Senate Sneaks RFID Drivers License, Internet ID into Transportation Bill

04/05/2011 16:22

By Adrian Wyllie – 1787 Network

TALLAHASSEE – The Florida Senate Committee on Governmental Oversight and Accountability on Wednesday approved an amendment to include “electronic authentication,” as well as “biometrics” to Florida Driver’s licenses. In addition, the amendment to SB 1150, which passed committee on a 12-0 vote, instructs the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to provide a security token that can be electronically authenticated through a personal computer.

This new amendment lays the groundwork for radio frequency identification (RFID) chips to be implanted into drivers’ licenses. In much the same way that merchandise in a warehouse includes RFID tags to track items through the distribution process, RFID tags on drivers’ licenses would give authorities an additional tool to track anyone carrying a drivers’ license within the reception range of an RFID reader.

The Real ID Act of 2005, implemented in Florida on January 1, 2010, has integrated the more expansive personal data set collected by drivers’ license issuing agencies in the participating states into a national database. 

In Florida, this database already includes biometrics in the form of computer facial recognition data, collected at the time one’s DHSMV photo is taken. Sheriffs’ departments in at least 22 Florida counties tap into the database as part of their facial recognition system, or FRnet, and feed real-time images from video cameras to instantly identify anyone whose face is in these cameras’ field of view.

This FRnet database, which is accessible to federal, state, and even local municipal agencies, also contains highly personal information, including scans of birth certificates, social security cards, marriage licenses, and other documents.

Also in the amendment is a provision for the DHSMV to provide a “security token that can be electronically authenticated through a personal computer.” It is unclear from the amendment whether the driver’s license itself would act as the token or a key fob/USB device would be issued.

The Obama Administration has recently pushed for the assignment of a single, unique authentication key for Internet users, which many are calling the “Internet driver’s license.” Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and White House Cybersecurity czar Howard Schmidt met with computer industry leaders in January seeking input on how this new system would work. Locke confirmed that they in the process of drafting a “National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace” and said that the Internet ID would likely come in the form of a “smart card.”

The stated goal of the Obama Administration strategy is to provide online consumers an easy way to securely access Internet retailers or financial services without having to remember multiple passwords, while reducing online fraud.

Schmidt brushed off the obvious government surveillance potential of this new technology by saying, “Let’s be clear: We’re not talking about a national ID card.”

But effectively, the Real ID Act has turned the individual states’ drivers’ licenses into a national ID card. Should this amendment to SB 1150 become law and be implemented, it would give federal, state and local government agencies the ability to easily and stealthily track all Floridians without warrant, in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Schmidt also used a similar claim to one used during the national health care debate, which was that participation would be voluntary. In Florida, that may mean that one would have to opt out of getting a driver’s license to avoid the additional governmental tracking systems.

The Real ID Act already specifies that beginning in 2013, Americans must have a Real ID compliant driver’s license or identification card in order to access government services or buildings. This includes the ability to pass through a TSA checkpoint at the airport or enter a federal courthouse.

Will we soon need a Real ID driver’s license to access the Internet or go to Wal-Mart? Given the White House’s recent plans, and the Florida Legislature’s willing compliance, it seems that it is only a matter of time.

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