April 8, 2009 State Representative Paul Opsommer (R-DeWitt) called on Governor Granholm today to use her newly created “Information Privacy Protection Council” to review the federal Memorandum of Agreement that Michigan has entered into regarding computer-chipped Enhanced Drivers Licenses.
“Michigan entering into a federal agreement to put unencrypted, long range RFID computer chips into our driver’s licenses presents a huge privacy risk with very little benefit”, said Opsommer. “I don’t think we need RFID in our licenses period, but even if we did, there is absolutely no reason it couldn’t be short range and encrypted. The federal government has made some bad technology choices that they now want to cram down the rest of our throats. Canada is totally rethinking this whole program from the ground up, and so should Michigan.”
Most Canadian Provinces and Territories each have the equivalent to the Governor’s new Chief Privacy Officer, and they have been sounding alarm bells regarding EDLs for quite some time. In Ottawa they recently repatriated one of their databases, and Saskatchewan scrapped the entire EDL program altogether due to cost, changing guidelines, and significant privacy concerns. A Canadian forum last Monday called for a moratorium on the use of EDLs until their Parliament studies and debates the issue.
“The law that allowed Michigan to create an EDL was rushed through last year under false pretenses, and it unwisely allowed for the legislature to divest its authority in finalizing the Memorandum of Agreement,” said Opsommer. “If you look at what was in that law, and then you look at the eventual Memorandum that was signed, you can see that our concerns about the need for encryption and protections over Canadian and Mexican data access was completely ignored. The Governor can get us out of this agreement with thirty days notice before a single one of these licenses is issued. I am asking her to do just that so that the entire agreement can be reviewed by her new Chief Privacy Officer and the legislature.”
The new licenses would contain an unencrypted RFID chip that would contain a new unique citizen ID number that could be wirelessly read through both wallets and walls at distances of 30 feet. Many are concerned that the number could become the new social security number of the 21st Century, and no laws currently exist to prevent people or businesses from wirelessly skimming the numbers and using them for their own purposes or selling them to others to create their own wireless databases.
“If the federal government is dead-set on Michigan creating Enhanced Driver’s Licenses instead of the State Department just simply reducing the price of traditional passports as the Government Accountability Office has called for, the very least they can do is allow us to create one that doesn’t contain RFID,” said Opsommer. “Michigan should not be content to just roll over for Washington on this one, especially when there are so many unanswered questions about how the information will be shared.”
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