California bill to ban high-tech driver’s licenses advances

| 7/20/2007

A bill nearing passage in California is intended to protect information on driver’s licenses by prohibiting the use of radio-frequency identification devices. The devices aren’t used by the California Department of Motor Vehicles, but they are legal.

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

The Assembly Transportation Committee voted 6-3 to approve a bill 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.

The bill – SB28 – now heads to the full Assembly for consideration. If approved there, it would move to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s desk. The Senate previously approved it.

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 of the three-year moratorium 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.

To view other legislative activities of interest for California from 2007, click here.