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Market-Based Solutions to Vital Economic Issues
Dec 1, 2009

Uses of RFID Technology in U.S. Identification Documents


The investigations following the attacks of September 11, 2001, showed that our ability to verify a person’s identity is crucial to our national security. As pointed out by The 9/11 Commission Report (National Commission on Terrorists Attacks Upon the United States, 2004), travel documents are as important as weapons for terrorists. To carry out an attack on American soil, foreign terrorists must cross our borders—which requires passing an identification screening. A valid passport also allows a terrorist to obtain other valid documents (e.g., driver’s license, credit cards, health insurance card) that are important to performing normal life activities while maintaining a low profile and avoiding detection. Four projects, currently in different stages of implementation, use Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) or Machine-Readable Zones (MRZ) technologies for verification and validation of identity in the United States. These programs are (1) e-Passport, (2) PASS Card, (3) Real ID, and (4) Enhanced Driver’s License. The use of RFID enables data to be stored electronically in chips embedded in identification documents and shared quickly in digital format by law enforcement personnel. Documents with RFID chips and a secure networking environment to exchange data are deemed more secure and less prone to counterfeiting than conventional, non-electronic documents. However, there is still debate about how to best balance the security benefits from RFID-enabled identification documents with concerns about privacy.

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