ACLU Lauds Akaka-Sununu Real ID Fix Bill, Says Additional Privacy and Civil Liberties Safeguards Still Needed

December 11, 2006 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union today welcomed the introduction of bipartisan legislation authored by Senators Daniel Akaka (D-HI) and John Sununu (R-NH) that would add privacy and civil liberties safeguards to the Real ID Act. The “Identification Security Enhancement Act of 2006” would address several of the shortcomings of the controversial legislation adopted last year, including the establishment of a National ID.

“We applaud Senators Akaka and Sununu taking steps to fix some of the Real ID Act’s greatest privacy transgressions,” said Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “The 110th Congress must take affirmative actions to better protect the privacy and freedoms of all Americans. This bipartisan bill is a welcome first step, but more must be done to remedy the problems with the Real ID Act.”

The Real ID Act was adopted last year as part of a must-pass military appropriations bill. The act rolls back civil liberties protections, attacks privacy rights and sets the stage for a national ID. Many diverse groups including the ACLU, the National Association of Evangelicals, the Ancient Order of Hibernians, the National Conference of State Legislatures, the National Governors Association and the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators opposed the Real ID Act. Conservative estimates place the minimum cost of the program at $12 billion.

The Akaka-Sununu bill would eliminate most of the requirements that laid the foundation for a National ID card, such as the obligation that all data and systems be standardized. The bill also changes the approach to drivers’ licenses by calling for more flexible “standards” instead of the current uniform mandates. In perhaps its most significant privacy fix, the legislation prohibits the use of license data by third parties, requires encryption of the data itself and preserves any state privacy laws that may provide greater protections.

“The Real ID Act is living on borrowed time; no act that repugnant to our Constitutional rights, burdensome to America’s drivers, and costly to taxpayers can or should be implemented,” said Timothy Sparapani, an ACLU Legislative Counsel. “We urge lawmakers to demand explicit protections when they consider how to best restore the privacy and freedoms lost under Real ID, or else the Department of Homeland Security will likely again fail to protect Americans’ privacy and civil liberties.”

For more on the ACLU’s concerns with the Real ID Act, go to:

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