Some federal and state government officials want to make state driver’s licenses harder to counterfeit or steal, by adding computer chips that emit a radio signal bearing a license holder’s unique, personal information.

In Virginia, where several of the 9/11 hijackers obtained driver’s licenses, state legislators Wednesday will hear testimony about how radio frequency identification, or RFID, tags may prevent identity fraud and help thwart terrorists using falsified documents to move about the country.



Privacy advocates will argue that the radio tags will also make it easy for the government to spy on its citizens and exacerbate identity theft, one of the problems the technology is meant to relieve.



Virginia is among the first states to explore the idea of creating a smart driver’s license, which may eventually use any combination of RFID tags and biometric data, such as fingerprints or retinal scans.



“Nine of the 19 9/11 terrorists obtained their licenses illegally in Virginia, and that was quite an embarrassment,” said Virginia General Assembly delegate Kathy Byron, chairwoman of a subcommittee looking into the use of so-called smart driver’s licenses, which may include RFID technology.



The biometric data would make it harder for an individual to use a stolen or forged driver’s license for identification. The RFID tags would make the licenses a “contact-less” technology, verifying IDs more efficiently, and making lines at security checkpoints move quicker.



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