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RFID's effects on privacy

Discussion in 'Legal' started by Preacherman, Oct 16, 2005.

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  1. Preacherman

    Preacherman Member

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    The article below is pretty scary from a privacy point of view, but also has implications for the RKBA - imagine tracking firearms and ammo purchases, the carrying of firearms, etc. through imbedded RFID chips?

    From the Boston Globe (http://www.boston.com/business/glob...u_need_not_be_paranoid_to_fear_rfid?mode=PF):

    You need not be paranoid to fear RFID

    By Hiawatha Bray

    October 10, 2005

    It's one of the cutest of those cute IBM Corp. TV commercials, the ones that feature the ever-present help desk. This time, the desk appears smack in the middle of a highway, blocking the path of a big rig.

    ''Why are you blocking the road?" the driver asks. ''Because you're going the wrong way," replies the cheerful Help Desk lady. ''Your cargo told me so." It seems the cartons inside the truck contained IBM technology that alerted the company when the driver made a wrong turn.

    It's clever, all right -- and creepy. Because the technology needn't be applied only to cases of beer. The trackers could be attached to every can of beer in the case, and allow marketers to track the boozing habits of the purchasers. Or if the cargo is clothing, those little trackers could have been stitched inside every last sweater. Then some high-tech busybody could keep those wearing them under surveillance.

    If this sounds paranoid, take it up with IBM. The company filed a patent application in 2001 which contemplates using this wireless snooping technology to track people as they roam through ''shopping malls, airports, train stations, bus stations, elevators, trains, airplanes, rest rooms, sports arenas, libraries, theaters, museums, etc." An IBM spokeswoman insisted the company isn't really prepared to go this far. Patent applications are routinely written to include every possible use of a technology, even some the company doesn't intend to pursue. Still, it's clear somebody at IBM has a pretty creepy imagination.

    And it's not just IBM. A host of other companies are looking at ways to embed surveillance chips into practically everything we purchase -- and even into our bodies. It's a prospect that infuriates Harvard graduate student Katherine Albrecht.

    ''I think the shocking part is they've spent the past three years saying, oh no, we'd never do this," Albrecht said. But instead of taking their word for it, Albrecht and her colleague, former bank examiner Liz McIntyre, began reading everything they could find on the subject. Now they're serving up the scary results of their research in a scathing new book, ''Spychips."

    That's Albrecht's preferred name for a technology called radio frequency identification technology, or RFID. If you use a Mobil Speedpass to pay for gasoline, you're already using RFID. Your Speedpass contains a microchip and a small antenna that allows it to broadcast information to a receiver. The chip has no power source of its own. Instead, it picks up radio signals from an RFID chip reader, turns these radio waves into electricity, and uses the power to broadcast data to the reader.

    Because they need no batteries, RFID chips can be made small enough to attach invisibly to practically anything. One company is even working on a way to print RFID chips onto newspapers, using electrically conductive ink.

    Why is this so scary? Because so many of us pay for our purchases with credit or debit cards, which contain our names, addresses, and other sensitive information. Now imagine a store with RFID chips embedded in every product. At checkout time, the digital code in each item is associated with our credit card data. From now on, that particular pair of shoes or carton of cigarettes is associated with you. Even if you throw them away, the RFID chips will survive. Indeed, Albrecht and McIntyre learned that the phone company BellSouth Corp. had applied for a patent on a system for scanning RFID tags in trash, and using the data to study the shopping patterns of individual consumers.

    ''Spychips" reveals a US government plan to order RFID chips embedded in all cars sold in America. No big deal -- until you realize the police could then track your comings and goings by putting inexpensive RFID readers at key intersections.

    Then there are the RFID pajamas from a California maker of children's clothing. It's a clever way to prevent kidnapping: Just put RFID readers in your home, to alert you if Junior's taking an unauthorized trip. It's easy to imagine parents buying into this idea, but they'll now have to install RFID readers in their homes. ''There's the nose in the camel's tent," said Albrecht. At first, companies will just scan your kids' jammies. But later they'll ask permission to scan the tags on your groceries and your clothes. The consulting company Accenture has patented a design that builds an RFID reader into a household medicine cabinet, to make sure you're taking all your medications.

    There are countless applications for RFID, and viewed in isolation, some are downright appealing. It would be nice for the medicine cabinet to send you an e-mail -- ''Time to buy more Viagra." But what if it's also sending that data to consumer marketing companies, eager to bombard you with unwanted advertising? Worse yet, what if they're sending the data to government investigators, or to hackers who've figured out how to break into the system?

    Not to worry, said Jack Grasso, spokesman for EPC Global of Lawrenceville, N.J.,, the nonprofit organization that sets technical standards for RFID systems. His organization has a code of ethics that requires notifying consumers about the presence of RFID tags. The group also recognizes the right of consumers to deactivate RFID tags, and is working to develop systems to make this easy.

    So how about putting these principles into law? No thanks, said Grasso. ''We believe it is far too early." Because the RFID industry is so young, any regulation ''would have a chilling effect that would put us back years."

    And that's a bad thing?

