RFID Bill Awaits Governor's Signature to Become Law

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The Washington state Senate today joined with the House of Representatives to ban the use of radio frequency identification (RFID) technology as a means to collect personal data without the knowledge of the individual. With the consent of Governor Chris Gregoire, Washington could become the first state in the nation, and perhaps the only government in the world to prohibit the gathering of personal data for malicious intent.

it could quickly spin out of control and lead to some ominous situations where consumers, unbeknownst to them, become the victim of identity theft or stolen property.

Some believe RFID chips have great promise for commerce. Others raise the specter of an Orwellian society where an individual's every move and purchase are analyzed. Whether one believes this RFID technology to be auspicious, suspicious, or somewhere in between, if that's the road that commerce is headed down, then the Washington state Legislature just constructed the first techno-checkpoint of its kind.

The state Senate today joined with the House of Representatives to ban the use of radio frequency identification (RFID) technology as a means to collect personal data without the knowledge of the individual. With the consent of Governor Chris Gregoire, Washington could become the first state in the nation, and perhaps the only government in the world to prohibit the gathering of personal data for malicious intent.
RFID chips are quickly becoming integrated into everyday products from passports and credit cards to groceries, clothing, and consumer products.

The legislative leader on this issue, state Rep. Jeff Morris (D - Mount Vernon), is concerned that because the chips can transmit personal identification and/or product information, the technology is ripe for abuse and exploitation. And Morris wants to stake out an individual's privacy rights before it's too late.

"Without placing some reins on the scope of this technology now," said Morris, "it could quickly spin out of control and lead to some ominous situations where consumers, unbeknownst to them, become the victim of identity theft or stolen property."

Known as "skimming," criminals could potentially use a device to steal identities or target houses for burglary by collecting data transmitted by driver's licenses, credit cards, or perhaps even the new TV in one's living room carrying one of these chips. They could also gain entry to cars as these chips become integrated into keys for ease of access.

Morris' bill, HB 1031, would make it a Class C felony to intentionally scan another person's identification remotely without his or her knowledge and consent, for the purpose of fraud, identity theft, or some other illegal purpose. After first passing in the state House, the Senate today agreed and passed the bill unanimously 47-0.

The legislation would have also required prior consent before stores or other entities would be allowed to collect personal data but that provision was stripped out in the Senate. Morris has stated his intention, however, to pursue that piece as separate legislation in future sessions.            

The measure now heads to the Governor's desk for her final approval.

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Speaker Pro Tempore Jeff Morris
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