Smart Card Alliance Opposes Long-Range RFID for Enhanced Driver’s Licenses


The Smart Card Alliance announced its opposition to a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) plan to develop and issue enhanced state driver’s licenses that could be used as acceptable alternative documents for crossing the United States’ land and sea borders. Several states including Arizona, Vermont and Washington are also in favor of such programs.

In a press release, the Smart Card Alliance says it supports state efforts to boost security at borders while facilitating trade and tourism, but “ensuring the privacy and security of U.S. citizens is a primary requirement and that the technology choice for an enhanced driver’s license must also address this critical requirement.”

Members of the Smart Card Alliance, a not-for-profit, multi-industry association, provide both the technology favored by DHS, long-range radio frequency identification (RFID) products, and the privacy-sensitive products the Alliance recommend for enhanced driver’s license programs, secure RF contactless smart cards.

In announcing its opposition to driver’s licenses used for border crossing documents, the Alliance states long-range RFID is an inappropriate technology for human identity documents.

DHS and other passport card proposals “raise serious privacy, security, and operational functionality issues among industry experts,” the Alliance press release states. Among the industry concerns:


  • The lack of strong cryptographic features in long-range RFID-based cards, making it easy for criminals to read the unprotected, static citizen identifiers from the cards and create fraudulent documents

  • The reliance on real-time access to central databases and networks in order to verify every individual’s identity, leading to vulnerabilities to infrastructure failures and attacks or to network and system security breaches

  • The challenges of reliably reading large numbers of long-range RFID tags at crowded border crossing points, making it unlikely that desired operational efficiencies will be achieved

  • The ability for criminals to use inexpensive long-range RFID readers to detect the citizen’s electronic identity from a distance, putting U.S. citizens carrying the enhanced driver’s license at risk of having their movements tracked

The full Smart Card Alliance response to the proposed passport card is available at

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