California moves to limit RFID restrictions

The California Assembly next week will begin considering a partial ban on radio frequency identification that would allow the technology to be used for certain types of identification cards but only if shield devices and other privacy protections are employed.

The legislation is an amended version of a California Senate bill (SB 682) that was approved May 16 that would bar all California public agencies from issuing ID cards containing RFID tags. It is the first legislation in the country that would prohibit uses of the RFID technology in identification documents.

Under the new version, the RFID tags would be banned on driver's licenses, student identification cards, library cards and health insurance cards, but the tags would be allowed for access cards for individuals such as first responders, prison employees and detainees.

The RFID tags, also known as contactless chips, are tiny integrated circuits, which are placed on identification cards. They can broadcast identity information by radio waves to a reader.

The technology has been controversial because of the potential for privacy and security breaches due to the ability of the tags to be read by unauthorized readers. However, RFID supporters assert that privacy can be protected with shielding devices?typically pieces of metal that can be positioned to block the radio waves?encryption and other measures.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Joseph Simitian (D) submitted an amended version of the bill on Thursday, and it is scheduled for hearing with the assembly's Judiciary Committee on June 28.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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