The Biometric Information Privacy Act of Illinois is not a law many are familiar with. But if you have ever shared a photo on social media, the little-known statute turns out to be one of the nation’s toughest regulations for how companies like Facebook and Google can use facial recognition technologies to identify you online.
On Thursday, an Illinois state senator, Terry Link, introduced an amendment that would have weakened the law by exempting photo-tagging technologies that are now commonly used on social media. The proposal also had the potential to extinguish several class-action lawsuits against technology companies like Facebook by retroactively removing the right of Illinois citizens to sue companies that might have broken the law in the past.
The amendment was lobbied for by Facebook, according to a person involved in the effort who spoke on the condition of anonymity. And it helps to illustrate how from drone aircraft to genetic information and statutes that govern how companies sell consumer information to data miners, tech companies are in a capital to capital fight to keep new laws from being passed or to soften those already on the books.
“The Illinois biometric privacy act is one of the best new privacy laws in the country,” said Marc Rotenberg, president of the Electronic Privacy Information Center. “It’s bad news for consumers when Internet companies start lobbying against good privacy laws.”
Applicants will have their photograph taken at a local office and a digital copy will be submitted immediately to Springfield for comparison in a pool of several million digital photos, according to Jim Burns, inspector general for the secretary of state’s office.
“We have in Illinois one of the better facial recognition systems in the country,” he said.
Illinois is among 27 states either not in compliance or taking steps to comply with the Real ID Act. Under this act, stricter identification is required to pass through airport security and enter federal buildings. Homeland Security earlier this year postponed the deadline for states to comply to 2018.
Homeland Security also will accept the temporary paper document in conjunction with an old driver’s license or ID card to board an aircraft until the permanent card arrives in the mail.
Congress passed the law in 2005 after a 9/11 Commission recommendation to take steps that would make it tougher to counterfeit government-issued IDs.
Critics of Real ID, such as the American Civil Liberties Union, have complained that it is a blatant invasion of privacy and would make people vulnerable to identity theft.
Ed Yohnka, director of communications at American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, said he believes Illinois and other states have been doing a good job protecting peoples’ identities, and switching to a national identification card would do more harm than good.
“Congress ought to pull the plug on this,” he said. “It creates a national identification system that puts people at a greater risk of having their identity stolen.
“They talk about this in terms of it being for safety and security, but there is no evidence that it adds any of those things,” Yohnka said. “But what we do know is that it creates this powerful dynamic that can be used for surveillance.
“Once you have this national database, the only natural thing to do next is to take it and begin to use it to track people,” Yohnka said. “Then you are just creating a huge surveillance system, and that’s the real danger.”
Yohnka said if Real ID is developed, the government would have the potential to track what people buy and where they go.
Even with the new procedures, IL is still only 84% in compliance, whatever that really means. And by the way, for a state already in budgetary trouble, here’s an extra expense:
The system will cost the state an additional $8.3 million in vendor and postage costs a year, said Nathan Maddox, [ Illinois Secretary of State Jesse] White’s senior legal adviser. The state plans to use a fund dedicated to driver’s license upgrades to pay for the new system.
“We have been making steady progress in implementing Real ID,” Maddox said. “We’ve met approximately 84 percent of the requirements.”
Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White announced that his office is upgrading security features to the Driver’s License/ID card design and expanding the central issuance process for driver’s licenses and ID cards to all applicants. With implementation of these changes, Illinois has moved closer to achieving full REAL ID compliance, which is a federal mandate of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). By the end of July, applicants visiting Driver Services facilities will no longer be issued a new permanent DL/ID card at the end of the application process. Instead, they will leave the facility with a temporary, secure paper driver’s license, which is valid for 45 days and will serve as their DL/ID for driving purposes and proof of identification. The temporary, secure paper driver’s license or ID card will contain a photo and the basic information that appears on the permanent driver’s license or ID card. In addition, the facility employee will return the old DL/ID card back to the applicant after punching a hole in it.
Meanwhile, the applicant’s information will be sent to a centralized, secure facility in Illinois. After fraud checks have been conducted to ensure the applicant’s identity, a higher quality, more secure DL/ID will be printed and sent via U.S. mail within 15 business days to the applicant’s address.
For purposes of air travel, DHS states that it will accept the temporary document in conjunction with the old DL/ID to board an aircraft until the permanent card arrives in the mail. Illinois joins 39 other states that have moved to centralized production of DL/ID cards.
