Saturday, July 19, 2008

On Demand: TSA Co-Opts Lexis Nexus to Find "you"

According to intuitive projections,  I had recently hedged a bet that contemporary security demands would pinpoint who we are based on consumer habits.  The determination of US citizenship may be less relevant in a few years if consumer histories and credit reports are considered as qualifying identifiers.   This leaves the burden on citizens to prove their identity on demand.  It is already happening.

Wired Magazine's, Ryan Singel's reports for Threat Level:

Fliers who find themselves attempting to fly without identification should prep themselves on what their old addresses were, when their wedding anniversary is and and their children's addresses.

Knowing those and other bits of personal information in public records will be key to convincing federal employees to let you past the x-ray machines onto your plane.
That's because under new rules from the Transportation Security Administration, travelers who try to fly without identification now have to do more than just let screeners paw through their bags and wand them up and down.

Now, those who left their license at home or had it stolen have to answer a series of questions relayed to the screener by employees in TSA's operations center in Virginia, where employees have access to databases of public records, including those compiled by data giant Lexis Nexis.
The idea is for screeners to know that the person holding a boarding pass in the name of Buster Brown, actually is that person. For travellers without ID, they better hope that the notoriously inaccurate private dossiers about them are correct.

The process of comparing answers to public records already caused a flare-up after one traveler was asked whether he was registered as a Democrat or a Republican, which TSA spokesman Christopher White called a "day one mistake," where a TSA employee looked at the available public records and asked a question off of the information in the files compiled by Lexis Nexis and others.

Another traveler recently reported that officials looked at the tax returns she was carrying with her, that the screeners had the Ohio DMV pull up her photo and that she was asked questions about her family, according to a story from the Lawrence Journal World.
The DMV photo detail struck TSA's White as odd, saying that he didn't believe the TSA had access to that data and that there were "much less invasive ways to verify identification."
As for the tax returns?

"If a passenger has any type of documents, they can present them to assist in verifying identification," White said. "If she presented an officer with her tax return, we don't care how much money she makes --  we just care about her identity."  White promised to look into the story further.

The new rules went into effect June 21, and in the first five days, 1705 people out of 10 million attempted to fly without identification and 59 of those were denied access to the plane.
White says the changes are just about making it harder for a would-be terrorist to board a plane using a ticket in someone else's name, which would bypass the no-fly list.
The TSA is experimenting with verifying boarding passes at the screening line, which would close the longstanding loophole that lets someone use a combination of a real identity card, a fake boarding pass and a real one to board a plane despite being on the no-fly list.

EDL's: the OTHER face of Real ID

"Brown, like officials in other states, insists that EDLs and REAL ID are entirely different. In fact, they’re not so very different. The states just don’t want to be seen as throwing in the towel on this issue. But they’re doing the most important thing that REAL ID demands of them: ramping up driver’s license screening. They’re also passing some of the cost of doing that along to citizens; the EDLs to be used in New York will cost $30 more than a standard driver’s license."

c/o CQ Politics &

The deadline for implementing REAL ID has been extended to 2014, and so the fight between states and the Department of Homeland Security over a federally approved, state-issued identification card is cooling off, at least for the moment.

That doesn’t mean states are happy about things, or that they all have backed off expressing their displeasure over what Washington is imposing on them. The sniff of rebellion still hangs in the air. At least half a dozen legislatures voted this spring to opt out of REAL ID (PL 109-13). Montana Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer sounded a Boston Tea Party note, declaring his state’s obstinate refusal to comply with what he decried as a multibillion-dollar unfunded federal mandate.

But while the anger is understandable, it probably is time for state officials to shelve the hot rhetoric and start thinking about what to do in the next five years to get ready for REAL ID requirements, as vexing and annoying and expensive as the prospect might be.

Some states already are making moves in that direction, even if they’re reluctant to acknowledge it. Washington state, for example, has become the first to offer an “enhanced driver’s license,” a second cousin to REAL ID that isn’t nearly as costly to implement.

“EDLs,” as they’re known in the business, will be used for land and sea border crossings between the U.S. and Canada, Mexico, Bermuda and the Caribbean beginning June 1, 2009. In addition to Washington, Arizona, Michigan, New York and Vermont all have come to agreement with Homeland Security on plans to begin issuing EDLs in the near future. New York’s will probably be available starting this fall.

While state officials don’t always like to admit it, EDLs represent a fairly significant step in the direction of compliance with the federal law. Like REAL ID, they require a personal visit to a motor vehicle office and require applicants to present more documentation than has been needed at any point in the past.

Ken Brown, of the New York Department of Motor Vehicles, says it simply makes sense for economic development. “This will ease border crossings and allow commerce to flow freely,” says Brown. That’s important to upstate New York and coastal Washington, both of which depend heavily on commerce with Canada.

