California could have become the fifth state to issue enhanced driver's licenses (EDL) and identification cards embedded with radio frequency identification (RFID) chips, but last Friday, state lawmakers suspended the legislation over privacy concerns. The RFID-equipped cards were to be optional, but ultimately it was a lack of measures to prevent law enforcement from tapping into the chips that killed the bill, WIRED reports.

California EDLs originally were intended to be a solution to long wait times at the US-Mexico border – drivers carrying EDLs would not have to show a passport to re-enter the US at land border checkpoints where RFID readers are used. Michigan, New York, Vermont and Washington are the four states that already employ EDLs, and residents of those states don't need a passport to re-enter the US at most land borders if they have one of the special licenses.

Privacy advocates are worried that if more states start using EDLs and enhanced ID cards, they could become mandatory across the US, allowing the government to surveil the motoring public without its knowledge. Information on the RFID cards is stored in a secure database at the Department of Homeland Security. "It's not difficult to imagine a time when the EDL programs cease to be optional," says Jim Harper, the Cato Institute's director of information policy studies. "The government also tends to expand programs far beyond their original purpose."

Ben Hueso, a California senator from San Diego, supports RFID technology and offers a different viewpoint. "Enhanced Driver's Licenses can provide a significant economic benefit to the state of California, while strengthening border security," Hueso wrote in a press release in May, according to WIRED.

We're not sure what's best for California regarding RFID technology, but considering how much of an impact technology like this could make on its citizens' privacy, it's encouraging to see lawmakers and privacy advocates treading carefully and airing concerns. Stay tuned for more on this issue – it isn't going away any time soon.



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  • 41 Comments
      Michelle Blackwell
      • 1 Year Ago
      They already have wallets and purses lines to contain RFID signals from the RFID CCs and other items you already have.
      • 1 Year Ago
      [blocked]
        Carpinions
        • 1 Year Ago
        Did you even read the story? The headline says CA STOPPED this. And the people leaving California are people who tend to change states every few years. The grand business exodus righties claim is siphoning Cali dry is non existent. More tech companies still start up there than anywhere else. Try not using Rick freakin' Perry for your facts in the future.
      Car Guy
      • 1 Year Ago
      A quick trip in the microwave will cure any document/card of pesky embedded chips...................
      knightrider_6
      • 1 Year Ago
      Using a RFID card for crossing border is a dumb idea. What if a person uses someone else's ID card? They should instead using fingerprint readers or iris scanners like they do at the airports.
      Zeus
      • 1 Year Ago
      "Information on the RFID cards is stored in a secure database at the Department of Homeland Security." Well thats a nice blanket statement to tell people who have no understanding of computers or technology. Nothing is secure. Hell, a 15 year old kid hacked the Pentagon and you're going to try and bullsh*t me and tell me all this information is safe and secure? Please. (Source: http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/story?id=119423&page=1) Safe and secure huh? Nice postcard guys....
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Zeus
        [blocked]
      dssdbs
      • 1 Year Ago
      We are already tracked by our License Plates, we have already given up our privacy, this would have provided a convenience for California residents who visit Mexico regularly.
        Bernard
        • 1 Year Ago
        @dssdbs
        RFID in your ID can track you even when you're walking or riding a bike. The range from which you can be tracked depends mainly on the sensitivity of the antenna and level of noise on the frequency channel. Expect spies and snoops to have the best equipment.
          thequebecerinfrance
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Bernard
          The antenna on this is very low power. Unless you are very close to a power source it does not work. Oh and by the way, it only emits when under power and not all the time. Data is protected but I guess they can always find something to break it. The problem is the cost to break it is more prohibitive than the usefulness of the data they can their hands on.
          atc98092
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Bernard
          My badge for work contains an RFID chip (I work for the FAA). I was also issued a holder that allows the card to be displayed, but blocks the RFID tag from being read unless the reader is within inches of the card. Even an especially high powered scanner would have difficulty reading the card from more than a few feet. You can also buy wallets with RFID shields built in. I only have to push on a hinge to move my card a short distance from the shield to improve the range. But unless I completely remove it from its holder the shield is a pretty effective blocker. Of course, my card also has a PIN that blocks all the important data without proper security certificates and requires I enter the number to do anything beyond opening a door.
          Bernard
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Bernard
          @thequebecerinfrance I'm not talking about the antenna on the RFID, I'm talking about the antenna on the reader. You can make a reader device that exceeds the specs intended for the chip. Building a long range reader is not cost prohibitive in the slightest. You can buy some here: http://www.iautomate.com/categories/RFID/
          icemilkcoffee
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Bernard
          Having a reader that reads the RFID card is useless if you do not have the database which decodes the code and tells you the identity of the person you are looking at. Otherwise all you have is a string of numbers which means nothing.
          Bernard
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Bernard
          You can also build them following this tutorial: http://www.eng.tau.ac.il/~yash/kw-usenix06/
      Jesse Gurr
      • 1 Year Ago
      Lets see, Credit cards have them, pets have them, animal in the wild have them for us to track. So we are just wild animals that some guy somewhere gets to know our migration and mating patterns?
        icemilkcoffee
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Jesse Gurr
        Animals in the wild have credit cards? Is that what you are trying to say?
      SloopJohnB
      • 1 Year Ago
      It's really irrelevant whether they get your information on border crossings from your license or your passport. If people are worried about other uses from the RFID DLs then just put your license and other RFID-enabled credit cards, etc., under your tinfoil hat. There....problem solved.
      Ridgie30
      • 1 Year Ago
      A lot of 'overstatement' about RFID and NF (near field) communication being made here. As SloopJohnB noted, they already get your info when you cross the border. Here in Western NY, where border crossing is a weekly occurrence for many, EDL are very important to keep things flowing (On weekends things AREN'T flowing anyways but would be worse without EDLs). Anyone that thinks the government or any agency can't get whatever info they want or desire is being naive. IF you have nothing to hide, what are you worried about anyways?
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Ridgie30
        [blocked]
        TelegramSam
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Ridgie30
        What if I have plenty to hide, and none of those things are illegal, but merely shameful? Everyone has SOMETHING they don't want others to know. They are within their rights.
          Ridgie30
          • 1 Year Ago
          @TelegramSam
          Merely shameful? What the hell does that mean? Time to stop using Telegrams, Sam and live in the real world with the rest of us...
      Thipps
      • 1 Year Ago
      1984....
        Tiberius1701
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Thipps
        ...has been here for some time now, the intrusions are merely accelerating.
      superchan7
      • 1 Year Ago
      This needs to have provisions disallowing high-power readers to be arbitrarily placed to track people.
      Christopher
      • 1 Year Ago
      Californians should not be too concerned this is just to track republican voters as we all know democrat voters - the vast majority in CA - are unable to obtain drivers licenses.
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