Second state expected to nix forced RFID chipping

North Dakota bill awaits governor's signature

North Dakota is set to ban the forced implantation of radio frequency technology (RFID) chips into people.

Both chambers of the legislature earlier this month handily passed a bill (PDF format) that would make it a Class A misdemeanor to force someone to have an RFID device implanted into his body. Penalties for violating the law have not yet been established. The bill was signed by North Dakota Speaker of the House Jeff Delzer on Monday and requires only Gov. John Hoeven’s signature to become law.

A spokesman for Hoeven said Wednesday that his office had not yet received the bill, but he anticipated it would be signed. If so, North Dakota would follow in the footsteps of Wisconsin, which passed similar legislation last year.

Advocates of curbs on forced chip implantation claim it protects the civil and privacy rights of individuals. On the other hand, some RFID supporters say forced chipping could be useful for a variety of purposes, such as helping prisons to keep track of inmates or parents to monitor the whereabouts of children. It also could be used for medical purposes -- for instance, for keeping track of patients who might be suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Such patients would not be capable of giving their consent for the implantation.

The legislators of North Dakota aren't buying those arguments, however. "Technology is a wonderful thing," said North Dakota state Sen. Dick Dever, one of the co-sponsors of the bill. "It creates all kinds of opportunities.  It also brings with it the possibility for abuse.  This bill to prevent the implantation of RFID chips in an individual against their will is to protect people from the abuse of that technology.  I would hope that the IT industry would support efforts to prevent the misuse of technology."

Not everyone believes such a law is necessary. Some fear it could even hamper legitimate deployment of RFID in business. "I'm still not sure why this is a perceived threat or why it requires additional laws to prevent," said Douglas Farry, managing director of the government affairs practice at McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP, a Washington-based law firm.

He noted that he watched an episode of the fictional television crime drama CSI  in which a criminal had secretly injected an RFID chip into his wife to record her comings and goings.  The chipping culprit was arrested even without a special "no RFID implant law," noted Farry. "I don't remember which CSI it was, but it was definitely not CSI Wisconsin."

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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