Maine Becomes First State to Reject Flawed Real ID Act

Jan 30, 2007
Nicole A. Ozer

Page Media

ACLU of Northern CA

Real ID Act and RFID

The ACLU of Northern California has been calling on California legislators to take a stand to protect the privacy, personal safety, and financial security of Californians by asking hard questions about both the Real ID Act and the use of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology in government-issued identification documents.

Real ID Act

The Real ID Act, passed by Congress in May 2005, and scheduled to be fully-implemented by 2008, threatens to have far-reaching consequences for individual privacy, create a real bureaucratic nightmare for every Californian, and impose a huge fiscal burden on the state.

The Real ID Act authorizes the creation of one of the most comprehensive personal databases in American history; one that lists and contains detailed information on virtually every person over age 16. It creates our first national identity card and enables the routine tracking of individuals by both government and businesses by mandating that personal information not only be on the face of the driver's license but also stored electronically in a uniform format that can be easily scanned by readers around the nation.

The Real ID Act will also be a real bureaucratic nightmare for Californians. Each of us will have to produce and prove the authenticity of documents like our birth certificates and other identity documents before being allowed to renew a driver's license. Every Californian will have to stand in line at the DMV to renew his or her license- no mail or Internet renewals will be possible. In addition, any discrepancies in names or addresses on your documents, such as change in last name due to marriage, or any difficulty in obtaining documents because you were born outside of the United States, will further slow your ability to renew your license.

The Real ID Act is also an unfunded federal mandate. The 500-million dollar plus price-tag of implementation is being passed onto the state of California and its taxpayers and drivers.

The ACLU of Northern California is leading efforts to persuade California state legislators and leaders to challenge implementation of the federal law and persuade Congress to revisit the passage of the Real ID Act. For more information about Real ID and work in California, please visit

Identity Information Protection Act – SB 30

The ACLU is also working proactively on legislation to safeguard the privacy, personal safety, and financial security of Californians should the larger efforts to revisit the Real ID Act prove unsuccessful. SB 30 is a necessary and important step.

Currently, California drivers' licenses store information electronically on a magnetic strip on the back of the card and California privacy laws control who is authorized to scan and collect the electronic information, and for what purposes. Under the Real ID Act, the Department of Homeland Security has the power to decide what type of uniform technology will be used in all state drivers' licenses. Its decision is expected in the next six months. Radio frequency identification (RFID) tags, tiny computer chips that can be programmed with any information and then read at a distance by a reader without alerting the holder of the tag, is one of a handful of technologies being seriously considered by Homeland Security as the common machine readable device in drivers' licenses.

The inclusion of RFID technology without proper privacy and security safeguards would mean that innocent Americans could be tracked and monitored as they move about their daily lives and that personal and financial security could be threatened by identity thieves obtaining information about us like our names and addresses without our knowledge.

SB 30, the Identity Information Protection Act, ensures that RFID technology will not be used in the government-issued identification cards that we all carry around everyday, like drivers' licenses, student IDs, and medical and benefit cards, until appropriate safeguards are in place to prevent the unauthorized remote access of personal information. Its predecessor bill, SB 768, was passed by the State Senate and Assembly with broad bipartisan support, but the Governor issued a short-sighted veto on the last day of the legislative session.

For more information about the Maine resolution rejecting Real ID, please visit Real Nightmare and the National ACLU website.

For more information about SB 30, please visit our Technology and Civil Liberties Page at Don't Chip Our Rights Away!