If you're worried that somebody might forcibly implant an RFID chip somewhere on your body for no good reason, you might want to move to Wisconsin or North Dakota. Those forward-thinking, proactive states have passed legislation that bars the forced implantation of RFID chips in humans.
And just last month, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill banning involuntary RFID implants in that state. That bill is set to become law in January. Good thing, because I'm constantly looking over my shoulder these days, worried that somebody might be about to surreptitiously insert an RFID tag into my bicep. I just can't decide whether to become a Badger or relocate to Bismarck.
But seriously, the forcible implantation of RFID chips in humans just isn't going to happen, and that's what makes some of the pending RFID legislation so mind boggling. States are spending huge amounts of time— and wasting taxpayers' money—to pursue bills that make no sense. And it's all because they don't have a strong enough understanding of RFID technology and how it works.
"Legislatures around the country are talking about regulating RFID in ways that don't relate to how you may use it," says Jim Harper, director of information policy studies at the Cato Institute, a think tank in Washington, D.C. "Bills have been passed to ban implantation of RFID by employers when it's not even a real problem."
This year, about 50 bills were introduced in 19 states and the U.S. Congress that seek to limit the use of RFID in some manner. Six bills were introduced in California alone, and more are planned for 2008. Nothing catastrophic has been pushed through yet, but some of these bills are just one timely newspaper story away from passage and potentially creating a domino effect.
The challenge faced by the RFID industry—and indeed, the overall supply chain, which stands to gain so much from the technology—is educating both the public and elected officials. "Most policy makers don't know anything about RFID," says Ben Anderson, technology policy counsel for the AeA, formerly the American Electronics Association. "And those who think they know about RFID are very much skewed toward a negative view."
So the next time somebody engages you in a debate about inserting RFID chips into humans, remember the words of Ben Anderson.
"I can no more implant an RFID chip in somebody [who] doesn't want it than I can punch somebody in the face,"he says."Nonetheless,some of these laws are creating stigmas about the technology because they [single] out RFID as a dangerous technology."