Monday, November 14, 2005

Are RFID Chips Necessary to Homeland Security?

As I told you earlier this month, under the Real ID Act, which Congress passed without any debate in May, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is charged with developing new federal standards for drivers’ licenses, purportedly to combat terrorism and illegal immigration. One option under consideration is requiring drivers’ licenses to contain an embedded computer chip, called a radio frequency identification or RFID chip, with the capacity for carrying detailed personal information.

Currently, 49 states use either magnetic stripes or two-dimensional technology on drivers’ licenses.

Most states are making secure cards at a reasonable cost and have had minimal identity theft problems. If DHS opts to require RFID chips, more than 196 million American drivers will be forced to carry a license that has the memory to store every personal detail, including health records, family history, and bank and credit card transactions. What’s more, the information on RFID chips can be remotely accessed by unauthorized persons, making citizens more vulnerable to identity theft and government snooping. As if the threat to privacy weren't bad enough, requiring RFID chips would cost states $17.4 billion, pushing the cost of a drivers’ license from $10-$25 today to at least $90! More than 3,000 CAGW members have already contacted Secretary Chertoff, but we would like to generate at least 5,000 messages to him. Please tell the Secretary that you don’t want an RFID chip in your drivers’ license today!

Most states are making secure cards at a reasonable cost and have had minimal identity theft problems.

If DHS opts to require RFID chips, more than 196 million American drivers will be forced to carry a license that has the memory to store every personal detail, including health records, family history, and bank and credit card transactions. What’s more, the information on RFID chips can be remotely accessed by unauthorized persons, making citizens more vulnerable to identity theft and government snooping.

As if the threat to privacy weren't bad enough, requiring RFID chips would cost states $17.4 billion, pushing the cost of a drivers’ license from $10-$25 today to at least $90!

More than 3,000 CAGW members have already contacted Secretary Chertoff, but we would like to generate at least 5,000 messages to him. Please tell the Secretary that you don’t want an RFID chip in your drivers’ license today!

Sincerely,Thomas A. Schatz
President
CAGW

Citizens Against Government Waste is the nation's largest taxpayer watchdog group with over one million members and supporters nationwide. It is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement in government. For more information about CAGW, visit our website at www.cagw.org. Help CAGW wage this battle to protect your personal privacy and your pocketbook by making a tax-deductible contribution today. To send a strong message to Secretary Chertoff, we need as many Americans as possible to contact him.

I'm not sure that Homeland Security needs to re-invent something that already works for 49 states. It seems to me that they are doing something right and the government should work with the one state that doesn't have the security measures the other 49 do. Perhaps that 50th state has something even better? I don't know. I just think there is altogether too much government interference as it it. Why fix something that ain't broke?

I actually think the chip including health information could be a good idea. People who currently wear medical alert jewelry could also have the information embedded in their driver's license. Or for people who have conditions that may not warrant medical alert jewelry. But it should be the choice of the person involve to have such information available for medical emergencies. Then, there is the thought that if I have need of such help, it could be a waste of precious time to find my DL and put it through a reader to find out what health information it might contain.

For a moment I also thought it would help to identlfy people in the event of an accident or untimely death. But it seems to me that most people involved in accidents or untimely deaths usually have identification of some sort on them, and the health information might not be of use - especially if they are already dead. Many of those who are murdered and found as "john" or "Jane" Doe's, have no identification because the murderer wants it that way, so the information in a DL wouldn't do any good.

I see no reason to include bank information in a DL. And I think the cost, if accurately stated above, would be prohibitve to some people. I don't see where an RFID chip would prevent terrorists from obtaining a DL with a RFID chip in it. I'm sure that if the September 11th hijackers had such ID, it would show nothing out of the ordinary.

No, I see nothing about an RFID chip that would be an improvement on what 49 states currently offer.

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