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Washington State House Gives Nod to Privacy Bill

The state's house of representatives approved a bill that would make RFID "skimming" a felony and prohibit capturing data from an RFID tag in an identity card without the cardholder's permission.
By Claire Swedberg
After the House rejected the first version of the bill, Morris says, he met with stakeholder groups and "went through the process of refining it down." Now, he says, the bill includes exemptions for multiple interests, including those who provide emergency services. The exemptions allow the use of RFID-tagged identification bracelets for emergency patients, as well as permit the use of RFID tags to track items or people in research projects carried out by the University of Washington or other institutions. Service providers, such as cable companies that put RFID chips in desktop boxes to chronicle viewing patterns for ratings purposes, are also exempt, as are penal institutions.

HB 1031 also calls for the state's attorney general to make an annual review of personally invasive technologies and present the findings to lawmakers.

The State Senate will hold its first hearing on the bill in two weeks, and Morris says it is too early to predict the Senate's response. "We have been talking about this for four years in the House," he says, adding that some members have little or no knowledge of the technology. He notes that Governor Gregoire's office is monitoring the bill's progress. "My hope is she would sign it," he says.

Some groups that opposed the original SB 1031 are neutral to version passed by the House, says Morris, including the Washington Technology Industry Association and the Smart Card Alliance. Members of the cellular communications industry, which is preparing to introduce mobile phones with Near Field Communication (NFC) RFID technology, oppose the current bill, he says.

In describing the importance of privacy-protecting measures for RFID users, Morris says, "The issue here is the rights of the consumer. The buyer can only beware if they are aware of what technology is being used."

On Jan, 30, California's state senate passed a similar bill, Senate Bill (SB) 31, which proposes that a person or entity that intentionally remotely reads another person's RFID-enabled identification document without prior consent shall be punished by imprisonment for up to one year, a fine of not more than $1,500." The bill has now gone to the California State Assembly. The state has crafted other RFID-related measures as well. In 2007, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law a bill prohibiting anyone from forcibly implanting RFID tags under someone's skin (see RFID News Roundup: California Bans Forced Human Tagging), but in 2006, he vetoed SB 768, which would have put restrictions on RFID systems used by government agencies in the state (see Calif. Gov Terminates RFID ID Bill).


Reader 2008-02-22 09:52:06 AM
WA House Bill 1031 Your article on Washington state House Bill 1031 is inaccurate. You state that the Washington Tehnology Industry Association is "neutral" on the bill. Our organization,which represents 1000 software and technology companies, is still technically opposed to this bill. While the bill has been improved, the penalties are overly harsh and it punishes the use of RFID technology. Your author did not confirm our position or attempt to contact us to learn more. This is all too typical of today's journalists and lessens whatever credibility you may have had. Lewis A. McMurran VP, Government and External Affairs Washington Technology Industry Association www.washingtontechnology.org

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