Thursday, April 05, 2007

Crunch Time for Bills, Including H.B. 276

Sue Ella Deadwyler's WMVV Radio Commentary, 3/23/07
At this point in the session, time is precious, especially for legislators with bills stuck in committee. To pass this session, bills had to be out of their first committee by the 28th day, which was last Monday. If they did pass the first committee in time, they must pass the Rules Committee before they ever get to the House or Senate floor for a vote.
I'm particularly concerned about H.B. 276 that affects every person in Georgia, whether it passes or dies. If it dies, there'll continue to be no restriction on the use of very sophisticated electronic devices, some of which are, actually, designed to invade our personal privacy and track our every move. Even the harmless older versions of barcodes have been upgraded to read hidden radio frequency identification chips and store personal signatures so accurately they can be printed on paper or plastic. That's a scary fact in this age of identity thefts.
Radio frequency identification (RFID) chips may be hidden anywhere and their radio waves cannot be stopped by solid matter, making information on the chip readable through any barrier, even lead walls that x-rays can't penetrate. RFID chips are extremely versatile, come in various sizes and are priced to sell to nosey governments and businesses. They may be as small as a speck of dust and tiny enough to embed in nails, beads, wires or fibers, print on pages or paint on pictures. A company in the U.S. is busy developing RFID tags and antennas made of conductive ink that would appear as normal printing in any book, magazine or paper.
For a year Representative Ed Setzler's specially appointed committee studied how biological information is being collected and already used or its intended use. Then, on February 2 he introduced H.B. 276 to prohibit the collection, storage, or use of genetic, biometric or unique identification data without personal written consent from each individual. His bill prohibits government or business use of genetic information to decide who can or cannot buy life insurance or who pays high or low insurance rates or for screening job applicants or enrolling or refusing to enroll students in colleges and universities.
H.B. 276 requires the card holder's consent before biometric data, personal or unique ID information and medical records can be put on government issued ID or access cards and devices, including those that can be remotely read. It, also, condemns giving preferential treatment to those allowing collection of their biometric data as opposed to those refusing to release their personal data. This might seem incidental to you, but certain grocery stores discriminate against me every time I check out because I don't have a special card to get reduced prices, because my privacy is worth more to me than the price of beans.
H.B. 276 is still alive but it's on life support. Consumers in Georgia have a right to decide whether their personal biometric data can be collected or used. Call Representative Ralston at 404-656-5943 and ask him to pass this out of committee. It's do-or-die time for this session and I really hate to see this bill die.