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April 24, 2007

For More Information, Contact:
Hema Sareen Mohan (650) 688-6384


SACRAMENTO – State Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) announced today that his Senate Bills 28 and 29, which would protect information in driver’s licenses and sensitive student data by issuing a three-year moratorium on the use of radio frequency identification (RFID) or ‘smart chip’ technology in schools and driver’s licenses, have advanced through the Senate.  They will be heard next in the Assembly. 

“RFID technology is not in and of itself the issue.  RFID is a minor miracle, with all sorts of good uses,” said Simitian.  “The issue is whether and under what circumstances the government should be allowed to compel its residents—adults or children—to carry technology that broadcasts their most personal information.” 

RFID “tags” are tiny chips with miniature antennae that can be embedded in almost anything.  Using radio waves, RFID can help identify and track people, animals, or objects using data such as social security numbers.  Devices known as “readers” access the information on the tags. 

Because anyone can purchase a low-cost compatible reader and capture all of the information contained in the tag, Simitian’s SB 28 and 29 are asking for a “time out” on using RFID in driver’s licenses and in schools. 

“This is a ‘look before you leap’ bill.  The last thing we want to do is issue 20 million drivers licenses or 6 million student IDs without any privacy protections or limits on the information provided,” Simitian added, “Privacy is an indisputable right under the California State Constitution.  As such, we in government have a responsibility to protect it.”

Until 2011, SB 28 will prohibit the Department of Motor Vehicles from issuing driver’s licenses that use RFID to transmit personal information remotely.  SB 29 will prohibit a public school, school district, or county office of education from using RFID devices to track, monitor or record a student’s presence on school grounds. 

“Would you allow a stranger to sift through your purse or wallet and take your driver’s license? Would you publicly broadcast your personal information to anyone that passes by?  Of course not,” said Nicole Ozer, Technology & Civil Liberties Policy Director of the ACLU of Northern California. “That’s why we need SB 28.” 

SB 28 passed out of the Senate on a 31-6 while SB 29 passed out of the Senate on a 28-5 vote.  Both measures have bipartisan support.

Simitian began to look at the use of RFID in government-issued identification documents after an elementary school in Sutter, California required its students to wear identification badges that contained RFID tags that broadcast the students’ information.  Parents successfully petitioned the school to remove the RFID tags. 

“The Sutter case set off a firestorm of controversy because parents didn’t want their children tagged and tracked.  Parents should be allowed to decide whether and how their children’s information is gathered and shared,” Simitian said. 

SB 28 and 29 are limited to public sector issuance of government identity documents, and does not apply in any way to private sector use of RFID technology. 

Simitian is carrying three other measures, SB 30, 31, and 362, that address privacy concerns about the use of RFID. 

Simitian’s effort to ensure privacy protections in connection with RFID technology has garnered support from a variety of groups.  Among them are the American Civil Liberties Union, Gun Owners of California, Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, Citizens Against Government Waste, California State Parent Teacher Association (PTA), Republican Liberty Caucus, and the National Organization for Women (NOW). 

Simitian chairs the Senate Select Committee on Privacy.

To learn more about SB 28 and 29, visit