By Liz McIntyre & Katherine Albrecht
October 8, 2006
Governor Schwarzenegger's veto of a bill aimed at protecting California citizens from surreptitious Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tracking should come as no shock if you understand his penchant for paternalistic power, say "Spychips" authors Katherine Albrecht and Liz McIntyre.
RFID is a controversial technology that uses tiny microchips to track everyday objects, animals, and even people from a distance. Information stored on these chips can be read silently and invisibly by radio waves.
They point to a 1990 U.S. News interview in which Schwarzenegger was quoted as saying "My relationship to power and authority is that I'm all for it. People need somebody to watch over them. Ninety-five percent of the people in the world need to be told what to do and how to behave."
Senate Bill 768, known as the Identity Information Protection Act of 2006, was passed by state legislators last month. It was drafted to prohibit abusive tracking of people through RFID tags and give Californians control over personal information stored on RFID-laced identity documents.
Among other things, the bill would have provided "... that a person or entity that intentionally remotely reads or attempts to remotely read a person’s identification document using radio waves without his or her knowledge and prior consent...shall be punished by imprisonment in a county jail for up to one year, a fine of not more than $5,000, or both that fine and imprisonment."
Schwarzenegger was apparently aware that his failure to sign the bill could open the door to more Big Brother surveillance on California soil. He issued a statement explaining that he vetoed the bill because it could conflict with new government standards for identity documents like those to be issued for driver's licenses under the Real ID Act.
The Real ID Act, passed in the spring of 2005, gives the Department of Homeland Security the right to set new federal driver's license standards. Privacy advocates and civil libertarians are not only concerned that these new standards will create a de facto national ID, but that this national ID will contain remotely readable RFID tags.
Homeland Security is already testing RFID tags in visitor documents, and it is on record as shopping for a very powerful form of the technology that could allow law enforcement to read documents secured in purses, wallets and even in cars speeding by at 55 miles per hour.
"It wouldn't surprise us if the governor has already read our book 'Spychips' and understands how RFID technology could be used to track, monitor, and control citizens," McIntyre observes. "He's just the sort of character who would find added value in RFID deep organ implants for humans and IBM's RFID-based "PERSON TRACKING UNIT" that can follow people in places like shopping malls, train stations, libraries, theaters, museums, elevators and even restrooms. Why, with that kind of power, he could most certainly keep track of the 95 percent of his constituents that he seems to believe need close supervision and instructions on proper behavior."
Liz McIntyre is a consumer privacy expert and author of Spychips: How Major Corporations and Government Plan to Track your Every Move with RFID. In this explosive book, McIntyre and co-author Katherine Albrecht reveal how organizations like Procter & Gamble, Gillette, Wal-Mart, and even the U.S. Postal Service plan to use tiny computer chips smaller than a grain of sand to track everyday objects-and even people-keeping tabs on everything you own and everywhere you go.
Katherine Albrecht is a privacy advocate and co-author of Spychips: How Major Corporations and Government Plan to Track your Every Move with RFID. Albrecht has testified on RFID technology before the Federal Trade Commission, the California state legislature, the European Commission, and the Federal Reserve Bank, and she has given over a thousand television, radio and print interviews to news outlets all over the world. Her efforts have been featured on CNN, NPR, the CBS Evening News, Business Week, and the London Times, to name just a few.
Web Sites: SpyChips.com and NoCards.org