Rhode Island Governor Vetoes E-ZPass Privacy Bill

The Newspaper
by The Newspaper

Rhode Island Governor Donald Carcieri (R) on Monday vetoed legislation that would have imposed privacy restrictions on the use of E-ZPass toll transponder data. The scuttled bill also included a ban on schools and government agencies from using the same Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) transponder chips to track schoolchildren. Carcieri focused on the positive aspects of tracking children in his veto message. “Why would the General Assembly therefore place restrictions on the use of this technology as an option for all students?” Carcieri wrote. “In certain circumstances, it may be helpful for schools to have the ability to quickly identify where each of their students is located… Such circumstances may include weather-related natural disasters, terrorist or criminal events or even a need for use during field trips and outside school activities.”

This is the third time that Carcieri has vetoed a version of RFID privacy legislation. In 2006, lawmakers passed a bill that would have prohibited state and local government from using RFID to track their employees and schoolchildren in addition to restricting the use of RFID toll transponder information. The employee protection was dropped as a compromise.

“Originally developed to track cattle and commerce, RFID technology allows a person’s identity and movement to be monitored electronically,” the Rhode Island branch of the American Civil Liberties Union explained. “When the Middletown school district last year began a pilot program that placed RFID chips on the backpacks of elementary school children, purportedly to make sure they got on the right school bus, the need for this legislation became more apparent than ever.”

The motorist protection vetoed in S. 211 specified that the RFID information used in a toll road transaction could not be considered public information. It further clarified that no law enforcement agency could gather or use RFID information without a court order — unless he was investigating someone for not paying tolls. Courts around the country are split on the question of whether warrantless use of automobile tracking devices is lawful.

The high court in Massachusetts recently said no while Wisconsin’s second-highest court said yes.

Source: S. 211 (Rhode Island General Assembly, 11/10/2009)

[courtesy thenewspaper.com]

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  • Lorenzo Lorenzo on Nov 11, 2009

    Well, since the Governor has vetoed personal privacy measures three times, it's time for the Rhode Island legislature to try another tactic. They should pass a law requiring the Governor to have an RFID chip embedded under his skin and his whereabouts posted online so the citizens know what he's doing at all times. If these elected representatives aren't slapped down HARD, and soon, don't be surprised if eventually drivers are forced to file a travel plan every time they get behind the wheel, and denied access to certain areas in the name of "congestion relief".

  • Steve Biro Steve Biro on Nov 11, 2009

    I agree completely. I said this was going to eventually happen when E-Z Pass was first introduced. I warned many of my friends who commute into New York City (friends who tell the insurance companies they only use their cars for "leisure" in order to get lower rates) that soon they'd be tracked to see if they were using their cars to commute on a daily basis. Already we've heard about speeding tickets being issued on the basis of the amount of time between one's recorded location at different E-Z Pass toll stations. It's stuff like this - along with more-sophisticated black boxes tied to ABS and ESC - that may force me to walk or ride a bike. And what kills me is that even if laws are passed to bar the use of such information without one's permission, it probably won't matter. Because you'll consent. Believe me, you will. Because they'll hit you in the pocketbook if you don't. Your insurance company will double your rates if you don't. Or you'll be barred access to limited-access toll roads. But it's all voluntary, you understand. Take a look at the small print that's already in your insurance policy. Notice there's a clause in there somewhere about your agreeing to cooperate fully with any investigation. And while it may vary by state, you might want to check out what terms you've agreed to by accepting a driver's license - which every state maintains is a privilege granted by the state and not a right. The courts have historically agreed. Consider how already every time you open a new credit line - by buying furniture or a car, etc - you consent to a background check by Homeland Security. Never mind that you have nothing to hide. But it's all voluntary, you understand. You can always say no. And walk. And never again make a major purchase with anything other than cash. I agree with Lorenzo, the time to act is now. But we may already be too late.