Government Technology

A Real Dilemma


March 31, 2006 By

Challenges await state governments as the May 11, 2008, deadline approaches for implementing drivers' licenses that meet the Real ID Act specifications.

But many states, including West Virginia, forged ahead and developed secure licenses they hope will comply with specifications eventually handed down from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

The Real ID Act requires states to implement advanced security features within drivers' licenses -- some of which are still undefined by the DHS. After 2008, states will be required to verify a photo identity document or a non-photo document that contains the applicant's full legal name and date of birth. States must also verify the applicant's name, primary address, date of birth, and either a Social Security number or proof of Social Security ineligibility.

Specifically how those verifications are made is still being determined.

"We're kind of in a Catch-22," said Dave Bolyard, director of drivers' services for West Virginia. "We're a little reluctant to spend money on a project that we don't know whether we'll be in compliance or not. We're set up to spend the money, but we don't want to spend it foolishly."

Bolyard said the state contracted with Viisage, which specializes in identity-verification technologies, to provide assistance with meeting the criteria of the Real ID Act.

"We're still waiting for some guidance from the federal government to give us more specific directions," Bolyard said. "We have also talked with the vendor to ask them if they would present a demonstration that would make us more in compliance to what we think the Real ID Act is asking for at this time."

Ahead of the Curve

West Virginia began issuing licenses with advanced security features in August 2005, after a two-year development period.

This puts the state ahead of the curve on Real ID Act compliance, according to Chris DeColli, director of sales for Viisage.

"Some of the things they're doing right now that the Real ID Act requires puts West Virginia ahead of a lot of people -- things like SAVE verification," DeColli said.

The Systematic Alien Verification of Entitlements (SAVE) system automatically checks a national database of immigration data. It's used to determine a person's legal status in the country and will be a Real ID Act requirement, according to DeColli.

"It really goes out and says, 'Are you here in this country legally? Are you authorized to be here? What kind of a visa are you on?' Things like that, that show you have a legal presence to be in this country."

West Virginia was already using dual biometrics on physical drivers' licenses, but has since deployed biometrics throughout the entire business process of issuing a driver's license and checking for fraud.

"The state uses biometrics for operator log-on for the workstations, for internal controls and auditing," DeColli said. "The state is doing a lot of things that are really advanced in terms of what the industry is looking at."

West Virginia uses both one-to-one and one-to-many biometrics when processing photos of driver's license applicants.

The applicant's photo is taken, and the system then compares the photo to the last photo issued for the applicant, if there was one: That's one-to-one biometrics.

"If you come in and we've had your picture before, it will detect whether you are one and the same individual," Bolyard said. "We've got it pretty well down to a science."

Every night after business hours, the system runs all photos and compares photos issued that day to all other photos in the system: That's one-to-many biometrics.

When the system finds two or more photos that match, it will generate a report by the next morning for the fraud unit for investigation.


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