Contributed by Louis Parks
Many of us have heard proposals for a national identity card but likely dismissed it as something to Orwellian to happen in the near future. Surprise! Your driving license is the first piece of a much larger master plan and is hoping to be ready by 2008.
Back in 2005 the federal government passed President Bush’s Real ID Act. This act mandates that states overhaul their driving license to fit a federally imposed data and electronic standard with the goal of delivering real time authentication. The act will also include birth certificates and social security cards in the near future. This standardization will allow the electronic gathering of state and federal data into a national database. Although you may have three or four different documents involved, the electronic standardization is leading to the creation of a virtual national identity card.
The implication of an electronic identity card likely powered by RFID – is finally dawning on many privacy advocates. Although it looks unlikely that any legal issue could be raised at this time to stop this act it might just be something as simple as money. The current estimate puts the cost of the Real ID Act at $11B (yes, B for Billion) for each state to comply. So it is likely the states are going to need to feel comfortable that this is the right technology at the right time to stay supportive and deliver.
With this in mind, I am not sure how much comfort the state or federal agencies are meant to get from the continued in-fighting between different technology groups. The Smart Card Alliance continues to lobby for the use of their HF standard when, in some cases, a UHF functionality is really called for. Yes, there are security options available for UHF and yes, there are security issues with some implementations of HF. These groups need to figure this out sooner rather than later like after two senators kill this huge AUTO ID (insert your preferred technology here) opportunity.
This should be a win-win case for both of these technologies as there are several border and identity applications that can benefit from HF while other solutions are better candidates for UHF. Since the Auto ID industry (that is smart card and RFID) continue to push hard for more high volume opportunities it may be in there best interests to get behind this one together. It would be a shame to see a large and needed application fall victim to the politicians and lobbyists.