Update: On June 17, Governor Mary Fallin ordered the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety to delay the use of the ERAD card reader system to scan prepaid debit cards. Text of her press release is below.

Governor Mary Fallin Directs Oklahoma Highway Patrol to Delay Use of Credit Card Reading Devices

Governor Wants Policy Developed for Using Electronic Card Readers

OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Mary Fallin today directed her Cabinet secretary of safety and security to delay the use of devices that read the magnetic strips on credit, debit and gift cards as well as any other card that has financial information on them.

The Oklahoma Highway Patrol has had the Electronic Recovery and Access to Data readers for about a month. The agency purchased 20 card readers, with 16 assigned to troopers. None of the devices have been used to help seize any funds.

The readers are intended to apprehend those involved in identity theft or other illegal activities involving monetary transactions. The readers allow troopers to read the back of the strip on a card or other item, such as a hotel room card, to see if it matches the information on the front.

Secretary of Safety and Security Michael Thompson, who also serves as commissioner of the Department of Public Safety, said that before troopers may use the readers, they must have reasonable suspicion to believe a crime has occurred. Troopers typically would not use the devices unless a motorist was stopped traveling with dozens of cards.

Some groups and lawmakers have raised concerns that the devices could be misused and raised suspicions that troopers were scanning everyone’s information.

“The Department of Public Safety needs to formulate a clear policy for using this new technology,” said Fallin. “It can be a viable tool for law enforcement only if authorities are able to ensure Oklahoma motorists and others driving through our state that it will be used appropriately.”

More than 25 states use the card-reading devices. Their use has been upheld by courts.

“The Oklahoma Highway Patrol has enjoyed the trust of Oklahoma motorists for decades,’’ Fallin said. “Taking time to develop policy for the use of these devices and to educate the public will help calm the fears of the motoring public.”

The Frontier’s previous story:

A spokesman for the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety said Monday the use of a controversial prepaid card reader is on hold so the department can establish a clear policy for the device’s use.

Called ERAD, for Electronic Recovery and Access to Data, the device is used by law enforcement to scan prepaid debit cards, identify financial activity, the identity of their owner, and possibly seize funds added to such cards if the authorities suspect illegal activity.

Only deployed for a few weeks, discovery of the use of the devices has caused an uproar, including businesses cancelling trips through the state, threats of legal action, and requests by state legislators to hold hearings.

The use of the controversial card readers was first discovered by Oklahoma Watch. 

Oklahoma Highway Patrol Lt. John Vincent said the use of the devices, which are deployed to 16 of the department’s Special Operations troopers, has so far been limited to a few identity theft cases. He said the devices have not yet been used to seize money.

However, he said, DPS Commissioner Michael C. Thompson ordered the project be put on hold so he and some others in the department can attend classes on the devices’ use.

“We are not looking at getting rid of them at all. The use of the ERAD system is on hold until we basically get the best policy going forward,” Vincent said.

Vincent insisted the ERAD device is unable to access bank accounts, only funds transferred to a prepaid card.

State Sen. Kyle Loveless, who attempted to file legislation in the state legislature’s most recent session ending last month, said he is encouraged by the department’s decision to temporarily stop using the devices.

“They just got them. Clearly they were not aware that people are uncomfortable that they are using these things. That they are cognizant of people having issues with this is a good thing,” Loveless said.

Loveless said if he is reelected this fall, he plans to reintroduce legislation to reform the state’s civil forfeiture laws, which allow law enforcement to seize money from those suspected in certain crimes, although they are often never charged.

Often, those who lose money or property through such law enforcement activities are unable to get it back, even if cleared of wrongdoing.