Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Real ID Creates a Real Threat

In an effort to standardize the information provided on driver's licenses throughout the nation, the Department of Homeland Security is advocating the Real ID Act, which mandates minimum standards for government issued ID cards and provides for a national database of ID holders rather than the current disconnected system of statewide DMV databases. Initially, proponents of the Real ID Act were unable to pass it on its own, so they attached it as a rider to a military spending bill and the Act passed without debate. Opponents of the Real ID Act worry about how it will affect victims of domestic violence and stalking.

Every year, about 1,000 domestic violence victims legally change their Social Security numbers in an attempt to elude people who may pose threats, and many more change their legal names, according to figures compiled by advocacy groups.

But hiding from stalkers may become more difficult under a federal law called the Real ID Act that's scheduled to take effect on May 11.

Anna Broach wrote a comprehensive piece on the shortfalls of the Real ID Act with respect to domestic violence on NewsBlog last week as part one of a four part series. While she acknowledges that the Real ID Act does provide an "

The final rule says that both an individual's "full legal name" and "true address" must be stored in the DMV database, regardless of what's displayed on the card and encoded on its bar code. It also requires that motor vehicle departments scan and store "source documents," such as birth certificates, to verify a driver's license applicant's identity.

The Department of Homeland Security has declined to comment on how they will provide protection to those trying to hide from stalkers, saying only that the exchange of information between the states will be "limited." The federal government has also proposed allowing the states to devise their own state specific safety plans, but has given no indication of how these systems would be implemented or how they would co-exist with the standard national database. Cindy Southworth, technology project director for the National Network to End Domestic Violence, pointed out the problems that come along with giving that much access to DMV employees.

Given that there are less than six degrees of separation between most abusers and a friend or relative who works for the DMV, we are concerned about victims' location information housed in state databases that could be searched nationally.... Prior to national search ability, a victim could move to a different state and increase her safety and privacy, but national search functionality could place countless victims at risk.

Without a comprehensive plan to protect victims of stalking and domestic violence, this national database could cripple their hope for a new life free from fear. The current deadline for implementation of the Real ID Act is May 11, 2008. However, it may be postponed again because of a lack of support from the States. To show your support for survivors, contact your representative and tell them to speak out against the Real ID Act until these changes are made.

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