RF Laws That Matter: A Late Summer 2007 Update

Flaws in RF legislation could chill innovations used for security, consumer convenience

  • Senate Bill 28 would ban the use of RF technology for California drivers' licenses.
  • Senate Bill 29 would ban the use of RF technology to protect school children in grades K through 12 (despite the fact that many parents testified in favor of using the technology).
  • Senate Bill 30 would regulate and restrict the use of RF technology in government-issued identification documents.
  • Senate Bill 31 provides for criminal penalties for those who would remotely read an individual's personal information using RF technology.
  • Senate Bill 362 prohibits the implantation of an identification device.
  • Senate Bill 388 would require any private entity that sells, furnishes or issues a card or other item containing a radio frequency identification tag that may contain personal information to provide specific information to the recipient. In addition, the bill allows for civil actions for nominal or actual damages, including attorney's fees for the prevailing party.

In Florida, SB 2220 would prohibit implanting of microchips without obtaining full disclosure and consent. This bill died in the Committee on Judiciary.

In Michigan, HB 4133 prohibits the implantation of an RF chip or other microchip without prior consent. Michigan's House and Senate have passed the bill.

In Missouri, SB 13 would require that any consumer commodity or package containing an RF tag or bar code be conspicuously labeled. This bill exemplifies the overbroad language that is common to many of the state-initiated bills on RF technology. For example, the bill does not define what a consumer commodity is but leaves it open to interpretation.

In New Jersey, Assembly Bill 3996 requires businesses to notify consumers if they are using radio frequency identification systems to collect information about consumers. Transactions referred to in the bill are related solely to sales or rentals. The bill has been referred to the Assembly Consumer Affairs Committee.

In Pennsylvania, two bills have emerged that single out RF technology for regulation. HB 993 uses broad language that may implicate employers in the state who issue RF-proximity badges for access control purposes. Specifically, the bill states that "Any person or entity that sells or issues (my emphasis) to a consumer an object (again, my emphasis) that is not disabled, deactivated or removed at the point of issuance shall...make the exact location of the radio frequency tag available...post signs in conspicuous places...allow consumers to remove the tag after the object has been purchased or issued..."

HB 993 awaits a hearing in the Consumer Affairs Committee as does HB 992 which would amend Title 18 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes to include abusing RF technology to commit identity fraud.

In Rhode Island, SB 474 would ban the use of radio frequency identification devices (the bill contains no definition of exactly what the device is) by a state or municipal agency for the purpose of tracking the movement or identity of any employee, student or client...as a condition of obtaining a benefit or a service. The Rhode Island Senate passed the bill and referred it to the House Judiciary Committee in May.

Alexander Graham Bell helped people understand his wonderful invention by frequently lecturing and giving demonstrations around the world. As RF-focused bills continue to proliferate, industry and users of the technology should follow Bell's example and help policymakers and consumers understand RF technology, its benefits and its diversity. Without this, we may be left with legislation that chills innovation as fears of lawsuits and costly compliance with government regulations discourage RF technology development.

About the author: Kathleen M. Carroll is the director of government relations for HID Global, a leading manufacturer of proximity and smart card technologies in the access control industry. Carroll oversees HID Global's RFID privacy initiatives, including pending RFID legislation in the 50 states. She also serves as the Chairperson of the Security Industry Association’s (SIA) RFID Working Group which is working to educate legislators, business leaders and consumers about radio frequency technology applications and benefits in the physical access control marketplace.