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California RFID Bill Making Progress

A California politician has introduced a bill that would make illegal the embedding of RFID tags in state-issued identification documents like driver's licenses and state employee cards.
Tags: Privacy
May 06, 2005This article was originally published by RFID Update.

May 6, 2005—The furor earlier this year in which an elementary school in Sutter, California, issued RFID-tagged identification badges to its students without first apprising their parents has apparently caused state politicians to sit up and take notice. According to Wired News, Democrat State Senator Joe Simitian has introduced a bill into the California legislature that deals explicitly with state uses of RFID technology. It would render illegal the embedding of RFID tags in state-issued identification documents like driver's licenses and state employee cards. It would also criminalize "skimming," in which tag data is surreptitiously read by an unauthorized party. The bill was drafted with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union, Electronic Frontier Foundation, and Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. It is receiving support from Democrats and Republicans alike, and last Tuesday passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee with a decisive 6-to-1 vote victory.

The bill's bipartisan support and its allowance for exceptions in cases where RFID can be demonstrably proven beneficial and better-suited than alternative technologies is evidence that the California politicians are not blindly clamping down on the technology. In a state known as much for its dominant technology sector as for its progressive politics, the hope is that thoughtful laws will materialize that ensure citizen privacy without handicapping commercial adoption of RFID. A quote in Wired from Nicole Ozer, civil liberties policy director at the ACLU's northern California branch, is encouraging: "RFID in itself is not a bad thing. But there are circumstances where RFID technology is not appropriate because of the privacy and security risks." If such measured thinking produces legislation that is both industry- and privacy-friendly, it could set a precedent for other states to follow. Maybe then the privacy issue can finally begin to be put to bed.

Read more at Wired News
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