Starting next year, residents of four states plus American Samoa may be unable to use their driver’s licenses as identification for boarding an airplane or entering certain federal buildings if the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) gets it way.
Under the current schedule, beginning January 1 DHS plans to require U.S. residents wishing to fly commercially to present identification compliant with the 2005 REAL ID Act. That law mandates that state driver’s licenses and other ID cards link identifying details about a person, such as name, address, birth date, photograph, and signature, with a unique identification number. Americans without such a card would be prohibited from flying and entering certain federal buildings — and that’s just the beginning. The law does not restrict the ability of the DHS to add further technological requirements, such as RFID chips, or to expand the number of activities that Americans must present a REAL ID to engage in.
“The law places no limits on potential required uses for Real IDs,” warned the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland. “In time, Real IDs could be required to vote, collect a Social Security check, access Medicaid, open a bank account, go to an Orioles [baseball] game, or buy a gun. The private sector could begin mandating a Real ID to perform countless commercial and financial activities, such as renting a DVD or buying car insurance. Real ID cards would become a necessity, making them de facto national IDs.”