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California RFID Legislation Shelved

AIM Global yesterday reported that the California bill which had been rapidly making its way through the state's legislature has now been shelved.
Tags: Privacy
Aug 30, 2005This article was originally published by RFID Update.

August 30, 2005—Automatic identification and mobility industry association AIM Global yesterday reported that the California bill which had been rapidly making its way through the state's legislature has now been shelved. The Identity Information Protection Act of 2005, also known as "SB 682" (full text), would prohibit the use of RFID in any state-issued document (with a few exemptions). It was recently sent to the Assembly Appropriations Suspense File, where it needed to receive a vote by last Friday, the 26th. By allowing the deadline to pass, the Appropriations Committee implicitly postponed more action on the bill until January of next year, the soonest date it can be reconsidered.

Among the factions arrayed against the bill were the American Electronics Association, InCom, Atmel, and the California Chamber of Commerce. Those supporting the bill included the American Civil Liberties Union, the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, and certain optical marking and laser companies whose technologies could lose market share to RFID.

According to AIM, opponents of the bill considered it too wide-reaching and premature. While they are in favor of legislation that protects privacy and ensures security, SB 682's broad prohibitions could stunt the technology's development in its nascent stages before adequate thought and discussion have been devoted to the issues. An article in silicon.com quotes the American Electronics Association's spokeswoman as saying, "This bill has moved far too quickly, is too complex and has not received thorough vetting or discussion. We're really pleased to have a time-out and a more thorough discussion of the benefits of the technology and the possible ramifications, positive or negative, of this bill."

Opponents also note that some aspects of the bill, such as the anti-skimming provision, are arbitrarily restrictive given the fact that legislation already exists to address those issues. Furthermore, they worry that RFID technology is suffering from an unjustified public association with identity theft and the recent rise in security breaches that saw huge amounts of consumer credit card information stolen by hackers.

Another reason for the legislation was the widely-reported incident earlier this year at Brittan Elementary in Sutter County, California, in which the school deployed the InClass RFID system without adequately disclosing to parents that student location would be tracked and recorded using an RFID-tagged badge hanging from each child's neck. (Notably, InClass manufacturer InCom participated with the lobby opposing the bill, while a Sutter County parent helped support it.)

All told, the fact that SB 682 has been postponed is generally considered a good thing for the RFID industry. AIM Global published an editorial yesterday based on the news in which it stated, "RFID should not be immediately adopted in driver licenses, identification cards, library cards, health insurance and benefits cards or student identification cards but legislation such as CA SB 682 will effectively 'pause' the educated dialogue that is needed to formulate the guidance and best practices where the technology can offer benefit as well as the guidance on where it does not make sense for privacy or business reasons."

Read the article from AIM Global
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