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Should We Be Worried About the Real ID Act?

By       Message Gail Jonas     Permalink
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Should We Be Worried About the Real ID Act?

Until I heard that the Real ID Act could include an RFID chip, I hadn't given much thought to this law, enacted May 10, 2005 and due to go into effect in May of 2008. I knew that an RFID chip emits a radio frequency signal so that we can be tracked wherever we go if we have our driver's license or I.D. card with us.

I decided to learn more and went to RealNightmare.org because this website was sent to me by a sane, not paranoiac, friend. I found the text of the law and read it for myself.

Hmmm, I didn't see a reference to RFID chips in the "Improved Security For Drivers' Licenses and Personal Identification Cards" (aka the Real ID Act), so I sent an e-mail to the "Contact Us" link at RealNightmare.org, and within an hour, an attorney for the Technology & Liberty Project of the ACLU replied, 'The Real ID Act calls for a 'common machine readable element' to be part of every license. That technology could be an RFID chip. However, until DHS [Department of Homeland Security] issues regulations (probably this Spring or Summer) it is unknown whether they will require an RFID or something else (like a bar code)."

Several states are considering Anti-Real ID legislation. Yesterday, the Maine legislature rejected the Real ID Act. Unfortunately, my state, California, doesn't appear to be doing anything, but I always feel better if I swing into action, so I can contact my legislative representatives. Besides, I mostly get around on foot and a bike!


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Gail Jonas is a lawyer and voting activist in Northern California.

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