Thursday, January 05, 2006

RFID: New Hampshire HB 203

The New Hampshire House Commerce Committee has unanimously recommended passage of a consumer privacy protection bill, which has already been tagged as the model for future consumer privacy legislation.

It's encouraging to see the citizens of New Hampshire take an active role in crafting their own future. This bill's existence is a sign of increased consumer awareness of RFID and potential abuse of the technology.

I have listed the provisions of HB 203 in italics below, followed by my comments (non-italicized). If indeed future legislation will be modeled after HB 203, we must make sure that the bill truly protects and doesn't just pacify.

HB 203 includes the following provisions:
1. Stipulates that no consumer product or identification document (such as a credit card or ATM card) to which a tracking device has been affixed, may be sold without a label containing a universally accepted symbol. The requirement also applies to packaging of the product.
There are no stipulations about the location of the label on the product or package. Therefore, a label affixed to the product inside a package, or to an internal portion of the package itself would satisfy the labeling requirement, but be undetectable by the consumer. From the perspective of consumer notification, nothing would be accomplished.

2. Requires that identifying labels be affixed to the product or document or its packaging by the entity that implants the tracking device in the product or by the entity that imports products that contain tracking devices.
The earlier in the supply chain that a label is affixed, the easier it is to obscure the label from consumer view.

3. Prohibits anyone from implanting tracking devices into human beings without the informed consent of either the individual or a legal guardian.
Is this really the issue? I'm sure that some people are afraid of stealth implantation, but the larger issue is the potential curtailment-- of access, commerce, resources, transportation, and other freedoms-- for people who are unwilling to accept an implant. "The Such & Such Company is pleased to inform you that we are converting to RFID-based commerce for all of our consumer services. We regret that we will no longer be able to serve those of you techno-dinosaurs who elect not to receive an RFID implant, but we wish you good luck in finding a non-RFID-based gas & electric provider/ bank/ pharmacy/ grocery store/ hospital..." That's the real fear.

4. Prohibits the state or any of its political subdivisions from issuing any radio frequency devices to track individuals, with exceptions such as incarcerated prisoners or residents of nursing or assisted-living facilities.
'Exceptions such as'... what exactly does that mean? Is the tracking limited to incarcerated prisoners and residents of nursing or assisted-living facilities or not? If not, what are the other exceptions?

5. Establishes a commission on the use of tracking devices to study their usage in government and business and monitor their effect on the economy and society. That's broad and vague enough to ensure that not much of anything gets done. Study their usage and do what? Monitor their effect and do what? Who will conduct these studies and how will they be conducted? Who is going to oversee the commission? What are the limits of its authority? Etc.

Unflinching analysis of proposed legislation is necessary to ensure adequate and appropriate protection for all citizens.


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