RF Laws That Matter: A Legislative Update for March 2007

Within the last few weeks, several new bills emerged that would regulate the use of radio frequency technology in a wide range of applications, including physical access control. California, which had four bills pending, now has six. Massachusetts, New Hampshire and New Jersey also now have bills pending. And now, here are the details.

California

In the California Senate, two new bills take aim at further regulating RF technology. Senate Bill (SB) 362 prohibits a person from forcing another individual to have an identification device surgically implanted -- a prohibition most Americans would support wholeheartedly. SB 388, if passed, will require any person or entity (public or private) that sells or issues a radio frequency-based card or other item to provide specific information to the recipient, including the maximum read range of the card, the level of encryption (if any) and the authentication (if any) required prior to transmission.

Massachusetts

In the Massachusetts House of Representatives, House Bill 261 amends a General Law and will require commercial entities that use radio frequency identification technology as part of their normal business operations to use signs to inform consumers of the presence and the purpose of the system and its components. In addition, businesses must label any products containing RFID tags.

New Hampshire

As has been the case with some of the other states, New Hampshire started out with bills that focused mostly on retail applications of the technology. Unfortunately, a new bill introduced in the New Hampshire House of Representatives expands its definitions to specifically include access control cards.

That means that if the bill passes, all employers in the state will be required to affix a label to access control cards that use radio frequency technology. The bill would also restrict state departments and agencies in their uses of radio frequency-based systems.

New Jersey

Assembly Bill (AB) 3996 in New Jersey would require businesses using radio-frequency-based systems to notify customers by posting notices within the business establishment as well as label consumer products that might contain RFID tags.

An Update on California and Washington

House Bill 1031 passed out of the Technology, Energy and Communications Committee as Substitute House Bill 1031, meaning that the original bill was amended. Unfortunately, the bill as amended remains problematic as it still would require labeling of access control cards among other issues.

In California, Senate Bills 29 (which prohibits schools from using RF-based systems for security), 30 (the Identity Information Protection Act) and 31 (which criminalizes remote reading of RF-based credentials) have been assigned to committee and are being heard in March.

Get Involved

The excessive and unnecessary regulation that these bills would impose can harm us all. As Arthur Laffer, often called "the father of supply-side economics" has noted, the four prosperity killers are inflation, taxes, restrictive trade, and regulatory burdens. It seems to me that many of these bills are trying to address a problem that does not exist. What can you do to influence the outcome of any bill discussed here? If you are concerned that a bill will be detrimental -- economically, administratively or procedurally -- to your continued use of radio frequency technology, please write your legislator expressing those concerns.

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