Political climate unfriendly to ID devices, backers say

Widespread misinformation about radio-frequency identification technology and high-tech identification cards has subverted federal and state legislation to modernize America's ID systems, a panel of industry officials and experts said Wednesday.

At the Smart Cards in Government Conference, advocates for RFID and tech-based "smart cards" said mandates to use modern technologies would dramatically improve the nation's security infrastructure. But resistance to such measures and technologies is swelling, they said.

Marc-Anthony Signorino, the director of technology policy at the tech group AeA, said that a fundamental misunderstanding of RFID spurred a series of poorly written bills in California, Illinois, New Hampshire and New Mexico to limit its use.

He said lawmakers have complicated measures to limit RFID usage because they have tried to make too many exemptions for uses they enjoy, such as smart cards for accessing highway toll lanes. "The legislation ends up looking like Swiss cheese," Signorino said.

Signorino said the political climate in New Hampshire has made it especially difficult for the industry to make a case for itself. The Granite State has been particularly active on the ID front. House lawmakers there last month passed a bill to reject a 2005 federal mandate for standard driver's licenses.

"We're scared to go to New Hampshire," he said. "They have gun racks on their motorcycles. They don't want anyone telling them what to do."

Robert Atkinson, the president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, said RFID and smart-card advocates are facing an uphill battle because their opponents already have shaped the debate. "The ground has been so poisoned by the other side that I think it's going to be tough to move forward," Atkinson said.

The movement against RFID and federal driver's licensing standards has garnered support from all areas of the political spectrum, according to Atkinson.

He said an "unholy alliance" of groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union and the Eagle Forum, which is led by conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly, has choked the ability of the technology industry to gather political support. "This isn't a group of fringe players," he said.

Atkinson said he does not expect the Homeland Security Department to require embedded computer chips driver's licenses because detractors of the mandate have convinced enough people that such chips will do little to improve national security. "I just don't think it's going to happen," he said.

Richard Varn, the president of RJV Consulting and a former chief technology officer, said smart-card advocates should focus on convincing lawmakers to punish bad behavior instead of banning technology. He said lawmakers throughout the country need to "beef up" cyber-crime efforts.

"They are not investing sufficient money compared to the size of the crime to efficiently combat it," he said.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download
  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.