California bill would ban tracking devices in driver's licenses

| 1/4/2007

A California state lawmaker has renewed his effort to 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 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.

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.

This is the second attempt by Simitian to prohibit use of the technology. His previous effort fell short of passage in the Legislature.

While officials at the state DMV said there are no plans to use RFIDs in driver's licenses, Simitian said he wants to make sure that never changes because he is concerned the devices could be misused. He has cited overzealous officials who violate privacy rights, and identity thieves, stalkers and others gaining access to personal information, 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 a committee.