New Washington State RFID Law A Far Cry From What Assemblyman Wanted

Written by Evan Schuman
March 21st, 2008

Next Tuesday, it’s likely Washington state will have a new RFID law on its books, one that will be the first in the nation to make malicious stealing of data via RFID a crime. But the bill is a far cry from what’s the bill’s assemblyman sponsor had envisioned—and what he says he will still fight to get.

The bill had been pushed by Assemblyman Jeff Morris. The final version of the bill—which Morris said he expects Washington Governor Chris Gregoire to sign into law on Tuesday—makes anyone guilty of a Class C felony if they "intentionally scan another person’s identification device remotely, without that person’s prior knowledge and prior consent, for the purpose of fraud, identity theft or for any other illegal purpose."

The practical impact? If someone is caught and charged for that illegal fraudulent act, this would allow for an additional felony to be added, which might yield a longer sentence.

Morris’ goal was quite different. His original bill was aimed at retailers and would have required prior consent before stores could collect personal data.

What happened? That part of the bill was stripped out in the state senate after what Morris described as extensive retail lobbying efforts. He cited a private meeting he had with an unnamed Wal-Mart VP, where he said the Wal-Mart executive said, "We’re not doing it now but we don’t know what we’ll be doing in the future" and asked that the bill not handcuff the retailer’s future efforts.

Morris vows to try and pass the law again during the next legislative session.

In a related move, the state House of Representatives for New Hampshire this week voted to require manufacturers to apply labels or otherwise notify consumers when the RFID chips are implanted in clothing or other products. The bill also would ban using the chips to track consumers’ movements.


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