The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's ruling on security standards for state-issued driver's licenses and identification cards left the door open for states to set higher standards for secure REAL ID driver's licenses and e-government services, according to a release from the Smart Card Alliance, a not-for-profit industry association.

"Imagine the impact a state could have on protecting citizens' identities and improving government services if every driver's license they issued was capable of strongly authenticating online and in-person transactions," said Randy Vanderhoof, executive director of the Smart Card Alliance. "That opportunity is before states now as they define their REAL ID plan to comply with the federal standard, which includes only minimum technology requirements since it faced significant opposition from some states due to costs."

"Smart Card Technology: The Right Choice for REAL ID," a new brief issued by the Smart Card Alliance, explains what smart card technology can bring to states for security and cost-efficiency in the delivery of state-operated programs. Smart card technology -- which is required for all federal employee identification cards -- provides added identity fraud and privacy protection by supporting PINs, biometrics and encryption of sensitive data on the credential and during communication with a reader. A state-issued driver's license enhanced with this chip technology would enable strong authentication for e-government applications, said the Alliance, giving citizens secure, cost-effective and convenient access to services such as electronic filing of forms and online identity proofing for licenses and registrations. In addition, it would reduce fraud and administration costs for state benefits programs.

"States have a golden opportunity to leverage the federal funding available for REAL ID implementation and, by adding a few additional dollars per license, both meet the federal guidelines and provide immense benefits to citizens and the state for the future," concluded Vanderhoof.