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Education Reporter

Californians battle for privacy
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Known as the "Identity Information Protection Act of 2005," California's Senate Bill 768 surfaced out of concerns over privacy issues due to increasing use of radio frequency identification (RFID) technology and its anticipated expanded use by state and federal governments.

Radio frequency technology uses miniature electronics including a tiny antenna to broadcast data stored in the RF device. Data are detectable using scanning devices ("readers") that emit radio signals. With a purchased or homemade RF "reader," stored data on "contactless ID cards" may be accessed without the cardholder's knowledge.

Beyond application to products and wild animal tracking, the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) plan forecasts use of RFID with livestock and other domestic animals and birds.

Experimentation with RFID applied to student ID/data cards is increasing around the country - and in some cases, adopted without public knowledge or approval. (See "Concern Grows Over ID Data Systems and Tracking," Education Reporter, Feb. 2006).

Application of the technology is also growing to include insertion of tiny rice-grain sized glass-encapsulated chips under the skin of people.

What SB 768 says 
The summary analysis of the Sept. 2, 2005 amended version of the Identity Information Protection Act prepared for the California legislature, says: "Requires certain security measures be implemented into government-issued identification (ID) that incorporate radio frequency identification (RFID) technology, with certain specified exceptions, and prohibits the use of RFID in four classes of widely-issued government documents."

The Sept. 2, 2005 amended version of SB 768 would mandate a "unique personal identity number" that in the future could be used to link different kinds of personal data (education, medical, financial, etc.). SB 768 would also require:

  • card holder consent before accessing the holder's RFID chip-stored data.

  • written disclosure of: where radio wave scanning devices are located, what data are being collected, and what can be done to regulate information broadcasting.

  • a moratorium on RFID in "government-issued documents until Jan. 1, 2009, unless extended": driver's licenses or identification . . . ; ID cards for students in K-12 schools; health and medical benefit cards; public library cards."

  • limits on third-party government contractor access to "security features and personal information" and requires those parties to protect data.

  • "mutual authentication and key establishment, and encryption."

The bill allows for civil action for non-compliance. There are penalties for unauthorized remote access of data, including "imprisonment . . . for up to one year, a fine of not more than $5,000, or both". Opponents of SB 768 want removal of sections deemed as unnecessary security issues and a hindrance to RFID industry growth.

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