A legislative committee Friday killed a controversial bill that would have commissioned a study into the state’s possible use of radio-frequency identification technology – or RFID – to catch motorists who fail to register their cars, or drive without insurance, or don’t comply with emission-testing requirements.
Concerns about government intrusion on citizens’ privacy – and the increasing influence of “Big Brother” – led the General Assembly’s Appropriations Committee to vote 25-18 to reject Senate Bill 288, “An Act Requiring a Study of Radio-Frequency Identification for Motor Vehicle Registration.”
The concerns were voiced most prominently by Republicans including Rep. Pam Sawyer of Bolton and Sen. Rob Kane of Watertown, but lawmakers from both parties voted against the measure.
Democratic leaders of the committee had urged approval of the bill, calling it a “work in progress” and saying they wanted to advance it as a courtesy to its most vocal backer, Sen. Andrew Maynard, D-Stonington. Maynard, co-chairman of the legislative transportation committee, was not at Friday’s meeting. The transportation committee had approved the bill 37-0 last month.
RFID technology allows tracking of cars or any object to which a small tag can be attached containing a computer chip. An RFID tag could be printed on a paper sticker that is affixed inside a windshield, and when it passes within range of a “reader” device’s electromagnetic radio waves, it instantly gives up its data — such as who owns the vehicle, and whether it is in compliance with state requirements for registration, insurance, or emissions. The information goes into an electronic database.
Maynard had said the use of RFID technology potentially could bring in tens of millions of dollars in state revenue by catching motor vehicle scofflaws. However, the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut’s director, Andrew Schneider, said it could lead someday to “a true surveillance society of 24/7 mass tracking.”