• ‘Real ID’ licenses roll out in January
     | December 11,2013

    Starting in January, Vermonters will be able to get a new kind of driver’s license. It’s called the Real ID. Supporters say the new cards will protect federal courts, nuclear power plants and commercial aircraft against terrorism.

    Opponents say the cards raise privacy concerns.

    No one has to get a Real ID just to operate a motor vehicle, but in a few years — no one knows exactly when — this special driver’s license will also allow entry to certain federal facilities, as well as commercial aircraft. You could gain that same access with a passport and a standard driver’s license, but Robert Ide, commissioner of Vermont’s Department of Motor Vehicles, said the Real ID will be much more convenient.

    “This will allow Vermont residents to have the document that we have been told will be necessary to use commercial airplanes in the future. There’s nothing mandatory about this program, and it only happens when your driver’s license is up for renewal,” Ide said.

    The DMV website provides details about when and how to apply. If you want one, you must show up in person at a DMV office with your birth certificate or other proof of identity, proof of your legal status in the U.S., a Social Security card or other proof of your full number, and two proofs of your Vermont address.

    You will also have your photograph taken, and those images will be searchable on a database using facial recognition technology. Allen Gilbert, director of Vermont’s chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said that’s too intrusive.

    “So essentially we are in a police lineup that police can search through when somebody robs the local convenience store. Usually that is not the way crime is detected. We’re not considered suspects unless there is probable cause shown to a judge that we have indeed committed some sort of crime,” Gilbert said.

    Ide said personal data will be provided by the DMV only if it meets stringent criteria for release. He said he plans to get a Real ID when he renews his license.

    “I am going to feel protected, and I am going to feel that my identity is protected if I take this step to secure it for myself,” he said.

    But Gilbert, of the ACLU, said he feels just the opposite about Real ID — that the database would make his identity a bigger target for thieves. He intends to carry his passport and regular driver’s license — which will be an acceptable substitute for the Real ID.

    He also objects to the yellow star on the new card.

    “For anybody who’s aware of Holocaust history you know that the Nazis required Jews to wear yellow stars during the Nazi era,” Gilbert said.

    Supporters of the Real ID say the star has nothing to do with the Holocaust and that Real ID instead is a safeguard against terrorism.

    It should not be confused with the enhanced driver’s license, which currently permits motorists to cross the U.S. international border on land. It will be possible to get an enhanced Real ID, which would permit border crossing by both land and air.

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