California bill would ban tracking devices in driver's licenses

| 8/30/2006

A bill awaiting a vote on the floor of the California Assembly would prohibit the use of radio-frequency identification devices in driver’s licenses. The devices aren’t used by the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles, but they are legal.

Radio-frequency identification devices, or RFID, 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.

Sponsored by Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, the bill would bar the California DMV 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.

Steve Haskins, a spokesman with the DMV, told The Associated Press the department has no plans to use RFID in driver’s licenses.

Simitian said he wants to make sure that never changes because he is concerned the devices could be misused. He cited overzealous officials who violate privacy rights, and identity thieves, stalkers and others gaining access to personal information, The AP 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 Assembly Transportation Committee forwarded the measure – SB433 – to the chamber floor. If it gains approval there, it would head back to the Senate for final approval before moving to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s desk.

All legislative action must be wrapped up by the close of the regular session Thursday, Aug. 31.