California bill would ban high-tech driver’s licenses

| 8/16/2007

A bill in the California Assembly that is intended to protect information on driver’s licenses by prohibiting the use of radio-frequency identification devices will likely draw consideration once lawmakers return to the capitol Monday, Aug. 20. The devices aren’t used by the California Department of Motor Vehicles, but they are legal in the state.

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 inventories, providing access to buildings and assessing toll-road fees.

The bill awaiting consideration on the Assembly floor 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.

If approved in the Assembly, the bill – SB28 – would move to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s desk. The Senate previously approved it.

All legislation must be approved by both chambers prior to the end of the regular session, which is scheduled for Sept. 14.

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.