Hundreds of millions of Americans will have until 2013 to be outfitted with new digital ID cards, the Bush administration said on Thursday in a long-awaited announcement that reveals details of how the new identification plan will work.
The announcement by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security offers a five-year extension to the deadline for states to issue the ID cards, and proposes creating the equivalent of a national database that would include details on all 240 million licensed drivers.
According to the draft regulations (PDF), which were required by Congress in the 2005 Real ID Act and are unlikely to assuage privacy and cost concerns raised by state legislatures:
Ã¢â‚¬Ë˜Â The Real ID cards must include all drivers' home addresses and other personal information printed on the front and in a two-dimensional barcode on the back. The barcode will not be encrypted because of "operational complexity," which means that businesses like bars and banks that require ID would be capable of scanning and recording customers' home addresses.
Ã¢â‚¬Ë˜Â A radio frequency identification (RFID) tag is under consideration. Homeland Security is asking for input on how the licenses could incorporate "RFID-enabled vicinity chip technology, in addition to" the two-dimensional barcode requirement.
Ã¢â‚¬Ë˜Â States must submit a plan of how they'll comply with the Real ID Act by October 7, 2007. If they don't, their residents will not be able to use IDs to board planes or enter federal buildings starting on May 11, 2008.
Ã¢â‚¬Ë˜Â Homeland Security is considering standardizing a "unique design or color for Real ID licenses," which would effectively create a uniform national ID card.
Thursday's draft regulations arrive amid a groundswell of opposition to the Real ID Act from privacy groups, libertarians and state officials. On Wednesday, the National Governors Association endorsed a bill by Sen. Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, that would reduce Homeland Security's power to order states to comply with the law.
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