April 27, 2005 | By Donna Wentworth

California Anti-RFID Bill Gains Momentum

A California bill (SB 682) that would bar the use of radio frequency identification (RFID) tags in state-issued ID cards yesterday cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee -- the first major hurdle on the way to becoming law.

The good news comes in the wake of a public admission by a US State Department official that the Department is rethinking parts of its dangerous and profoundly misguided plan to put insecure RFID chips in all US passports. Of course, "rethinking" isn't nearly enough. There is no good reason to use RFIDs in ID documents to begin with, and no amount of rethinking will make that any more or less true.

"All this talk about shields, crypto, and authentication is only a means of avoiding the real question: why do we need to use RFIDs in the first place?" said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Lee Tien, who testified [PDF] Tuesday before the Judiciary Committee. "Contact cards and optical readers are the far better solution. They can perform all the important functions of RFIDs without sacrificing our privacy and safety."

EFF, the ACLU, and the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse are co-sponsors of the bill, which is authored by California Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto). Other supporters include AARP California, California Alliance Against Domestic Violence, California Alliance for Consumer Protection, California National Organization for Women, Capitol Resource Institute, Consumer Action, Statewide California Coalition for Battered Women, and the State of California Commission on the Status of Women.

"This isn't a partisan issue," added Tien. "Putting RFID tags in state-issued credentials that most people can't live without -- like driver's licenses, student IDs, or health or medical benefits cards -- would expose us to unacceptable privacy risks in the course of everyday life, and that's a problem for everyone."

For additional information on SB 682 and the dangers of RFIDs in IDs, see:

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