Week in review: Got Real ID?

Bush administration says states will have until 2013 to issue the ID cards, wants to create the equivalent of a national database.

Hundreds of millions of Americans have been given a five-year extension to obtain digital ID cards.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced that states will have until 2013 to issue the ID cards and proposed creating the equivalent of a national database that would include details on all 240 million licensed drivers.

Included in the draft regulations, which were mandated by Congress in the 2005 Real ID Act, was the requirement that the Real ID cards include all drivers' home addresses and other personal information printed on the front and in a two-dimensional barcode on the back. Also, states must submit a plan as to how they'll comply with the Real ID Act by October 7, 2007. If they don't, their residents will not be able to use IDs to board planes or enter federal buildings starting on May 11, 2008.

Proponents of the Real ID Act say it's designed to implement proposals suggested by the 9/11 Commission, which noted that some of the hijackers on September 11, 2001, had fraudulently obtained state drivers licenses.

The draft rules, which are not final and will be subject to a public comment period, also include a more detailed estimate of how much it will cost to comply. The National Conference of State Legislatures and other state groups estimated last year that states will have to spend more than $11 billion. But Homeland Security says the total cost--including the cost to individuals--will be $23.1 billion over a 10-year period.

The draft regulations arrive amid a groundswell of opposition to the Real ID Act from privacy groups, libertarians and state officials. Dozens of state legislatures are debating whether to stand up to the federal government and oppose federalized IDs, a step that Maine's legislature took in a vote last month.

"In states across the country, legislators are moving to reform the Real ID Act," said Jim Harper, director of information policy studies at the Cato Institute and a member of a Homeland Security advisory panel.

U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, a Texas Republican who has created a presidential exploratory committee, took aim at what he described as his colleagues' lack of respect for privacy rights and civil liberties. "This is what has happened in Washington," he said. "There is no rule of law. There is no respect for the Constitution."

The Real ID Act announcements were met with scorn on CNET News.com's TalkBack forum, with readers lamenting the loss of personal freedoms, privacy and safety.

"They knew the people would never let this pass but we are too damn busy or lazy to do anything about it," wrote one reader to the forum. "We are frogs boiling slowly."

Working in Windows
Until recently, Microsoft's antipiracy technology was pretty decisive: either your copy of Windows was genuine or it wasn't. With a software update this week, however, Microsoft has added a new "Yellow state" for times when it just can't tell whether a copy is legitimate.

The message is part of a controversial add-on to Windows XP, known as Windows Genuine Advantage Notification, which tells users whether Microsoft believes their copy of Windows to be legitimate. Validation is required for most Windows XP downloads, though users can still get automatic security updates. With Windows Vista, some features won't work at all unless a machine is validated as genuine.

Meanwhile, a software company that specializes in enabling Mac users to run other operating systems without rebooting has released an update to its trademark Parallels Desktop software. Parallels' biggest update to the new version is Coherence, a feature that enables Mac users running Parallels to run and access Windows applications from their Mac desktops via virtualization rather than switching between operating systems.

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