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    Roundup of California Privacy Legislation, Including REAL ID Bill

    Last week, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed legislation to implement the federal REAL ID national identification system. He also rejected several bills that would have strengthened the privacy rights of California residents, while approving a few that were privacy-protective.

    The privacy-protective legislation Schwarzenegger signed was SB 31 and AB 2059.  SB 31 concerns radio frequency identification (RFID) technology, which transmits data wirelessly from a chip or tag to a reader. SB 31 reads:

    (a) Except as provided in this section, a person or entity that intentionally remotely reads or attempts to remotely read a person’s identification document using radio frequency identification (RFID), for the purpose of reading that person’s identification document without that person’s knowledge and prior consent, shall be punished by imprisonment in a county jail for up to one year, a fine of not more than one thousand five hundred dollars ($1,500), or both that fine and imprisonment.
    (b) A person or entity that knowingly discloses, or causes to be disclosed, the operational system keys used in a contactless identification document system shall be punished by imprisonment in a county jail for up to one year, a fine of not more than one thousand five hundred dollars ($1,500), or both that fine and imprisonment.

    SB 31 include some exceptions for law enforcement and medical personnel, among others.

    AB 2059 requires marketers who send postal mail solicitations to disclose their identities and inform consumers they are waiving their do-not-call rights if they accept the marketers’ offers to receive phone calls about products. Also, with exceptions, “A violation of this section shall not be a crime […] However, all available civil remedies that are applicable to a violation of this section may be employed.”

    The privacy-protective legislation vetoed included: 

    • AB 1906, which would have “add[ed] identity theft to the […] list of insurance classes [in California]. The bill would provide that identity theft insurance includes insurance against costs associated with reestablishing credit, reclaiming financial identity, and communicating with banks, credit agencies, and other financial institutions, as specified.”
    • AB 2918, which would have prohibited employers from performing credit checks on job applicants or employees unless the purpose of the credit report is either “substantially job related” or “required by law to be disclosed to or obtained by the user of the report.”
    • SB 29, which would have “require[d] a public school, school district, and county office of education that issues a device that uses radio frequency identification for the purpose of recording attendance or establishing or tracking the location of a pupil to notify and obtain written consent from the pupil’s parent or guardian before the radio frequency identification device may be issued to the pupil. The bill would require a public school, school district, or county office of education that implements radio frequency identification to take certain steps to ensure that the privacy interests of the pupil under state and federal law are protected.” A few years ago, public outcry forced a California elementary school to end a program mandating that schoolchildren wear ID badges including RFID technology to track the children’s movements in and around the school. 

    The California governor also vetoed SB 60, which would have committed the state to “Meet or exceed the document and issuance standards set forth in the federal Real ID Act of 2005 (Public Law 109-13), to ensure that California has a federally recognized and acceptable driver’s license and identification card.” 

    In May 2005, the REAL ID Act was appended to a bill providing tsunami relief and military appropriations and passed with little debate and no hearings, though members of Congress called for hearings. The REAL ID Act of 2005 mandates that state driver’s licenses and ID cards follow federal technical standards and verification procedures issued by the Department of Homeland Security, standards that even the federal government cannot meet. I believe the REAL ID system (pdf) creates a fundamentally flawed national identification system and the Act should be repealed.

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