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Isn't the new digital license meant to prevent fraud?

New Jersey has been doing something right...in having a relatively low quality (easy to counterfeit) photo driver's license document.  The trust value (the trust any individual would put into it) was too low for the document to be used for much fraud.  In addition, having the non-photo license available prevented institutions from assuming that all individuals have photo ID's on them, as happened in other states, so there were more careful institution-specific identity checks to verify identity.  Furthermore, by eliminating a certain percentage of driver's from the photo licensing system, more time could be spent assessing the identity of the drivers who chose to obtain photo licenses.

New Jersey's proposal to use digitized driver's license will, in the long run, cause more fraud.  Individuals will trust the new license too much, creating opportunities for criminals to use the new licenses for fraud, thereby creating a "market" for good quality licenses.  

Drivers who were previously not part of the photo licensing system will have to become members of it, increasing the number of cards issued, which increases the quantity of bad photo licenses. The result will be higher short-term fraudulent issuance of driver's licenses, followed by more fake license creation in the long-term.

What are the privacy implications?

In addition to the higher risk of general identity fraud, New Jerseyans will be unnecessarily forced to have a photo license, even if they have no need for one.  No individual should be compelled to have an identification card if they don't need it. The non-photo document is more than adequate for the purpose of driving a motor vehicle.

Second, the digitized driver's license system will store in a computer archive the photograph of every New Jerseyan with an ID card/photo license.  There are many individuals who believe that it is not appropriate  for Motor Vehicles to maintain such an database, and it's a very significant extension to the photo licensing law. There is no reason for New Jersey to have such a catalog of photographs.

Even if you are not convinced of the privacy implications of the digitized driver's license, a quick understanding of Security Document Theory will indicate how the digitized license can only increase long term fraud.  There may be situations in which privacy can be traded for security, but universally issued photo ID card's, as an identification framework, are simply too unreliable in large populations. Photo ID fraud can only be reduced by decreasing trust and reliance on them, not by increasing their use, which would happen if New Jersey moves to a digitized license.

What is Security Document Theory?

Security Document Theory (SDT) explains the relationship between fraud and identification documents. It is based on principles of economics and psychology and it explains why more secure documents inevitably lead to more fraud.

What about terrorism and its threats?

A major component of Security Document Theory is that humans tend to read information into photo ID cards that the card doesn't imply.  The fact is, they are simple plastic cards, which imply no security concerning the individual photographed on the card.

The human psychological tendency to read security and confidence through photo ID cards tends to pervert security situations.  There is no particular reason why an individual with a photo ID card should be less likely to commit a crime than a person with one, but essentially many security situations rest on that assumption. In having universally issued photo ID cards, individuals who are security menaces may be less likely to be assessed adequately, simply because they have a photo ID card.

A good photo ID card is the key to all sorts of trouble. Who is more dangerous...a terrorist with a non-photo license, or a terrorist with a digital photo license? People over-trust the photo license, and terrorists or fraudsters can leverage that over-trust for their malicious motives.

What's your proposal?

New Jersey law must be changed to

  • Keep the non-photo license for any individual who wants one
  • Prohibit the establishment of a digitized photograph archive
  • Require that new licenses be printed with warnings indicating that they are not guaranteed by the state of New Jersey and that 3rd parties should use only them at their own risk (to reduce trust values)
  • Prohibit machine readability on New Jersey licenses (to keep counterfeit fraud low)

While not related to the security issues above...we further recommend that

  • Individuals with photo licenses should be able to have their home address redacted from their license, so when the document is used as ID, it will not show where the individual lives
  • Individuals with photo licenses should also be able to have their year of birth redacted from their license, so when the document is used as ID (in non-age related situations) they do not have to reveal their age

How can this be done?

Contact your state assemblyman/state senator (find them here) and tell them that you support NJLicense.org's driver's license proposals.

Do you need contributions or help?

Definitely.  Online contributions through the button below.  If you want to volunteer, or contact us, write to questions@njlicense.org