Smart Card Alliance Supports Real ID Act and Greater Security for Driver’s Licenses

Smart Card Alliance Supports Real ID Act and Greater Security for Driver’s Licenses

Princeton Junction, NJ, May 13, 2005–The Smart Card Alliance commends Congressional efforts on the Real ID Act to strengthen the security of driver’s licenses and other state-issued identification cards that are used for official federal purposes.

The Real ID Act, spearheaded by F. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wisc., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, has been passed by both houses and is expected to be signed into law by President Bush.

“American citizens have the right to know who is in their country, that people are who they say they are, and that the name on the driver’s license is the real holder’s name, not some alias,” Sensenbrenner said.

Former national security advisor Richard Clarke, in an address at the Smart Card Alliance 2004 Annual Conference, told the audience some of the 9/11 hijackers had been stopped by the police and were using falsified Virginia driver’s licenses. If the police had been able to tell they were fraudulent credentials, things might have gone differently. One 9/11 Commission recommendation is to use the driver’s license system to add to national security by making that system more secure. “Making them smart cards would certainly go a long way to solving that problem if, and this is the important if, if we get the credentialing right,” said Clarke.

Urging Alliance members to work closely with the privacy and civil liberties communities, Clarke said more than 80% of adults have driver’s licenses, and no one sees that as an invasion of privacy. The problem is that the ease of counterfeiting those documents puts the public at risk of identity theft. “We’re not talking about changing things, fundamentally. We’re just talking about making them work better. Privacy and security are two sides of the same coin,” Clarke said.

The Real ID Act would set certain standards for state driver’s licenses and other state-issued identification cards that are used for official federal purposes. To receive federal funding states would be required to include certain data on driver’s licenses, including full name, date of birth, gender, license number, a digital photograph, address, signature, physical security features and machine readable technology.

The bill states that “A State shall include, at a minimum: 1) Physical security features designed to prevent tampering, counterfeiting, or duplication of the document for fraudulent purposes; and 2) A common machine-readable technology, with defined minimum data elements.” The smart card industry supports the inclusion of both of these provisions in the bill because it recognizes that adding physical security features alone does not do enough to ensure a driver’s license is authentic and has not been tampered with. Adding a standard machine readable technology like smart chip technology will securely store the driver’s information that is printed on the license so that it can be validated.

According to Randy Vanderhoof, executive director of the Smart Card Alliance: “Based on the agreed upon language and previous statements made by House Judiciary Chairman Sensenbrenner and other members of Congress, it’s clear that Congress recognized the opportunity for secure, smart chip technology to be used as part of programs that provide government-issued identification credentials to individuals who use them ‘for federal purposes.’” This makes sense since the federal government has already standardized on smart card technology for securing the identity credentials of millions of its own employees.” Though the Real ID Act does not specify a technology, it requires that the Department of Homeland Security adopt “machine-readable technology” standards and provides discretion in how to do it.

Vanderhoof cited another advantage of secure smart chip technology-its ability to enable the secure use of biometrics. “Congress is looking for a means to authenticate the person, not just the document. That makes a strong case for incorporating smart chip technology together with biometrics as a way to make a one-to-one match between the driver’s license and the bearer. Smart card technology is the best way to achieve this-it is a proven, secure, cost-effective and reliable technology, and the technology also offers increased privacy since the biometric can be stored and matched in the secure chip on the smart card.”

About the Smart Card Alliance

The Smart Card Alliance is a not-for-profit, multi-industry association working to accelerate the acceptance of smart card technology. Through specific projects such as education programs, market research, advocacy, industry relations and open forums, the Alliance keeps its members connected to industry leaders and innovative thought. The Alliance is the single industry voice for smart cards, leading industry discussion on the impact and value of smart cards in the U.S. For more information please visit