Breakthrough in New Hampshire?


In early March, snow was falling heavily outside the Capitol building in Concord, New Hampshire during my testimony in opposition to House Bill 478.

HB 478 bans the use of RFID technology in state issued identification documents, among other provisions. The snow was as unexpected as the thoughtful questions posed to me by some of the House Commerce Committee members before whom I testified.

Their questions bespoke much of the confusion that surrounds RFID technology and what it can and cannot do. How much information can a chip contain? That depends. What about the ability to track individuals carrying RFID contained in identity documents or retail products? Possible in a closed system maybe, but highly improbable in the real world was my response. Did I know that the citizens of New Hampshire rejected REAL ID? Yes, but REAL ID has nothing to do with RFID. What is the best way to define RFID? The problem is not with the definition of RFID but with the perception that RFID presents a threat to privacy.

While I tried to answer their questions precisely, the heart of the problem is that the answers are not concise. That’s because every application of RFID is not the same. And therein lay the problem - for industry, for the privacy community and for policymakers.

We all need to take a step back from the heated rhetoric that has dominated the conversation around RFID and begin a dialog where we truly listen to each other. I believe, for the first time in the three years that I have been testifying against anti-RFID bills, that we are moving to separate fact from fiction in our RFID discussions.

Why? Because the House Commerce Committee members voted to retain HB 478, meaning it won’t go to the House floor for a vote in 2009. What happens in 2010 will either support my optimism or crush it abysmally.