California Lawmakers Suspend Plan to Introduce "Driver's License on Steroids"

| by Dominic Kelly
article imagearticle image

Lawmakers in California made the decision on Friday to drop legislation that would allow ID cards and driver’s licenses to be embedded with radio-frequency identification chips, or RFIDs. Many privacy advocates pushed back against this legislation from the start, and as of now, the legislation has been put on hold.

The bill, known as SB-397, was originally introduced by Democratic Senator Ben Hueso and co-authored by Senators Marty Block and Ricardo Lara in February of this year. The enhanced ID, called by some the “driver’s license on steroids,” would not have been mandatory under the legislation, but it would have been an option for people who cross the U.S.-Mexican border frequently in order to cut down on wait time and ease the flow of traffic.

Still, despite the positive aspects of the RFID embedded licenses, many people have seriously questioned the safety aspects of it.  Opponents have argued that this could bring up issues of invasion of privacy and even stalking. Carrying one of these licenses, some say, could lead to being tracked without consent.

In 2006, the California ACLU successfully replicated the RFID chip on an ID card held by a lawmaker, and with it, was able to enter an authorized entrance at the state capitol. This proves, in the eyes of the ACLU and others who are against the bill, just how easy it could be for serious issues to come up as a result. They even bring up the fact that anybody could purchase an RFID scanner on the Internet for as little as $37 and use it to track and stalk those who hold the embedded ID.

Faced with much backlash and opposition from people on all sides of the aisle, lawmakers have decided to suspend the legislation for the time being. It is not clear whether the idea is being reworked, but for now, Californians won’t be seeing the “driver's license on steroids” anytime soon.