A new law passed yesterday in the State of Washington which outlaws the act
of RFID “skimming” for identity theft and fraud.
The bill, championed by democratic representative Jeff Morris and signed
into law yesterday, claims it will provide consumers “better protection from
‘spy technologies’” used to collect personal information without prior consent.
release issued demonstrates a number of scenarios where prior law on RFID
skimming was murky and unclear: a thief gathering data on a neighborhood via
houses’ RFID emissions, or law enforcers quickly gathering the identity of everyone
in an unruly mob – “guilty parties and passersby alike” – by scanning for RFID
emissions in the vicinity.
“The new law - the first of its kind in the U.S. - makes 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,” reads the release.
Wired’s Beyond the Beyond was quick
to point out that the law’s flaws, noting that it “doesn't seem to have
given much thought to the notion of [federal agents] quietly skimming American
RFID passports and RFID drivers’ licenses.”
Dan Mullen, executive director of RFID- and “automatic identification” trade
group AIM called the bill a good example of legislation that criminalizes
illegal activity as opposed to the technology itself. “The fact that the
bill focuses on behavior, and punishing behavior that is not appropriate, is
something anyone can support,” said Mullen, speaking to
“We wanted to get some rules in place before the technology really comes
into play,” said Rep. Morris. “Legislators can be very good at being reactionary
after there is some public outcry, then end up passing something that is really
With RFID usage outpacing legislation – especially
with its prevalence in government functions – a growing number of citizens
and public interest groups are expressing
concern at the technology’s privacy implications. Washington, in
particular, is one of the four border states allowing RFID-enhanced drivers’
licenses to be used in place of passports at international border checkpoints.