Illinois DL/IDs will continue to be accepted as primary forms of identification to board commercial airplanes for domestic travel until January 22, 2018.
Fine, whatever, as long as the damn thing doesn’t get lost in the maw of the unreliable Chicago mail – seriously, what percentage of these DL/ID cards will be left to burn under a dumpster?
What percent will be delivered to the wrong address? I’d estimate that our building gets several erroneously delivered pieces of mail a week. Often inconsequential direct mail, but often checks, invoices, utility bills, magazines, and so on. Let’s hope the Chicago branch of the USPS takes special care to deliver these new driver licenses…
Sigh. The REAL ID boondoggle isn’t dead yet. Doesn’t it sound like everything the Big Govment’ haters rail against? And yet, it was passed “in the wake of 9/11”…
Currently, Illinois licenses and identification cards do not meet minimum standards mandated by the Real ID Act, which passed in 2005 in the wake of 9/11. If the Department of Homeland Security does not grant Illinois an extension, residents would need additional identification like a passport or face additional security checks to get on planes.
The act aims to thwart efforts by terrorists, con artists and immigrants in the country illegally to obtain government-issued identification. Arguments about costs, privacy and whether the additional information would actually reduce threats have delayed implementation of the law for more than a decade.
A major feature of Real ID is the verification of birth certificates, which Illinois currently does not require. The information is electronically scanned and stored in a federal database, and data can be shared easily among states and the federal government.
“It’s a large database that allows us to verify birth certificates and death certificates, things of that nature,” said Henry Haupt, spokesman for Secretary of State Jesse White. “It’s quite costly. We estimate, in order to utilize it and have all the birth certificates verified for Illinois drivers, it would cost about $3.75 million each year.”
White’s office estimated it would cost $100 to $150 million just for staffing, equipment and data storage. A Real ID driver’s licenses could cost an estimated $75 in Illinois. A license currently costs $30 for ages 21-68, according to CyberDrive Illinois.
That cost would largely be shouldered by Illinois drivers and taxpayers. The Homeland Security estimates it could cost $4 billion nationwide to implement the act.
States and territories were initially required to implement the program by May 2008, but the federal government delayed its start four times. Twenty-one states and four territories have been granted extensions to meet the law’s standards; 22 states and Washington, D.C., have implemented the act, according to a Jan. 30 Homeland Security statement.
Seven states — Arizona, Idaho, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York — have no plans to implement Real ID. Residents of five of those states will not be able to board airplanes without additional identification like a passport starting in 2016; New York and Minnesota have driver’s licenses with enhanced security measures that will allow their residents to board airplanes, according to Homeland Security.
Sen. Iris Martinez (D-Chicago), a long-time opponent of the bill, says:
“I viewed Real ID as yet another unfunded federal mandate on state governments already facing tough budgets for important priorities,” Martinez said. “The proposition of a creation of a ‘one size fits all’ ID card necessary to travel was of great concern.”
and the price of implementation to the states is steep:
Brian Zimmer, president of the Coalition for a Secure Driver’s License who helped draft the law’s provisions on driver’s licenses as a congressional committee staffer, said Illinois would have to construct or renovate buildings that issue licenses in order to meet security criteria, which could prove challenging.
The law prompted some states, like Wisconsin and Texas, to consolidate facilities. In Tennessee, licenses are issued from a single, secure location, he said. That means applicants get their license via mail instead of in person.
“Real ID required states to move from a business model where licensing was a revenue source to a business model where money needs to be invested in it to ensure it was done more securely,” Zimmer said. “The new model is security first, and security comes with a price.”
Line at the REAL ID DMV station
price, confusion, long lines, and of course, privacy theft concerns:
Critics of Real ID have complained that it is a blatant invasion of privacy and would make people vulnerable to identity theft.
Ed Yohnka, a spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, said a government database of citizens and some of their personal information smacks of Big Brotherism and would be a gold mine for identity thieves.
“One of the troubling things is that the system to protect our data will no longer be dependent about what happens here in Illinois,” Yohnka said. “What happens in Mississippi or Maine or Montana will be a conduit to get to our data. If hackers can get into those systems, they can get to the national system.”
He noted that the state’s database of driver’s licenses has fought off tens of thousands of improper access attempts.
“From a pragmatic point of view, all this furor over something that doesn’t provide safety and security is ridiculous,” Yohnka said.