Washington State Toys With “Traumatic” RFID Labeling Bills

Written by Fred J. Aun
January 19th, 2009

It could be about a month before retailers learn whether a set of consumer protection bills targeted at the technology will make any headway in the Washington State House of Representatives.

Dan Mullen, President of the Association for Automatic Identification and Mobility (AIM) said the proposals “could be pretty traumatic for businesses and consumers.” The bills, in part, call for the creation of warning labels on products and packaging embedded with RFID chips. Mullen said national retailers and consumer goods manufacturers would be less-than-enthralled with the prospect of creating different labels to satisfy different state requirements.

The bills were introduced January 12 by Washington State Representative Jeff Morris, who last year penned bills that became the nation’s first laws against the surreptitious scanning of people to gather personal identification information (possibly from RFID chips in their credit and debit cards) for fraud or identity theft.

Acknowledging RFID has legitimate, beneficial uses in commerce, law enforcement and other fields, Morris is, nonetheless, intent on requiring RFID end users to do more to inform consumers about their use. The new bills are revised versions of similar proposals Morris introduced last year, bills that never made it out of the State Senate.

One of Morris’ bills requires the state to develop privacy standards for state agencies that use RFID. The standards must ensure that the agencies conduct an assessment of the impact on privacy and the protection of personal data. The agencies must also take measures to minimize privacy or data protection risks.

More problematic, in Mullen’s view, are the proposed requirements in the other bills: that manufacturers and stores must notify customers when RFID chips are embedded in products or packaging and that people who apply for RFID-enabled loyalty cards must be given a notice to be read and signed indicating they understand the card has an RFID chip.

Morris’ staff said amendments to the bills are now being crafted. They would not reveal the basis of the amendments.


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