Bellwether Legislation for Other

By Renee Boucher Ferguson  |  Posted 2007-09-06 Print this article Print

States"> The bill vetoed by Schwarzenegger last year was considered by many to be bellwether legislation for other states considering RFID legislation. The American Civil Liberties Union backed Simitians 2006 bill. Since the 2007-08 bills are essentially the same effort broken into smaller parts, its likely their passage could have a similar impact. "We have put much of our effort into getting California to pass this legislation," Tim Sparapani, legislative council for the national ACLU office, in Washington, said in a September 2006 interview with eWEEK. "We think the bill draws the right lines. RFID can be incredibly useful when shipping certain goods, but not when used to track people."
Sparapani said that California is where a large percentage of the U.S. population lives. If a controversial bill is passed there, other states tend to take notice. The thought is, said Sparapani and others, that if California passes legislation that mandates some basic privacy and security practices around RFID, others states and industries will follow suit.
If this most recent bill becomes a law, California will join Wisconsin and North Dakota as states that have already banned forced RFID implementation. Other states could move a little faster with the passage of similar legislation, Simitian said. "When a state the size of California weighs in, it attracts attention," he said. "And the fact that I am a Silicon Valley legislator speaks a lot." The National Institute of Standards and Technology describes potential dangers of implementing RFID. Click here to read more. However, while Simitians most recent effort is getting a lot of support from Californias media outlets—the Los Angeles Times, The Orange Country Register, The Press Enterprise and San Jose Mercury News have come out in favor of the bill—the RFID industry is not offering its support of it. "Frankly I am surprised and disappointed that industry wouldnt back the bill," said Simitian. "I thought this is one where we ought to find common ground." He said he sees several possibilities where RFID implantable chips could be used as a coercive device. "In a hospital where technology is implanted, the bill says it can only be done with the knowledge and consent of the patient," Simitian said. On Sept. 4, VeriMed, of Delray Beach, Fla., announced that more than 90 Alzheimers patients and caregivers received the VeriMed RFID implantable chip as part of the companys Patient Identification Project with Alzheimers Community Care, a voluntary, two-year, 200-patient project to evaluate the effectiveness of the VeriMed Patient Identification System in managing the records of Alzheimers patients and their caregivers. The other possibility addressed in the bill is a government entity—the state of California, for example—making CalWorks benefits contingent on recipients getting chipped. Another clear potential for chip implantation coercion is in the military, law enforcement or prison populations, where the technology could be required for identification. "RFID does a great job of identifying a document, but not necessarily the document holder. There is an incentive to take that to the next level with subdermal implants," said Simitian. In 2004, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first human implantable RFID chip, called VeriChip. About the size of a grain of rice, the VeriChip is designed to be implanted in the fatty tissue of a persons arm and, for starters, carry a persons medical history. But the VeriChip is also being looked at by countries around the world that are interested in using the implantable chip as a source of identity. The attorney general of Mexico and 18 staff members have been implanted with the chips, according to media reports, as have about 170 Mexico City law enforcement officials, who hope to be tracked if they are ever kidnapped. Last year VeriChips Board Chairman Scott Silverman held informal meetings with U.S. Navy and Air Force leaders to suggest a feasibility study of its VeriMed system, according to media reports. Its not clear if the studies are under way. A VeriChip spokesperson was unavailable at press time. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis on mobile and wireless computing.


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