The Center for Education and Research in Information Assurance and Security (CERIAS)

The Center for Education and Research in
Information Assurance and Security (CERIAS)

Privacy, Surveillance and the Real ID Act


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William F. Eyre

Tech report number

CERIAS TR 2009-19

Entry type



American society in the present day is grappling with issues of privacy and surveillance. These issues, the technologies involved, and implications for the organization and function of American society are examined in this dissertation.<p> Public Law 109-13 contains the Real ID Act, and the implementation of this act has far-reaching ramifications for Americans' privacy. The Real ID Act, an exemplar of recentlaws regarding privacy and surveillance, serves as a basis for discussing the development of a surveillance society and its potential harm to American citizens.<p> The dissertation begins by framing the evolution of the concept in American society, exploring anti-terror legislation as the latest assumption of extraordinary powers by the state in times of war and national emergency, and comparing previous abridgements of enumerated Constitutional rights in such times. <p> It next discusses the implication of the Real ID as an insecure collection of databases, and then it examines the effect of Real ID on American citizens' privacy as a national identification card. States have resisted the implementation of the act on the bases that the act constitutes an unfunded mandate and damages privacy.<p> The new surveillance system erodes personal privacy and creates a threat to privacy and autonomy from both criminals and the government, or sometimes (due to insider abuse of data) both. The dissertation details the possibility of how Real ID information access can be used against people in ways both legal and illegal, with comparisons to Great Britain; it also questions whether the government is even capable of handling increased information resources or whether such resources only provide more opportunities for improper access and misuse of personal data.<p> For most people, the developing surveillance state may only pose potential danger until someone is identified as a target, but its potential chilling effect threatens participatory democracy and the expression of legitimate political dissent. <p> The goal of this dissertation is to increase awareness of the incremental erosion of privacy rights which, once surrendered, become increasingly difficult to regain. It also aims to question some of the security assumptions that justify this erosion.<p>




2009 – 3 – 3

Key alpha



The author wrote this dissertation for interdisciplinary Information Security Department of Communication Ph.D. in CERIAS.


Purdue University, Department of Communication, CERIAS

Publication Date



* Pre 9/11 Privacy Concepts<br> * Contemporary Privacy Concepts<br> * Extraordinary Governmmental Wartime Powers<br> * Terrorism<br> * Surveillance<br> * Real ID Final Rules<br> * Effects on Society of Real ID and Total Surveillance<br>

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