California Senate approves bill to ban high-tech driver’s licenses

| 5/9/2007

A bill in California that would prohibit the use of radio frequency identification devices in driver’s licenses passed the state’s Senate. The devices aren’t used by the California Department of Motor Vehicles, but they are legal.

Radio frequency identification devices, or RFIDs, are tiny chips that provide information by emitting radio signals. The devices are used in a variety of ways, including keeping tabs on store inventories, providing access to buildings and assessing toll-road fees.

The Senate voted 31-6 to advance a bill to the Assembly that would bar the California DMV until 2011 from issuing, renewing, duplicating or replacing a driver’s license or identification card if it uses “remotely readable radio waves” to transmit personal information or if personal information stored on the card could be read remotely.

Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, said his bill is a “look before you leap approach” that would give officials time to ensure that any technology used by the DMV would not violate privacy rights, The Associated Press reported.

Despite concerns, opponents say the technology is “safe, efficient, and cost effective and enhances the safety and security for users.” They also say security measures can be taken to protect against potential abuse.

The bill – SB28 – is awaiting assignment to committee in the Assembly.

Two other related bills offered by Simitian would do even more to curtail the use of RFIDs.

The first bill – SB31 – would make it a crime to “skim,’ or secretly read, data from RFID documents. The second bill – SB362 – would prohibit companies from forcing employees to undergo an RFID implantation.