August 21, 2003

ID Cards and Drinking

Matthew Yglesias supports a new "smart card" drivers license if drinking age limitations are removed:

In a rational country we would let teenagers drink and then I'd be cracking down on fake IDs in good conscience,...
I agree 100% with this position but I don't support a tradeoff with new federally mandated drivers licenses.

The text of the 2002 bill, HR 4633, which NDOL says will be reintroduced is here. Its purpose:

... to establish standards for State programs for the issuance of drivers� licenses and identification cards, and for other purposes.
I don't understand how congress gets to set state standards for this (it's late, so help me out here) or how the $300 million bribe included in the bill to help the states implement the new smart cards would be near enough to entice the states to give up their authority to the feds.

There are other aspects of the proposed legislation that bother me much more.

Some examples,

(6) Identification card technologies that can accommodate other government and private applications will provide the best return on the investment in the new cards.
What other goverment and private applications might these folks be thinking of? Perhaps a tracking device that any level of gendarme can use to locate you? Let your imagination run wild with this.

And this:

‘‘(iii) contain encryption and security software or hardware (or both) that prevents access to data stored on the chip without the express consent of the individual to whom the data applies, other than access by a Federal, State, or local agency (including a court or law enforcement agency) in carrying out its functions, or by a private entity acting on behalf of a Federal, State, or local agency in carrying out its functions;
Reads like the feds want full access to your chip anytime anywhere.

And this:

A State shall obtain biometric data for the identification of each individual to whom the State issues a new or renewed driver’s license or identification card and shall maintain such data.
You will be required to give up whatever biometric data the feds select for use. Today this could only happen with consent or a search warrant.

If it is ever implemented the draft legislation has a couple of possible safeguards:

[implement] requirements to ensure that such biometric data will be used only for matching the license or cardto the presenter and will not be stored in a central database.
This implies that the biometric data would have to be secured and inserted into the card at the point of issuance. For us to be comfortable that the issuers aren't secretely filing the biometric data the collecting and inserting device would have to be completely disconnected from any network.

A variant of this last one should be its own standalone federal law:

does not make use of the license or card holder’s Social Security number.
You are right, I'm paranoid and I don't trust'm. Get rid of drinking laws, crack down on fake IDs but, please: feds stay out of the mandatory national ID business.

Posted by Steve on August 21, 2003

I don't understand how congress gets to set state standards for this (it's late, so help me out here)

Two words: Commerce Clause.

The Constitution gives Congress the power to regulate interstate commerce. It's incredibly easy to tie something like driver's licenses to interstate commerce - travel, tourism, employment mobility, yadda, yadda, yadda. That would be how they get around the argument that it should be regulated by the states.

Posted by Lilith at August 22, 2003 8:28 PM

Thanks Lilith. Makes me think that removing the commerce clause should be a higher priority then some of the other amendments that folks are floating these days.

Posted by Steve at August 22, 2003 9:57 PM
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