[funsec] Political climate unfriendly to ID devices, backers say

Richard M. Smith rms at bsf-llc.com
Fri Apr 21 06:48:56 CDT 2006


Political climate unfriendly to ID devices, backers say 
By Michael Martinez, National Journal's Technology Daily

Widespread misinformation about radio-frequency identification technology
and high-tech identification cards has subverted federal and state
legislation to modernize America's ID systems, a panel of industry officials
and experts said Wednesday. 
At the Smart Cards in Government Conference, advocates for RFID and
tech-based "smart cards" said mandates to use modern technologies would
dramatically improve the nation's security infrastructure. But resistance to
such measures and technologies is swelling, they said. 

Marc-Anthony Signorino, the director of technology policy at the tech group
AeA, said that a fundamental misunderstanding of RFID spurred a series of
poorly written bills in California, Illinois, New Hampshire and New Mexico
to limit its use. 

He said lawmakers have complicated measures to limit RFID usage because they
have tried to make too many exemptions for uses they enjoy, such as smart
cards for accessing highway toll lanes. "The legislation ends up looking
like Swiss cheese," Signorino said. 

Signorino said the political climate in New Hampshire has made it especially
difficult for the industry to make a case for itself. The Granite State has
been particularly active on the ID front. House lawmakers there last month
passed a bill to reject a 2005 federal mandate for standard driver's

"We're scared to go to New Hampshire," he said. "They have gun racks on
their motorcycles. They don't want anyone telling them what to do." 

Robert Atkinson, the president of the Information Technology and Innovation
Foundation, said RFID and smart-card advocates are facing an uphill battle
because their opponents already have shaped the debate. "The ground has been
so poisoned by the other side that I think it's going to be tough to move
forward," Atkinson said. 

The movement against RFID and federal driver's licensing standards has
garnered support from all areas of the political spectrum, according to

He said an "unholy alliance" of groups such as the American Civil Liberties
Union and the Eagle Forum, which is led by conservative activist Phyllis
Schlafly, has choked the ability of the technology industry to gather
political support. "This isn't a group of fringe players," he said. 

Atkinson said he does not expect the Homeland Security Department to require
embedded computer chips driver's licenses because detractors of the mandate
have convinced enough people that such chips will do little to improve
national security. "I just don't think it's going to happen," he said. 

Richard Varn, the president of RJV Consulting and a former chief technology
officer, said smart-card advocates should focus on convincing lawmakers to
punish bad behavior instead of banning technology. He said lawmakers
throughout the country need to "beef up" cyber-crime efforts. 

"They are not investing sufficient money compared to the size of the crime
to efficiently combat it," he said. 

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