Well boys and girls, it would seem that the Real ID act is going to sneak into our lives, attached to a military spending bill. News.com has the FAQ on the subject.
I note that my representative, Howard Coble, was one of only 3 Republican representatives who voted against the blasted thing. Ron Paul predictably voted against it as well. So much for Republicans being the party of smaller government.
I'm not going to rant and rave about what a bad idea this is. It is a bad idea, but ranting and raving isn't going to help. The military spending bill is on the president's desk, and he will sign it. That's a foregone conclusion. We're going to get Real ID'd whether we like it or not.
I will, however, make some observations/predictions. You know how it's is with Social Security Numbers--everyone you deal with thinks they have some sort of God-given right to have your SSN, and your SSN is a defacto national ID number. Well, now we'll have a Real ID--government certified, alledgedly uncounterfitable and machine readable ID.
Be prepared to present this everywhere you spend money. This will take the place of "May I see your driver's license?" when you write a check. It's going to get you scanned into more databases than you could ever imagine existed. You are going to be processed, merged, queried, saved, transferred, exported and imported every day, and you won't even know it.
Be prepared to have the police scan it at every traffic stop and every DUI checkpoint. Of course, some database somewhere will note that on such-and-such date at so-and-so time you were stopped. All these databases will be available to all law enforcement agencies at all levels--it's the law.
Be prepared for an avalanche of data theft. If you think some of the recent high-profile thefts of personal data and credit card numbers were scary, you aint seen nothing yet.
We won't even go into what the targeted marketers are going to do with this windfal of information. Get a bigger mailbox.
And on the serious paranoid fringe, if Real IDs use RFID tags, which seems very likely, what would happen if the terrorists use an EMP device and all our IDs (along with most electronic gadgets we depend on) get fried? Or maybe you just stood too close to something that had the same effect, and your card doesn't work any more. I bet explaining that one will be entertaining.
Hold it, I've got an even better one--privacy warriors work out a way to fry RFID chips with a small handheld device, and just walk down crowed streets, in elevators, stores, etc. frying chips everywhere they go, just by walking by. Can you imagine the chaos in a society where this card has become your ticket to everything?
The unintended consequences of this are going to be big, very big. You might want to hand on tight....
[Edit: Wired also has an interesting article on the subject. It seems that it hasn't passed the Senate yet (which was my impression from News.com), so there may be a chance to stop it. Write, email or call your senators now.]