need to give 'electronic access' to other states on the back end, and that's not defined. If I were a state, I would hope that would be resolved in the DHS soon."

To obtain a valid driver's license under the new federal mandates, a citizen will be required to present extensive documentation. Each state will require, and must be able to verify, a photo identity document -- or a nonphoto identity document that contains both the applicant's full legal name and date of birth. The state must also verify a person's name, primary address, date of birth and Social Security number -- or proof of Social Security ineligibility.

Unfortunately for everyone, it appears more than likely these documents will need to be presented in person, which means everyone in America will need to head to the DMV before May 11, 2008.

Citizen Impact

Despite the questions over the Real ID Act's passage through Congress, and the uncertain language used in its text, the legislation will make it much more difficult to produce and distribute fraudulent identification documents. The bill requires states to implement advanced security features, which the DHS will define in coming months.

It's unclear, however, when exactly those details will arrive.

"There are people here working on it," said DHS spokesman Jarrod Agen. "But I haven't seen any kind of official timeline for regulations or definitions just yet."

Prospective vendors of the new technology aren't waiting for DHS announcements. Companies such as Anteon and Lasercard -- based in Fairfax, Va., and Mountain View, Calif., respectively -- have developed high-tech ID cards that incorporate security features such as embedded biometrics, laser engraving and optical memory storage, which are just a few features that can address the Real ID Act's requirements.

"One of the things called for in the Real ID Act is increased security and the ability to store data and read data back, machine authentication, those kinds of things," said Steve Price-Francis, vice president of business development at Lasercard Systems Corp., the company that produces the card platform for U.S. green cards. "We have a security feature based on our optical memory technology which will provide a layered level of security and counterfeit resistance. It will provide very rapid visual recognition. We're able to permanently, irreversibly and unalterably laser-engrave a cardholder's face onto a piece of our optical memory."

Another Real ID Act requirement is that every state's DMV databases be available to all other states. The information in these databases must consist of all the information printed and embedded in each person's driver's license. In addition, paper copies of the documents required to obtain a driver's license must be held by each state for seven years, while images of such documents must be held by each state for 10 years.

Though these technologies and requirements are sure to ignite ire with privacy advocates, Jason King, public affairs director of AAMVA, says many states are already practicing most of the Real ID Act requirements.

"The thing to note, that some people tend not to report, is that state DMV administrators are ahead of the curve in building more integrity into the driver's license framework," said King. "A number of the Real ID Act provisions are already under way. For example, one of the directives in the Real ID Act says states must verify the Social Security number of applicants. Well, 42 states are already doing that today, so that's good news. Also, the Real ID Act requires four reliable forms of ID prior to licensing. Most states already require three."

A critical point of contention for states, even if they are already engaged in some Real ID Act requirements, is whether they will be forced to reissue new licenses to those who already have them.

Chad Vander Veen  | 

Chad Vander Veen is the former editor of FutureStructure.