National identification ("ID") cards appear increasingly inevitable. National ID cards have the potential to be repressive and privacy destroying, but it is also possible to design a system that captures more benefits than costs. Because the United States currently lacks a single, reliable credential, private businesses have trouble authenticating their customers and matching data among distributed databases. This Article argues that the desire for reliable ID creates a window of opportunity for the federal government to strike a bargain: offer private businesses the use of a reliable credential in the form of a national ID card, on the condition that they abide by a privacy standard set and owned by the United States. But the government must act quickly-the Real ID Act of 2005, which sets up a national standard for the issuance of state driver's licenses, is poised to become effective in May 2008. This law does not provide for privacy protections, and once it goes into effect the opportunity to leverage such protections on a national ID card will be greatly reduced.
A. Michael Froomkin, ICANN and Antitrust, 2003 U. Ill. L. Rev. 1 (2003).