ACLU-NJ and Rutgers Constitutional Rights Clinic comments condemn MVC scanning ID records & de facto national ID with no meaningful opt-out

June 3, 2016

NEWARK - The ACLU of New Jersey and Rutgers School of Law Constitutional Rights Clinic today submitted comments (PDF) to New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) Chairman and Chief Administrator Raymond Martinez making the case against proposed changes for obtaining driver’s licenses or state-issued identification cards in the State’s attempt to comport with the problematic federal REAL ID Act.  

These amendments would require the MVC to copy and indefinitely maintain New Jerseyans’ private identification documents, which can include a birth certificate and Social Security card. The records that driver’s license applicants current show motor vehicle employees to prove their identity and residency would, if MVC’s proposal is adopted, be stored in large databases linked with other states’ amassed information, jeopardizing residents’ privacy and effectively forcing New Jerseyans to participate in a national ID program. In 2007, approximately half of the states participated in a revolt against REAL ID, opposing the privacy implications, the cost, and the ineffectiveness of the policies the law mandated.

“The REAL ID law and its interlinked state databases effectively create a national ID,” said Rutgers School of Law Dean Ronald K. Chen. “This ID system will not improve security, and it will significantly intrude on our privacy. In the proposed regulations, the MVC paints a false picture of giving residents an option to forgo a REAL ID, but in reality, people will only have one choice, regardless of which ID they get — to put their sensitive personal documents in a massive, multi-state database.”

The amendments to the regulations create a two-tiered system — one license meant to comply with the problematic federal REAL ID Act, and another that would remain non-compliant with that federal policy. However, even New Jerseyans applying for non-REAL ID licenses would have to submit their private, personal documents for the MVC to copy, scan, and store indefinitely in massive, vulnerable databases.

“The collection, storage, and sharing of all New Jerseyans’ private identification information will create a treasure trove for cybercriminals and identity thieves,” said ACLU-NJ Legal Director Ed Barocas. “Disturbingly, this amassment of sensitive information could easily be abused or misused by government officials as we have seen happen at federal agencies in the past. The MVC has shown its willingness to offer an alternative to REAL ID-compliant licenses, but it needs to give New Jerseyans a true choice presented in good faith rather than the false choice it grants here. New Jerseyans need the option of obtaining a New Jersey license or ID without having our most sensitive identification documents copied and maintained in a database against our will.”  

The federal government has stated that a REAL ID-compliant identification will eventually be required to enter certain government locations and after October 1, 2020, will be required for domestic air travel.

“Since the non-REAL ID compliant option need not comply with federal requirements, the MVC need not — and should not — retain scanned copies of source documents for non-Real ID applicants. This would ensure that individuals who choose non-Real ID are given a viable alternative, which protects their privacy concerns by not retaining and scanning the documents necessary under the six-point system to obtain a non-REAL ID document.  The proposed amendments should therefore be changed to reflect that source documents shall not be scanned and retained if the applicant chooses the non-REAL ID compliant option,” the comments submitted by the Rutgers School of Law Constitutional Rights Clinic and ACLU-NJ said. 

Read the Rutgers and ACLU-NJ comments online.

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