Report: No Freedom Without Privacy: The Real ID Act's Assault On Americans' Everyday Life (2009)

Congress passed the Real ID Act in 2005 to set minimum standards for the issuance and appearance of state driver’s licenses and identification cards. But the Real ID Act goes much further. It establishes a network of government databases and electronic checkpoints that, in effect, create America’s first-ever national ID card system.

If the Real ID Act is not repealed, life in the United States will never be the same. More than 245 million licensed drivers and ID card holders in the United States—including more than 11 million New Yorkers—will be compelled to exchange their current licenses for Real ID-compliant cards. It is certain to create a bureaucratic tangle at the Department of Motor Vehicles.

But the Real ID Act is more than an annoying hassle. Though the Real ID Act is not a household name, it is a central component of the Bush Administration’s assault on Americans’ liberty and privacy rights, and one that if not repealed now would forever change the fabric of American life. The Real ID Act would make driver’s licenses the cornerstone of a mega-database network that would contain vast amounts of personal information on Americans. It requires driver’s licenses and ID cards to have a “machine-readable zone” that would be readily accessible to thousands of state and local government officials and the private sector, and could easily be used to track people’s activities and develop detailed profiles of their habits and lifestyles.

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