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Labelling RFID Products 325

Posted by michael
from the bright-ideas dept.
John3 writes "Following Wal-Mart's recent announcement that they plan to push RFID in their stores, CASPIAN (Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering) has posted proposed legislation that would require a product to be labeled if it contained an RFID tag. Beyond the label requirement, the proposed legislation also sets up some strict restrictions on the use of RFID data. Even though RFID is not in widespread use, it's probably best to start working on these types of protections before the products are on the shelves."
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Labelling RFID Products

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  • by mr.henry (618818) * on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @04:53PM (#6288876) Journal
    Katherine Albrecht of CASPIAN also has another very informative site [stoprfid.org] on RFID. It's pretty scary stuff. Also, check out her appearance last week on Rense. Link to streaming MP3. [66.36.240.52]
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @05:42PM (#6289263)
      You know, this is actually a good idea to combat the problem before it begins.

      Think about it, if nothing is done to restrict the use of RFID information, corporations/government will become happy with their presence. If you try to take these RFID data that is collected away from them, they will use their money to lobby against it.

      Why do we have to use our social security numbers for everything these days? They were only invented for tax purposes, but because this is a juicy bit of information corperations want, they have lobbied, and won, the rights to ask for this info for say, signing up for your cell phone.

      Moral is, if you don't get $100 you will not miss it as much as you will when someone takes it back after giving it to you. The same thing will happen with RFID tags and the information databases that will be associated with them.

      Once companies have this data and ways to track it, they will NEVER want to give it back. And little guys usually have trouble fighting the big guys with even bigger wallets.
      • What's the problem? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by homer_ca (144738) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @06:51PM (#6289862)
        I'm as concerned about privacy as the next /.er, but count me in on the "what's the big deal?" side. These tags are meant for inventory control up to the point of retail sale. They'll most likely be attached to the packaging which gets thrown away, not the product itself. If you walked through a mall in clothes full of active RFID tags, you'd be setting off all kinds of inventory scanners, cash register scanners, shoplifting sensors, etc. Assuming they didn't zap the tags at the cash register when you paid, there would be some small privacy leak between the time you bought the stuff and threw away the packaging at home if someone wanted to stalk you at short range with an RFID scanner to see what you bought. Someone could also theoretically dumpster dive through your garbage without getting their hands dirty if they wanted to find out your shopping habits.
        • by Mikeytsi (186271) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @07:52PM (#6290273) Journal
          "Meant for" and "used for" are not necessarily the same thing. As another poster stated, SS numbers were not originally intended to be your ID number, they were intended specifically for government benefits.

          And the numbers are unique. Unique means that there isn't another article that has the same ID. This means that they DON'T have to be destroyed at point of sale, as the scanners will check to see if the item you're trying to carry in or out is in the database, and if so, if it has been listed as sold or not. Something you buy at another store won't be listed as inventory.

          The other problem is that the RFID's can be sewn in to clothing, or become part of the packaging, (like a cereal box), which means it's very difficult to dispose of.

          I'll repeat my above comment, watch "Minority Report" if you want an idea as to why this RFID thing could be a bad idea.

        • by stomv (80392)
          They'll most likely be attached to the packaging which gets thrown away, not the product itself.

          Really? I work weekends at The Home Depot for some extra cash and a chance to play with "toys" I like. HD is working with its vendors to get the sensormatic tags (the white alarm tags) manufactured inside the merchandise, not on the packaging.

          Why? So when you take the paper packaging off of a measuring tape and put it on your beltloop, the alarm still goes off when you try to leave the store with your sto
      • by Ironica (124657) <pixel AT boondock DOT org> on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @11:01PM (#6291416) Journal
        Why do we have to use our social security numbers for everything these days? They were only invented for tax purposes, but because this is a juicy bit of information corperations want, they have lobbied, and won, the rights to ask for this info for say, signing up for your cell phone.

        They have the right to ask. They also have the right to ask your underwear size. But, while they might deny you service if you refuse to tell them your underwear size, you have no obligation to give them your social security number. The legal protections have gotten more stringent in the last few years; last summer while I was temping the word came down that our time cards, which we were supposed to fill in our SSN on, should no longer bear that information. The reason was because most people faxed them in, and a new law dictated that an entity that requires SSNs for tax or benefit purposes has an obligation to ensure that NO ONE who does not need the information has access to it... not even *within the company*.