Brown, like officials in other states, insists that EDLs and REAL ID are entirely different. In fact, they’re not so very different. The states just don’t want to be seen as throwing in the towel on this issue. But they’re doing the most important thing that REAL ID demands of them: ramping up driver’s license screening. They’re also passing some of the cost of doing that along to citizens; the EDLs to be used in New York will cost $30 more than a standard driver’s license.

Homeland Security is being no less coy for its own reasons. A spokeswoman for the department, like Brown in New York, vigorously contests the comparison between EDLs and REAL ID. And yet one can’t help but get the feeling that what really worries the feds about such a comparison is that it might suddenly wake states up to the politically sensitive fact that EDLs have subtly led them into effective REAL ID compliance.

Yes, there are fundamental differences between the two systems. Only U.S. citizens are eligible for EDLs (because they’re essentially state-issued proof of citizenship). But the most important difference involves money. Full compliance with REAL ID as originally enacted by Congress could have cost the states as much as $11 billion. EDLs would cost a fraction of that. Of course, simply allowing citizens to use passports as secure identification would be much cheaper still to the states.

But states might as well get used to the fact that REAL ID is the law of the land, and that while it may bend a little, it’s very unlikely to be repealed. Some day, in the not too distant future, the requirement of compliance will kick in. At that point, a state that can offer a reasonable substitute, such as EDLs, will have a decent chance of making it across the legal barrier.
So it’s probably time for states to stop kicking and instead get ready for what is bound to come. The enhanced driver’s license looks like a pretty good place to start.

Jonathan Walters can be reached at

North Carolina Beats The Chip

House Passes Bill Opposing Real ID Act
c/o Equality North Carolina

Equality North Carolina applauds the North Carolina House for passing a bill opposing implementation of the federal REAL ID Act. The federal law places arduous, unfunded requirements on the Division of Motor Vehicles and raises serious concerns for individual privacy. Equality NC opposes REAL ID due to its implications for transgender North Carolinians.

House Bill 2136, "Oppose REAL ID Act of 2005," passed its final reading in the House 69-55. Unfortunately, with the legislative session adjourning Friday, it cannot get through the Senate this year and will have to be reintroduced in 2009. However, it still sends a strong message to the U.S. Congress that they must make changes to address the deep flaws in the REAL ID Act.
Transgender people need ID that accurately reflects their updated information and, for safety reasons, information that reveals a gender change must be kept private. The Real ID Act puts up additional barriers to acquiring ID that reflects a person’s new name and it makes information about a person’s former name easier to discover, potentially outing transgender people to whomever scans their ID.

When transgender people do not have updated information on their ID, or when information about a gender change is made known, transgender people are vulnerable to increased discrimination and even violence.

Monday, July 14, 2008

RFID's Rain Plan: Apologetic PR

RFID Manufacturers Whining About Loss of Steam for ID Crossover Sales 
BTC Editorial 

Radio Frequency ID manufacturers have launched a campaign of self-affirming news about the microchip's usefulness as an identity solution in response to poor performance as an identity technology and Big Brother reputation.   Biometrics, also on the DHS menu of implementation options for Real IDs, are suffering from a similar Orwellian association. 

This follows years of negative public history and testimony similar to that given at last weeks Transporation and Homeland Security Senate Committee hearing in El Paso, TX.   Immigration and identity security panelists testified about the effectiveness of RFID technologies for proposed use in an Enhanced Driver's License program.  The RFID panel consisted of Texas Driver's License Chief of the Department of Public Safety,  a Digital security specialist from the Coalition for Secure Driver's License (Pro- Real ID), Texas ACLU and a spokesperson from the National Conference for State Legislature.  Each advocate cited RFIDs as a consumer technology inadequate for use in Texas ID cards.  

DPS Chief Judy Brown cited that previous efforts to utilize RFIDs had failed in VISIT, a Texas Department of Homeland Security pilot ID program for border immigration.

Efforts to "stop the bleeding" pointed to successes using biometrics in school lunch programs to save impoverished youngsters from "humiliation" at taking the reduced cost lunches and convenience at being identified by using a thumbprint.  Walter Hamilton, chairman of the International Biometric Industry Association, later admitted biometric's potential for tracking someone were "worriesome".

Brits taking a crack at biometrics wolves guarding the henhouse are offering $2,000 for the fingerprints of British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Home Secretary Jaqui Smith.  
:: RFIDNews Story HERE ::

NGA Sings New Song about Real ID

Governor's Celebrate Past, look to '09

States also are still chafing over the estimated $14 billion price tag of making driver's licenses more secure that the federal government ordered up.  While the U.S. Department of Homeland Security gave states -- even those who didn't ask for it -- more time to comply with the federal Real ID law, state legislatures are still thumbing their nose at the law. Just last month, Arizona became the 10th state to vote to prohibit the state's compliance with Real ID, which will force states to verify the identities of all 245 million drivers -- and pay for the program. ::FULL STORY HERE::

BTC Commentary : Looks like some Governor's may not want a Real ID.