California Senate Blocks Mandatory ID Implants

SACRAMENTO — The California state Senate passed legislation that would bar employers from requiring workers to have identification devices implanted under their skin.

State Sen. Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) proposed the measure after at least one company began marketing radio frequency identification (RFID) devices for use in humans. The devices, as small as a grain of rice, can be used by employers to identify workers. A scanner passing over a body part implanted with one can instantly identify the person.

“RFID is a minor miracle, with all sorts of good uses,” Simitian told the Los Angeles Times recently. “But we shouldn’t condone forced ‘tagging’ of humans. It’s the ultimate invasion of privacy.” 

Simitian said he fears that the devices could be compromised by persons with unauthorized scanners, facilitating identity theft and improper tracking and surveillance. The bill has been approved by the state assembly and now goes to the governor.

Nine senators opposed the measure, including Bob Margett (R-Arcadia), who told the newspaper it is premature to legislate technology that has not yet proved to be a problem. The chips, created by Delray Beach, Fla.-based VeriChip Corp., gained national attention in October 2004 when the FDA approved the RFID implants., a Cincinnati video surveillance company, has required employees who work in its secure data center to have a microchip implanted in an arm. 

Similar technology has been used for years to help identify lost pets.

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