    Somebody needs to sit down and think this through. Dozens of companies and government agencies are planning to use RFID to track nearly every move we make. And although many of the individual applications make sense, what would happen if they were all implemented, without oversight or restraint? We'd then live in a world in which everything we own gossips about us behind our backs.

    And it would be too late to call the IBM Help Desk to ask for our privacy back.
     
  2. lysander

    lysander Member

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    One can only hope that the PTB leave the technology designed to defeat RFID similarly unregulated. I have little problem with RFID...provided I can easily "opt out" or legally buy inexpensive devices which scramble/erase or override the tech.
     
  3. Old Dog

    Old Dog Member

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    And we all know the severe sanctions for violating a "code of ethics," right?
    And the writer's comment, "And that's a bad thing?" was included in a piece published in the Globe? If the liberal media can actually help promote the privacy issues involved with the exploitation of RFID technology, maybe we're not doomed after all? Unfortunately, regulation of this sort of technology was due long ago; the technology is now so advanced, becoming so commonly used, that I fear attempts to regulate it will come far too late.
     
  4. rudolf

    rudolf Member

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    Putting an RFID in a microwave will roast it. As to ammo, the RFID would only work when fastened to the box, not when inside a shell. So if you're paranoid, put the boxes in a microwave or repack your ammo.

    BTW, and this is NO JOKE, wrapping it in tin foil keeps RFID's from working.
    So if you think there's a RFID in your hat, well ...
     
  5. longeyes

    longeyes member

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    This technology is not about tracking commodities, it is about turning all of us into commodities.
     
  6. Dorian

    Dorian Member

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    Hopefully someone will come out, ASAP, with the technology that will fry RFID chips the second they enter your car and house....

    Or one that fits in your pocket and frys all rfid chips within 10 ft of you.
     
  7. Waitone

    Waitone Member

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    Handheld tesla coils.
     
  8. Lupinus

    Lupinus Member

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    We could make a fortune if we collectivly started making tin foil hat's.
     
  9. GunGoBoom

    GunGoBoom member

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  10. Alex45ACP

    Alex45ACP Member

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  11. Radagast
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    Radagast Moderator Staff Member

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    The Australian government has a request for proposal out for a system to use RFID to track all firearms entering the country.

    Ken
     
  12. cuchulainn

    cuchulainn Member

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    Passive RFID tags (no power source) have a range of about 18 feet. Active RFID tags (power source) have a range of about 300 feet, but cost about $200 to $300 apiece. Thus, to track people/items with RFID you'd need scanners about every 15 feet or every 250 feet, depending on which kind you used.

    Either way, that's just not economically practical.

    I suppose that if RFIDs were embedded into new guns that certain places could set scanners at their doors in an attempt to stop CCWs from coming in. But that’s also not very practical – how do you tell the gun RFIDs from the other RFIDs, and what about the older guns that don’t have them?

    We’ve got bigger worries, both in terms of privacy and guns.
     
  13. Waitone

    Waitone Member

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    Current technology push is generated by continued advances in the technology, edicts from DoD, and WalMart. Both DoD and Walmart are writing contracts around having RFID capability available at some point in the future and shifting operations to it once available. DoDWalmart wants to be able to identify the contents of a mixed pallet without having to disassemble.

    Technology has reduced the size of the endpoint device down to smaller than a grain of rice. I've seen devices the size of a ballpoint pen dot. Unless you were looking for it you would never see it. The general concept of usage is to make the device part of package labelling. Hence there is more than just passing working being done on manufacturing the device and on developing ways to afix it on package labels. Device production is producing yields of 5-to 10% on a consistent basis. Static electricity is the big killer. Label mounting is just as problematic contributing to device failure. Over all, industry is still in early stages of commercialization. Considerable resources are being expended to get yields up. Basic technology is pretty much fixed.

    Huge amounts of capital are being invested by some of the most recognized companies around in an effort to develop a consistent and robust technology. What I describe is not pie-in-the-sky. There are real economic drivers for what is happening. Are the drivers consistent with human freedom and liberty? Nope.
     
  14. cuchulainn

    cuchulainn Member

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    Yes, and the Post Office also is a major player in developing RFID -- for sorting mail trays in mail processing centers.

    But regardless of how small the devices become, that doesn't change how far they work -- 18 feet for the cheap RFID tags, 300 feet for the expensive ones. With such short ranges, they don't have much use beyond specific, contained areas -- military buildings, stores, warehouses, factories, mail processing centers, etc.

    Unless the ranges are expanded, I don't think we have much to worry about Big Brother wise.

    By the way -- as to RFID for tracking guns -- we'd be much more successful in making the impractical argument than in making the privacy argument. Not that the privacy argument isn't valid, but the impractical argument is much better in this case.
     
  15. rick_reno

    rick_reno member

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    I wouldn't worry about this technology infringing on freedoms. I'm sure it'll be used to make us safer in our ongoing "War on Terror" - No, strike that - our "Struggle against global extremism".
     