        The only people you ever *have* to give your SSN to are the IRS and the Social Security Administration (and, if you insist on driving, sometimes the DMV... they've gotten more picky in recent years about confirming your identity).
    • The majority of the RFID tags in use are the read only type that repsond with an identification number. This number is useless without a database to cross reference the number to some item, person, whatever. If anything should be feared it is the database not the tag. There are many other methods of tracking besides RFID, i.e. finger prints, retinal scans, your face! Any of these distinct features can also be cross referenced to a database. So attacking some simple technology like RFID tags is pretty stup
  • My god... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by xtermz (234073) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @04:53PM (#6288882) Homepage Journal
    ...maybe I don't get it, but how are RFID tags a violation of your privacy. They have an effective range of a few feet. They are the next logical evolution up from barcodes. Are we that paranoid and afraid of technology? Somebody please enlighten me...
    • barcodes? (Score:5, Funny)

      by SweetAndSourJesus (555410) <JesusAndTheRobot AT yahoo DOT com> on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @04:57PM (#6288910)
      We're terrified of barcodes [av1611.org].

      Where have you been, man?
    • Re:My god... (Score:5, Informative)

      by jericho4.0 (565125) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @05:00PM (#6288941)
      There are a few differences between UPC's and RFID's that make them a subject of concern. One is that you might not be aware when the RFID tag is being read. Another is that an RFID is unique, it doesn't just identify a brand, it identifies an instance of that brand. Another is that some RFID tags can be written to. I think that the benifits of RFID far outweigh the privacy risks, but I think it's a good idea to get some guidelines in place on what uses are acceptable.
      • There certainly are benefits... However, none of the drawbacks you name are essential to the functioning of an RFID tag... They most certainly don't need to be writable, and while there are some benefits to unique IDs, in my opinion they are not so great as to outweight the risks to privacy. Why not simply port the UPC system from bar codes to radio?
        • Writable RFID tags could be interesting. There could be a competition for creative re-writing what items you have apparently bought - or trying to take back a shirt which is relabelled as a six pack of albino tigers. (Okay, so the store probably reads a serial number not a text description, but its a nice thought!)

          I also recall that one of the pros for this technology was that your fridge or garbage bin could read the tags and know if you ran out of an item - dosn't sound like they'll be disabled on leavi

    • RFID tags in cash (Score:3, Insightful)

      by GGardner (97375)
      The privacy folks worry mostly about RFID tags in cash.
    • Re:My god... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by John3 (85454) <{john3} {at} {cornells.com}> on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @05:03PM (#6288967) Homepage Journal
      Watch Minority Report for an example of what can happen if RFID tags are used by stores to market based on your personal buying habits or the items you are wearing. Tom Hanks walks into a store after getting an eye transplant, and the kiosk at the entrance scans his iris and asks if he enjoyed the pants he purchased on his last visit.

      Imagine if an RFID kiosk at the entrance identified that you were wearing stain blocker Dockers and announced "I see you are wearing stain blocker pants...we stock a complete selection in your size, and today they are on sale".

      • Tom Cruise.
      • Re:My god... (Score:4, Informative)

        by JediTrainer (314273) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @05:09PM (#6289019)
        Watch Minority Report for an example of what can happen if RFID tags are used by stores to market based on your personal buying habits or the items you are wearing. Tom Hanks walks into a store after getting an eye transplant, and the kiosk at the entrance scans his iris and asks if he enjoyed the pants he purchased on his last visit.

        Dude, I think it was Tom Cruise. But good point. It's still scary.
      • by mikeophile (647318) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @05:11PM (#6289036)
        I know how you feel. I would much rather have seen Minority Report with Tom Hanks instead of Tom Cruise.

        For that matter, I think Meg Ryan would have been great as that psychic chick in the milk jacuzzi.

      • by dameron (307970) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @05:14PM (#6289065) Homepage
        Tom Hanks walks into a store after getting an eye transplant


        Is that the same Tom Hanks that dumped that delicious Nicole Kidman? If so, screw him, he needs nother eye transplant or his money back! She's a fox. Oh well, what can you do, he's been a jerk ever since Welcome Back Kotter got canned.

        And don't get me started on Battlefield Earth. He wouldn't be squat without Tarantino pulling his career back from the pits of disco hell.

        Tom Hanks, what a lamer.

        -dameron

      • Imagine if an RFID kiosk at the entrance identified that you were wearing stain blocker Dockers and announced "I see you are wearing stain blocker pants...we stock a complete selection in your size, and today they are on sale".

        Oh my god! You mean they would make my shopping faster, more convenient, AND possibly save me money???!!!

        The HORROR!
    • Re:My god... (Score:5, Informative)

      by StefanJ (88986) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @05:04PM (#6288984) Homepage Journal
      If you purchase an RFID-tagged item using a credit or debit card, your name, credit history, and possibly other demographic data can be associated with it.

      Walk into a store wearing a tagged garment, and your presence could be noted. Prices could magically change as you approach a shelf. Security could get alerted based on your pauper status.

      This is a far from perfect association, of course. You could be buying a garment as a gift, or for a child. Of course, if a person wearing a tagged garment makes a purchase, and the association doesn't match, the information could be updated.

