June 18, 2024

Starting in the spring of 2025, travelers will no longer be able to use “traditional” driver’s licenses, although passports are an option.

A heavily criticized federal ID program, Real ID, is set to become mandatory for domestic air travel in the US on May 7, 2025.

Once in effect, the federal scheme will ban adults from domestic flights unless they have replaced “traditional” state-issued IDs with Real ID. And the mandate will also extend to citizens’ ability to access some federal facilities.

The origin of the legislation goes back to 2005 and the REAL ID Act, which was explained by the Department of Homeland Security as standardization of the issuance of ID cards, driver’s licenses, and similar forms of identification.

Starting in the spring of 2025, travelers will no longer be able to use “traditional” driver’s licenses, although passports are an option.

That means that for adults in the US without a passport (and according to the State Department, only less than half have it), getting REAL ID or Enhanced ID will be the only options – but the latter will still not be accepted in domestic air travel, only for crossing sea or land border with Mexico and Canada.

Rights groups like EFF sum the situation up as the US government forcing states “to turn your driver’s license into a national ID” – with dire consequences for privacy, on top of monetary costs.

And, according to EFF, the declarative goal – improving national security – will not be achieved at all.

This organization compares Real ID and the single national database housing people’s data to the creeping undermining of privacy and expansion of surveillance that happened in comparable past scenarios.

“Remember the Social Security number started innocuously enough but it has become a prerequisite for a host of government services and been co-opted by private companies to create massive databases of personal information,” EFF writes, urging state legislators to “resist” implementing REAL ID.

The ACLU expressed similar concerns regarding surveillance and privacy, but also financial and administrative burdens that come with the scheme, announcing that it has joined those states that are opposed to the law and are seeking to get it repealed.

“By definitively turning driver’s licenses into a form of national identity documents, REAL ID would have a tremendously destructive impact on privacy,” ACLU said on its website, noting that these concerns have held back full adoption in many states.

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