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California Lawmakers Pass Safeguards for Privacy-Leaking RFID Chips


Groundbreaking Bill Waits for Governor’s Signature

Sacramento - The California State Senate passed tough new privacy safeguards late yesterday for use of “tag and track” devices known as Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chips embedded in state identification cards. The bill helps ensure that Californians can control the personal information contained on their drivers’ licenses, library cards and other important ID documents.

The State Assembly passed the Identity Information Protection Act (Senate Bill 768), authored by Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto), earlier this month. Governor Schwarzenegger has until September 30 to sign the bill into law. The legislation is sponsored by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the ACLU, and the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, and it is supported by groups ranging from the AARP to the California Alliance Against Domestic Violence to the Gun Owners of California.

“Without security safeguards, RFID tags can expose you to identity theft, covert tracking, and stalking,” said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Lee Tien. “This bill is a good first step toward ensuring that critical state-issued IDs don’t leak your personal information.”

RFID tags are tiny devices connected to miniature antennae that can be used to store and transmit personal information. When an RFID reader emits a radio signal, RFID tags respond with their stored information. The federal government has decided to embed RFID tags in new U.S. passports, and states across the country are considering their use in ID cards. The Identity Information Protection Act has drawn national attention as a model for future privacy-protecting laws in other states.

“RFID technology is not in and of itself the issue. The issue is whether and under what circumstances the government should be allowed to compel its residents to carry technology that broadcasts their most personal information,” said Senator Simitian. “This bill provides a thoughtful and rational policy framework for making those decisions. I hope the Governor agrees.”

EFF’s Identity Information Protection Act fact sheet:


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