      • Re:My god... (Score:3, Insightful)

        by rjstanford (69735)
        Do you normally leave the barcoded tags on your clothing? Unless you follow the international conspiracy sites, most (all, probably) RFIDs will be easily removed in the same way by cutting off the labels. Its not like they're gorgeous. And yes, you can make washable circuitry, but why? The business of clothing manufacture operates on razor thin margins as it is...

        -Richard
        • You are assuming the RFID tags would be embedded in the normal clothing tags.

          There's no reason why they couldn't be in the buttons or zippers, or woven right into the crotch fabric of your pants.

          Of course, if you are already cutting the crotch out of your pants, that's your business.

          But seriously, if RFID users (e.g. retailers, etc.) start getting fed up because RFIDs are embedded in things that people cut off, they'll just embed them in integral parts of the item. Like the blades of a razor, or the sol
      • by geekoid (135745)
        what happens when you walk in without a tagged garment, when they expect people to have there garments tagged?
        Are you labeled as an 'undesirable'?
        • Re:Worse (Score:2, Funny)

          by Gherald (682277)
          Yes, I am sure the opposite sex will make a point of scanning your clothing for RFIDs before introducing themselves.
      • If you purchase an RFID-tagged item using a credit or debit card, your name, credit history, and possibly other demographic data can be associated with it.

        How is this different from when you purchase a UPC-tagged item using a credit or debit card? Why on Earth would would retailer XYZ give a flying spit that you purchased instance 1234567 of product ABC, as opposed to having simply purchased one of product ABC?
      • Re:My god... (Score:5, Informative)

        by Michael Spencer Jr. (39538) * <spam@mLISPspencer.net minus language> on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @07:19PM (#6290041) Homepage
        When you swipe a credit or debit card, the merchant can read your name, card number, expiration date, and some card verification information. They are already *forbidden* from storing the card verification information after they use it to process the sale. When a merchant signs a contract that enables them to accept payment via credit card, some clauses in that contract allow their processor (acquirer) to charge them fees or fines, especially if the acquirer is charged fees or fines by Visa or Mastercard. That means -- Visa and Mastercard have the power to fine merchants for behaving badly. They can also revoke a merchant's ability to accept those kinds of credit cards.

        Merchants are allowed to store the customer name, card number, and expiration date from the magnetic stripe.

        What does a customer name, card number, and expiration date get you? (besides 'paid for your transaction') Assuming the name isn't already unique...

        Sales can happen in one of two major "processing environments": card-present (where the merchant swipes the card, and proves to the issuing bank that the card really was there, by demonstrating knowledge of some of that secret card-verification information on the card), and card-not-present (where the card number is sent via mail/phone/fax/internet).

        In card-present sales, the merchant only has the card number and name. If companies (like Radio Shack perhaps) insist on having a name and address on file for each customer, they could run into problems: if a customer finds that such-and-such company is refusing to accept Visa/Mastercard CARD-PRESENT sales when the customer refuses to provide a name and address, the customer can complain to their issuing bank or to Visa or Mastercard directly. Those payment-transfer-organizations might conduct their own investigation (plain-clothes customers), and if the merchant is found to be refusing to accept Visa/MC card-present sales without address information, they can be stiffly fined or have their processing priviledges revoked.

        In card-not-present sales, the threat model you discussed is reasonable. Best-practices say the merchant should perform an address-verification check, confirming that the address the customer provides matches the billing address the issuing bank mails statements to. If the customer claims they are shipping the goods to another address, the merchant should require the customer to contact their bank and have the bank "whitelist" the new shipping address, because the bank can then confirm all the personal information the merchant isn't allowed to have.

        So I guess a merchant in California could be paid off by some marketing company, and could ship RFID-enabled goods to a customer in New York, and report the RFID information so it's trackable.

        You could NOT, however, reasonbly expect that by just swiping your credit card in Wal Mart, Wal Mart suddenly has all your personal information. They could, possibly, associate different products with the same customer, but they wouldn't know anything other than the card number and name.

        ----------

        In general, keep this in mind: the Visa and Mastercard corporations are profitable. They are 'payment transfer organizations' and want to maximize the amount of money that travels through their system, because they make a *lot* of money off of processing fees charged to merchants. If something happens that makes customers nervous, or makes merchants nervous, they will pass new regulations that try to make that fear go away.

        But of course if there's no widespread customer knowledge of this possible threat, there won't be any significant nervousness to worry about.

        --Michael Spencer
        First National Merchant Solutions
        (a credit card processor or 'acquirer')
        First National Tower, 27th floor
        1620 West Dodge, Omaha Nebraska, 68197
        http://www.foomp.com

        The opinions stated above are my own opinions, and do not reflect the opinions of my employer, First National Merchant Solutions.
    • ...maybe I don't get it, but how are RFID tags a violation of your privacy. They have an effective range of a few feet. They are the next logical evolution up from barcodes. Are we that paranoid and afraid of technology? Somebody please enlighten me...

