You can't say Rep. Phillips doesn't have vision, even if it's an Orwellian one. The bill has an obscure caption, "Relating to a motor vehicle liability insurance compliance program," and was sent to the House Transportation Committee, so it never made it onto my radar screen -
Enforcing liability insurance requirements and combating toll absconders are the stated reasons for the bill, but the language opens up the whole tracking system for any conceivable law enforcement use. Speeding tickets might be given by mail, for eample, if government may electronically track cars by RFIDs - if the speed limit is 60 mph and you get from one mile marker to the next in 55 seconds, you're busted, under that scenario. Inevitably hand-held devices will be developed to track the transponder signal for a variety of uses, and naturally transponders will become more powerful and transmit over greater distances as technology advances. Once that happens, Texans' cars might one day appear as electronic dots on law enforcement's computer mapping systems.
I've argued before that the Texas Department of Public Safety's proposal to gather biometric facial recognition data on Texans would allow us to be identified and tracked on video. If Mr. Phillips' proposal were enacted, the state could also place RFID detectors at every lamppost and mile marker, tracking your vehicle's movement wherever the technology was installed. Imagine if both those technologies were realized. You'd walk out the door from work , where surveillance cameras inpublic spaces could identify you by name and observe you get into your car. The transponder lets the government track wherever you go, whether to visit your grandmother, secretly visit a gay bar, or drive to a medical specialists office, whatever.
All of this could be legally done without a warrant, since a string of bad Supreme Court decisions has eroded personal privacy in public spaces, but that's another polemic.
I don't know about y'all, but where I grew up folks tagged cattle, not each other. It's none of the government's business where you go unless they have probable cause to believe you did something wrong. We have a freedom to travel and, at least until recently, what was once quaintly known as a "reasonable expectation of privacy." Bills like this would turn that term from a mere anachronism, its current status, to an outright joke. Talk about a slippery slope; this one's starting to get awfully steep.
MORE: Welcome to Nick at the Open Society Paradox whose first offering, in the spirit of the blog he's joining, finds simply incomprehensible why anyone would object to the government installing RFIDs in their car! Also, he points to this story from Computer World, the first MSM coverage I've seen on this blog-broke story, though more attention is coming.
See also the San Antonio Express News coverage.
BILL UPDATE: RFIDs stripped out of committee substitute; still creates government database of insurance customers.