While a common access card is not actually all that common, it is key to helping Department of Defense personnel rapidly authenticate and increase security at military installations and facilities, verify health benefits at medical centers, and a variety of other uses worldwide.

The card is roughly the size of a standard credit card and stores data on a single, integrated circuit chip. The abbreviated data it holds ranges from an individual’s work functions to benefits and privileges provided to a uniformed member of the Armed Forces, U.S. Public Health Service, National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, Department of Defense civilian or federal contractor, according to the website.  

When it comes to privacy, the card meets all applicable laws and Geneva Convention requirements, and the data it stores can only be accessed through secure CAC applications. What a CAC does not contain is sensitive data, such as passwords or personally identifiable medical information. 

Personnel in possession of a CAC must keep it safeguarded and not allow it to be duplicated or photographed. According to Title 18, U.S. Code Part I, Chapter 33, Section 701, it is illegal for a commercial establishment to photocopy a military identification card as a means to verify military affiliation for providing government rates for products or services. 

To reiterate, photocopying of any U.S. government identification card is a federal violation and is punishable by fine and imprisonment. 

There are however, certain circumstances in which a CAC may be scanned or photocopied according to DOD Instruction 1000.13 and DOD Manual 1000.13 Volume 1: 

  • When used by federal or governmental agencies to perform official business; or
  • To be used as proof of identification for insurance claims when seeking medical care.  

Remember, a CAC may be kept safely in a wallet or purse, but personnel can make no attempt to amend, modify or overprint the asset; this includes not adhering stickers or other materials on either side of the card. Additionally, security badges and CACs cannot be photographed, so keep them out of sight when recording devices are in use.

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