California bill banning high-tech driver’s licenses falters

| 9/12/2007

A bill in the California Assembly intended to protect information on driver’s licenses by prohibiting the use of radio-frequency identification devices will have to wait until next year. 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.

Assemblywoman Karen Bass, D-Baldwin Vista, pulled the bill from consideration due to concern it would be killed in the days remaining before the regular session ends Sept. 14. The Senate-approved bill can be brought back for consideration during the session that begins in January 2008.

The bill – SB28 – 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 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.