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Washington State Passes RFID Anti-Skimming Law

There's some really good news about identity theft. The legislators in the State of Washington are keeping up with new technologies. During the last week of March 2008, ComputerWorld Magazine reported:

"Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire this week signed a bill making it a Class C felony to use radio frequency identification (RFID) technology to spy on someone. The bill was signed about a week after the Washington State Senate unanimously passed Bill 1031, which makes it a crime to intentionally scan people's IDs remotely without their knowledge and consent, for the purpose of fraud, identity theft or some other illegal purpose. The bill specifically cites RFID and facial recognition technology. Violators face a prison sentence of up to 10 years. In addition, if the illegally gathered data is used in a separate crime, up to 10 years could be added to whatever sentence violators receive for the second crime."

Why is HB 1031 important? First, according to the Seattle Times:

"The Senate took out an 'opt in' provision that would have made it illegal for any company or person to slip an RFID chip into objects such as loyalty cards or cellphones without consumer consent, said state Rep. Jeff Morris, D-Anacortes, the bill's sponsor. "This is a technology that the consumer is clearly unaware of unless it's pointed out to them," he said."

In other words, it is difficult to impossible for the average consumer to look at a credit card and tell if it is a standard card or an RFID card. When I've discussed RFID cards with most people, 99 out of 100 are  unaware of the RFID technology and its associated data security issues. Some type of legislation is sensible and appropriate. Plus, consumers need notification from card issuers.

Second, other federal legislation requires states to use RFID technology in identification cards. In Washington, HB 2729 governs the use of RFID in driver's licenses:

"As a state with many travelers who cross the border frequently, Washington has become a test bed for RFID. It's one of four states that have signed agreements with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to use RFID technology in optional-enhanced driver's licenses that became available in January."

Third, most states do not have any laws about skimming for identity theft. So, criminals can steal identity data from RFID cards via skimming today with little risk. Fourth, there needs to be some type of coordination across countries because identity theft skimming poses risks for travelers.

If this situation is scary and unacceptable to you, I encourage you to write to your elected officials.


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