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Arnie terminates RFID bill

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Legislative proposals to regulate government use of RFID technology in California have been vetoed by state governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The Identity Information Protection Act of 2006 (SB 768), which would have introduced privacy laws to safeguard personal data stored on radio frequency identification (RFID) tags in government-issued documents and identification cards, was one of 73 bills that Schwarzenegger declined to sign against 110 he signed onto the state's statute books late last month.

The bill was designed to safeguard against either criminal or government abuse of RFID tags by mandating the use of privacy-protecting technologies such as encryption. The bill would also give Californians the right to decide who can access their personal information stored on RFID cards in documents such as driver's licences and library cards.

Legislation on RFID is "premature", the film star turned Republican politician argues. He also said the bill might impede the introduction of contactless technologies by Californian state agencies that had the potential to streamline operations and cut expenses.

"I am concerned that the bill's provisions are over-broad and may unduly burden the numerous beneficial new applications of contactless technology," Schwarzenegger said in a statement.

"SB 768, which would impose technology regulations on RFID-enabled ID cards and public documents, is premature. The federal government, under the REAL ID Act, has not yet released new technology standards to improve the security of government ID cards. SB 768 may impose requirements in California that would contradict the federal mandates soon to be issued."

The rejection of the bill, passed by California's Senate in September, is a set-back for privacy activists such as the American Civil Liberties Union who hoped the bill might provide a framework for hoped-for federal legislation on the issue.

California State Senator Joe Simitian, a Democrat from Palo Alto, who drafted the bill, has previously vowed to continue to push privacy legislation on RFID chip even if his initial legislative push failed.

"If [Governor Schwarzenegger] vetoes, the bill is dead for this two-year session and I can come back in 2007-2008," said Senator Simitian. "I'm in the middle of my first four year term," Simitian told eWeek. ®

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