issuing requirements don't include any biometric elements and don't include RFID technology, both of which would have added significantly more anti-terrorism value and, no doubt, significantly more controversy.

With the US-Visit system in place for visas and many countries implementing biometric passports, ID documents and licenses, there is surely a case to adopt the same technology for identity authentication during the issue of driving licenses.
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