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Schwarzenegger Signs Anti-Skimming RFID Measure But Vetoes Bill on School IDs

The law makes it illegal to surreptitiously reading RFID tags embedded in identity documents.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
In 2005, an elementary school in Sutter County, Calif., made national headlines when parents filed a complaint with the American Civil Liberties Union after students there were issued RFID-based ID cards (see RFID Takes Attendance—and Heat). Parents feared that the IDs could be used to track the whereabouts of their children without their knowledge. This controversy prompted Simitian to draft legislation that would address how schools and government agencies should go about using RFID.

In fact, all three State Bills—29, 30 and 31—were derived from an original, more comprehensive measure, SB 768, the Identity Protection Act of 2006, which Schwarzenegger vetoed, citing concerns that it would have made it more difficult for law-enforcement officers to "impose requirements in California that would contradict the federal mandates soon to be issued," referring to the Real ID Act, which President Bush passed in 2005 to establish a federally approved ID card that would be electronically readable (see Calif. Gov Terminates RFID ID Bill).

The Real ID Act has been met with opposition from certain groups that complain that it calls for a de facto national ID card and feel that its call for a common machine-readable technology would turn the cards into tracking devices and violate citizens' right to privacy. Its implementation deadline in all 50 states has been delayed until 2011.

SB 31 is the second RFID-related bill that California has ratified. Last year, the governor signed Simitian's bill SB 362 to prohibit the forced implantation of RFID tags in humans (see California Bans Forced Human Tagging). It is also the second state law aimed on criminalizing the act of skimming data from an RFID-based ID. Last year, Washington enacted a similar law (see Washington State Governor Signs Anti-Skimming Law), though its law prohibits skimming only when the practice is used for the illegal purposes of fraud, theft or stalking. However, it also attaches much harsher penalties: violation of the law a Class C felony, with violators subject to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

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