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Rhode Island Governor Vetoes E-ZPass Privacy Bill
Bill protecting drivers from warrantless tracking through toll transponders vetoed in Rhode Island.

Governor Donald CarcieriRhode 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.

A copy of S. 211 is available in a 10k PDF file at the source link below.

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

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