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Bill restricting certain technologies in driver's licenses clears House

Bill restricting certain technologies in driver's licenses clears House

Dustin Hurst
March 22, 2010
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March 22, 2010

In a move to pre-empt any invasive technology from being implanted or utilized for Idaho state driver’s licenses, Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol, brought legislation before members of the House Transportation and Defense Committee Friday that would define exactly what the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) can put in or on licenses – and what they cannot.  On Monday, members of the Idaho House voted to approve Hart's legislation and send it on to the Senate.

Hart said his bill is designed to make the driver’s license a “private document” in the sense that when it is in a carrier’s purse or pocket, the license is completely secure from those who might try to steal the information listed on it.  His bill could prevent ITD from implanting Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chips into licenses, which, Hart believes, would leave personal information less susceptible to ID theft.  Passports issued by the federal government contain the chips, as well as specialty ID cards issued to travelers who frequently cross the U.S. border with Canada.  Proponents of the chips argue that they make travel easier and more efficient and aid in confirming identities at border crossings.  Opponents of the chips argue that they are an invasion of privacy and can be easily read at a distance by criminals with the right equipment.

The bill would also limit what information could be put into the bar code on the backs of licenses.  Currently, only the information listed on the front of the license – name, height, weight, etc. – can be found in the bar code.  Hart’s legislation would keep it that way.

Three-dimensional images of citizens would also be forbidden by the bill.  Hart said that new technology allows state departments to put three-dimensional images on licenses, though that technology has yet to come to Idaho. The legislation also contains an amendment that prohibits state officials from using one-to-many facial recognition software unless they have a warrant from the court to do so.

If, in the future, ITD decides to invest in one of the new technologies, either RFID chips or 3-D images, Idahoans wouldn’t be completely prevented from having them on or in their driver’s licenses.  Hart’s plan allows those who want the technology the ability to opt-in if the department ever offers.

The bill also contains a lesser-discussed provision that removes full faith and credit from those applying for driver's licenses after moving to Idaho from another state.  That provisions means that those applying for new driver's licenses in Idaho will have to prove their legal citizenship status before being approved by the state.

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