RFID tag
New legislation outlaws isolated criminal cases but fails to provide federal regulation

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.

A press 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 RFID Update.

“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 draconian.”

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.

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