Wednesday, May 11, 2005

U.S. ID card through the backdoor?

As slashdot reports, the U.S. Congress has passed a bill that includes tight rules for state issued driving licenses, effectively turning them into national ID cards.

The $82 bn. “Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act for Defense, the Global War on Terror, and Tsunami Relief, 2005” (H.R.1268) includes in H.R.1268.EH, Division B the “Real ID Act of 2005” (you can access the text as summarized by the Congressional Research Service here -- look for “Title II”).

According to the law, driver's licenses have to include a person's full legal name, date of birth, gender, the driver's license or ID card number, a digital photograph, the address of principal residence and the signature (thus effectively creating a national standard for them). Furthermore the driver's license has to be machine readable, and states have to agree to the linking of databases that contain the driver's license data.

Effectively, this means a centralised national database of all people in the U.S. holding driver's licenses. The provisions set down in this law will become effective in three years' time.

The National Governors Association has joined the National Conference of State Legislatures, The Council of State Governments and the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators in expressing opposition to this law and threatened legal action to challenge the constitutionality of the law.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

TimeWarner “lost” employee data tapes

Today's blog entry on the problem of identity theft concerns TimeWarner, the U.S. media giant. As the company reports in a statement backup tapes with data on TimeWarner employees are missing.

These data include, according to a TimeWarner FAQ
“names and U.S. Social Security numbers of: current and former U.S.-based employees of Time Warner and its current and former affiliates (and U.S. citizens working for the company abroad); some of their dependents and beneficiaries; and certain other individuals who have provided services to the company.”
So the news this time -- if one were to adopt a slightly sarcastic attitude -- is that it's not company customers but company employees that are hit. The frequency with which this blog has reported about such incidents in the last months points to this becoming an ever more pressing issue -- even if no malicious intent may have been present this time, but sheer negligence. But that is not certain either: after all the U.S. Secret Service was asked to investigate the matter, no less.

According to German news magazine SPIEGEL no fewer than 600.000 employees of the media giant are affected by this incident. The contractor who handled the backup tapes, Boston MA based Iron Mountain so far has nothing on this incident on its website.