  16. Beren

    Beren Moderator Emeritus

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    Now I finally have a use for a microwave oven. :evil:
     
  17. Crosshair

    Crosshair Member

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    I work retail and I WANT these things on the boxes of product we sell. I hate going into the back room and trying to find one little thing and having no idea where to look. As for nuking these little buggers, I SHOULD have built that microwave gun.
     
  18. Bacchus

    Bacchus Member

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    But regardless of how small the devices become, that doesn't change how far they work -- 18 feet for the cheap RFID tags, 300 feet for the expensive ones. With such short ranges, they don't have much use beyond specific, contained areas -- military buildings, stores, warehouses, factories, mail processing centers, etc.

    Unless the ranges are expanded, I don't think we have much to worry about Big Brother wise.

    What makes you think that the ranges won't be expanded? It's about incrementalism--once the use of the tags are accepted, new "improved" technologies are developed, which increases the range/use of the tags...if we want to stop this, action is needed now, not after it's been developed.
     
  19. cuchulainn

    cuchulainn Member

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    Once again, the technology simply doesn't lend itself to Big Brother stuff. Big Brother would need scanners every ~15 feet for the cheap RFID tags and every ~250 feet for the expensive tags, and that's simply not economically practical.

    We've got lots to worry about on guns and on privacy. This isn't one of them, unless there are some major changes to the technology to give the tags better range.
     
  20. cuchulainn

    cuchulainn Member

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    Well, I never said the ranges won’t be expanded -- that's why I've said a couple of times, "unless they are expanded."

    However, given that the technology push is focused on size and durability rather than ranges measured in anything beyond feet/meters, I don't see the ranges expanding anytime soon.

    Also note that the tags with big ranges ("big" = 300 feet) require their own power sources. However, the tags we're talking about -- on guns and ammo -- are passive devices (no power source). That fact makes expanding range even less likely.

    So is a technological leap that allows long-distance, passive RFIDs possible? Yes. Is it likely sometime soon? No.
     
  21. TallPine

    TallPine Member

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    No, just need them at strategic points, such as doorways of stores, office buildings, etc.
     
  22. Derek Zeanah

    Derek Zeanah System Administrator Staff Member

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    Maybe. Or they could decide they're OK with every freeway onramp and offramp, and will include the technology in streetlights (provided all new cars are mandated to come with them -- much cheaper than something like OBD). Maybe contracts with (or mandates to) WalMart to provide the data from their own sensors to tie in with purchase data from banks. Add in a few parking garages, subway entrances, and the rest in the name of "Homeland Security" and most people are tracked, every day, without any real notice.

    If you want to get really paranoid: new dollar bills are issued that include RFID technology to imbed serial numbers in the interest of reducing counterfeit -- now even if you pay with cash the ATM will keep track of your bills for you, so that source of anonymity goes away.

    Mix that with cell-phone GPS data (know anyone without a cell phone?) and you've got a situation where 5-10 years from now most people's whereabouts and purchasing habits are known. Always.

    And that's scary.
     
  23. Waitone

    Waitone Member

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    We here on liberty oriented fora consider government as the source of danger to our liberties. RFID threats seem to be interpreted with that in mind. I maintain the biggest threat is not from government but from private companies acting with permission of the government. Will RFID track you out on the street? Not for the foreseeable future. Will WalMart track you in its store as you shop? In a Noo Yark minute. Maybe the distance is 20' or so. Plenty of distance for a shopping isle. Walking down the isle the company would be able to tell what brand of underwear you have on (boxers or briefs is no longer a question). What kind of shoes you have on. What kind of cell phone you use. Who provides cell service. Do you use electric razors or blades? What kind of blades. Ad nauseum.

    Government for now will not be able to use a tracker to point a camera at you. Marketers will be able to strip you naked with respect to the information they can extract. Now, put on your tinfoil hat. Combine what marketers want and will do with the actions of our good buds in government in computerizing medical records. Now the potential for mischief expands geometrically.

    My advice is not to dismiss the danger of RFID simply because the technology is limited by range. The real danger to personal liberty comes from corporations, not government. . . . . . for now.
     
  24. cuchulainn

    cuchulainn Member

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    Well, that leaves tons of holes in the system if you're using it for tracking people/things (although it's feasible for "building security" purposes as I noted above, but still rather limited).

    In any event, tracking would require networked scanners, and even if Big Brother is willing to live with gaps in the tracking and opt for "strategic locations only," the network still would be a big deal economically.

    As some point, even if our worst fears about the government's Big Brother intentions are true, economics takes over.
     
  25. cuchulainn

    cuchulainn Member

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    My advice is to understand RFID's limitations so we can understand what its real dangers are (if any). The thought process of some -- RFID-->tracking-->Big Brother-->Ack! -- is not based on current fact.

    Are advances possible? Yes. But let's deal with the facts, not our fears.

    How often do we criticize gun-grabbers for being irrationally fearful, even throwing around words like "hoplophobic." Are we being any different when we engage in slippery-slope fears about RFID?
    Think of the networking required to allow tracking that way -- even if limited to highway ramps and Wal-Marts. Do you really think that's practical?
     
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