Legislation Would Ban Tracking Devices in Public ID Documents

NOTE: This is a press release from the ACLU of Northern California. EFF is recirculating it for your information.

San Francisco, CA - The ACLU, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse support legislation introduced by Senator Joe Simitian that would prohibit identity documents issued by the state, including driver's licenses and library cards, from containing a contactless integrated circuit or other device that can broadcast personal information or enable that information to be scanned remotely.

"This is all about individual privacy, personal safety and financial security," said Senator Joe Simitian. "SB 682 ensures that state and local government will be part of the solution, not part of the problem."

The legislation was introduced days after a company in Sutter, California withdrew its pilot program from an elementary school amidst parents outcry who did not want their children tagged like "inventory." The school district introduced the mandatory use of Radio Frequency Identification tags (RFIDs) to track the students' movements. The students were required to wear the ID badges that included the device along with the student's name, photo, grade, school name, class year and the four-digit school ID number.

Jeffrey and Michele Tatro, parents of a Sutter elementary student who had to wear the mandatory RFID said: "We fully support this legislation that will protect families throughout California from having to go through what we did – seeing our children tagged like inventory or cattle."

"In light of what happened in Sutter, California, we think it is especially important that this bill be passed to protect the privacy and security of all Californians," said Nicole Ozer, Technology and Civil Liberties Policy Director of the ACLU of Northern California. "No person should ever be forced to carry an RFID tag. It violates fundamental rights to privacy, it is demeaning, and it threatens our physical and economic security."

The Identity Information Protection Act of 2005 (SB 682), would prohibit any identity document created by the state, county, or municipal government, from containing a contactless integrated circuit or other device that can broadcast an individual's name, address, telephone number, date of birth, race, religion, ethnicity, nationality, photograph, fingerprint, social security number and any other unique personal identifier or number.

"The signals broadcast by this type of badge can be picked up by anyone with the technology to read it, which allows a child's identity and location to be pinpointed with ease. This does not increase security, it lessens it," said Pam Noles, a policy associate for the ACLU of Southern California. "In Sutter, these badges compromised the safety of the elementary school students and parents weren't even given the option to consent to their use."

Lee Tien of the Electronic Frontier Foundation added: "Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags are a very dangerous technology for privacy, especially when used in ID cards. It allows unauthorized people to access personal information. This bill represents a good first step in managing this problem."

"Senator Simitian's bill provides vital protection for all Californians. Individuals who are required to carry government issued IDs should not be put in a situation where that document enables them to be monitored and tracked," said Beth Givens, founder and executive director of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse.

Learn more about RFIDs.


Stella Richardson
Media Relations Director
ACLU of Northern California

Lee Tien
Senior Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation

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