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About The Issue > Real Short: 7 problems with Real ID


What’s Wrong With Real ID

  • It’s a national identity system. The standardized national driver’s licenses created by Real ID would become a key part of a system of identity papers, databases, status and identity checks and access control points – an “internal passport” that will increasingly be used to track and control individuals’ movements and activities.
  • Will not be effective against terrorism. The fact is, identity-based security is not an effective way to stop terrorism. ID documents do not reveal anything about evil intent – and even if they did, determined terrorists will always be able to obtain fraudulent documents (either counterfeit or real documents bought from corrupt officials).
  • Will be a nightmare for state governments. Real ID requires state governments to remake their driver’s licenses, restructure many of their computer databases and other systems, create an extensive new document-storage system, and – perhaps most difficult of all – verify the “issuance, validity and completeness” of every document presented at DMVs. See Real Burdens.
  • Will mean higher fees, long lines, and bureaucratic nightmares for individuals. Because Congress ordered but did not pay for these mandates, which will cost states billions of dollars, fees on individuals applying for driver’s licenses will inevitably rise, perhaps steeply. Individuals are also likely to confront slower service, longer lines, and frequent bureaucratic snafus in obtaining these ID cards. Many unlucky individuals will find themselves caught in a bureaucratic nightmare as they run up against the complexities of this law.
  • Increased security and ID-theft risks. The creation of a single interlinked database as well as the requirement that each DMV store copies of every birth certificate and other documents presented to it will create a one-stop shop for identity thieves.
  • Will be exploited by the private sector to invade privacy. Real ID would make it easy for anybody in private industry to snap up the data on these IDs. Already, bars often swipe licenses to collect personal data on customers – but that will prove to be just the tip of the iceberg as every convenience store learns to grab that data and sell it to data companies for a dime.
  • Will expand over time. The Real ID database will inevitably, over time, become the repository for more and more data on individuals, and will be drawn on for an ever-wider set of purposes. Its standardized machine-readable interface will drive its integration into an ever-growing network of identity checks and access control points – each of which will create new data trails that will in turn be linked to that central database or its private-sector shadow equivalent.

For more information on these problems, see the Real Answers FAQ.

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