Cato Institute policy analysis of USA National ID Systems

The New National ID Systems

New Jersey’s record on privacy and ID rights is mixed, at best. For a long time, the Garden State was noncompliant with REAL ID, but that noncompliance was something of a fluke: the state was moving ahead with compliance until a court order suspended the effort. Since then, it has become clear that state officials will bring the state into line with the federal ID standards.169 Efforts to implement mandatory E-Verify in New Jersey for all employers have failed in successive sessions of the legislature, with the same bill being introduced in 2010 and in 2014.170


The state has, however, implemented facial recognition software for licensing and for law enforcement. A vast review of every New Jersey facial image (creatively titled Operation Facial Scrub) was conducted between 2011 and 2013, with more than 19 million photos in the state Motor Vehicle Commission’s database scanned to look for duplicates.171 All new pictures in the database will be “scrubbed” against existing photos as they are added. As Massachusetts’s problems with false matches have shown, innocent New Jerseyans will risk falling afoul of these automated scrubs.


Finally, New Jersey — famous (or infamous) for its Parkway and Turnpike — is no stranger to the use of license plate readers by state police and municipal police forces. The state’s regulations relating to the use of the readers are extremely loose. A 2010 directive issued by the state attorney general limits scans to license plates on vehicles that are in public view, which is defined as “vehicles on a public road or street, or that are on private property but whose license plate(s) are visible from a public road, street, or a place to which members of the public have access, such as the parking lot of a shopping mall or other business establishment.”172 In short, any car in New Jersey that is not parked in a closed private garage is fair game for a roving license plate reader.

This paper summarizes the stances of each of the 50 states on various ID systems, including REAL ID, E-Verify, facial recognition, and license-plate scanning. I am concerned by New Jersey's use of facial recognition software and license plate scanning.

Author: Khürt Williams

I work in application security architecture and I live in Montgomery Township, New Jersey with my wife Bhavna. Passionate about photography, you’ll find me writing about cybersecurity, tropical aquariums, terrariums, hiking, craft breweries, and capturing birds on camera. My prose is like a caffeinated squirrel—fast, unpredictable, and occasionally insightful.