Remember Enemy of the State, in which Will Smith's character was tracked throughout the city, his exact location being pinpointed with advanced tracking technology? This movie, in part, has instilled an Orwellian fear in many ordinary Americans of being the next target for such technologies.
With all the controversy currently swirling around the Real ID Act, one would think that mandating "smart" identification via driver's licenses or other credentials was equivalent to planting microphones and tracking devices.
The Act requires that, after May 2008, personal ID or driver's licenses cannot be accepted unless the state has been certified by the DHS, in consultation with the Department of Transportation, to meet the requirements of the law. Beyond traditional components (name, photo, date of birth), the Act requires physical security features designed to prevent tampering and a common, machine-readable technology with defined data elements.
So while the Real ID Act is getting a lot of attention, in truth the process of getting a license is not much different, though additional precautions are being taken to make sure that breeder documents are valid and biometric information is gathered consistently.
The biggest challenge is going to be creating more security around databases to ensure their integrity. If "smart" IDs drive the government to mandate security standards for the databases, we will be in better shape than we are now.
Overall, a "smart" driver's license should be used to put the citizen in charge of his own privacy, instead of as a "big brother" feature. Nothing is more important than using active intelligence to ensure that the public is safe.
Shouldn't we take a commonsense approach to doing that?