      Allow me then : with barcodes, one has to purposedly point the barcode to the reader, or the reader to the barcode, or even swipe the barcode with passive readers, to read the barcode. When you've purchased all your articles at the cash registers and all yo
    • Re:My god... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by qorkfiend (550713)
      Yes, we are that paranoid. Americans have an obsession about their own privacy, and will usually cry havoc to the (immensely flawed) legal system when something even remotely looks like it could infringe on that.

      I suppose there is some justification for this - I personally do not trust the US government or most US corporations, and I'm sure I'm not the only one out there. RFID tags could be interpreted as microminiaturized radio collars, by the (vast majority of) Americans who are not too techno-savvy, a
    • Re:My god... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Asetilean (540060) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @05:49PM (#6289314)
      Why is this important?

      The world is beginning to deal with an issue that of which our ancestors would never have dreamt. Technology has progressed to the point where ubiquitous surveillance/monitoring is not just feasible but cost effective. Our ability to keep our lives private is quickly eroding and it is important to wrestle with the issues now before the situation gets out of hand.

      The problem lies in the fact that our privacy is not removed overnight, but gradually, as the technology advances. Often each step is accompanied by only an incremental degredation of privacy which is, in many cases, compensated for by some benefit (think supermarket savings cards). At the level of individual choice, it is easy to rationalize such an incremental step: "Who cares if they can track my supermarket purchases, it's not like I'm an alcoholic (substitue vice here)." Over time, however, the amount of data collected about an individual is astounding. And as companies work together and exchange collected data and begin to correlate it, decisions will be made that may directly affect your ability to get a job, buy a house, be admitted to school, etc. These decisions will be heavily influenced by a karma score spit out by a computer that won't have all the data, just a lot of it (think being charged more for health insurance because you only bought mac & cheese and frozen pizza at the grocery store, never mind the fact that you get all your meat from your ostrich rancher uncle and have a garden where you home grow all sorts of natural goodies. Oh wait - This is slashdot. We're all just eating frozen pizza and mac & cheese.)

      There are a lot of doomsday predictions surrounding this technology. But there is some real benefit to companies that can leverage it for supply chain and inventory issues as well. What we need to realize is that even if it begins with good intentions, there will always be some asshole who wants to exploit it and will never once give any thought to the fact that what he/she is doing is not accepted by consumers as a legitamite use (example: spam companies). This means we need to be cautious now and carefully examine this budding technology and enact thoughtful legislation that can adapt to future needs of corporations without sacrificing every last vestige of consumer privacy on the altar of corporate greed. Because on the level of societal choice the sacrifices are significant. But I should stop dreaming, because when has congress ever enacted insigtful legislation in any technology area?
    • Re:My god... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by silentbozo (542534)
      They have an effective range of a few feet.

      And? Walk into an area where sensors are embedded into the floor, or into all doorways, and you have almost continuous tracking. Where are there RFID scanners embedded into floors or into doorways? Logically that would be in warehouses where they need to keep constant track of items. How much longer before that kind of tech becomes cheap enough to use on the floor of Target or Walmart, in order to reduce shoplifting?

      RFID tags stay live until you disable th
    • Re:My god... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by UnknowingFool (672806) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @05:50PM (#6289326)
      Unlike barcodes which must be scan directly, RFIDs only need to be within a range of an antenna. If RFIDs are intact, they could potentially allow someone to know everything that you have bought and from where.

      While this technology can be helpful in targeting vendors products towards your shopping preferences, it can be abused when too much information is leaked.

      Imagine if all consumer product that you own had an RFID. Clothes, housewares, pharaceutical products, etc. Somebody with a specially equipped van could drive by your house and start scanning and cataloging these things.

      Companies can start tallying your products and assess your financial situation: How much money are you spending? Do you purchase more brand names over generic items? Do you buy more "ethnic" type products? What kind of medications do you buy? Do you have any medical conditions that would cause you to buy those medications?

      If you bought a certain creme to help with a certain embarassing problem like hemorroids, they would know it and be able to share it with others. Would you want people to know that you normally buy the extra, extra small condoms?

      That's just the start.

    • Re:My god... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by JeffSh (71237) <[gro.0m0m] [ta] [todhsalsffej]> on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @05:52PM (#6289348)
      Through all the posts replied so far, I do think this one has been ignored.

      The range is determined by the power output of the READER, not the actual chip itself. The RFID is excited by radio frequency, and starts broadcasting based on an outside power source.

      The range of that power source can be amplified by increasing the power to the reader. Granted, it's not a linear relationship for power -> range, as the range is a function of a square (i think, im not a rf expert) but it still is not necessarily limited to just a few feet.
    • Re:My god... (Score:3, Insightful)

      "maybe I don't get it, but how are RFID tags a violation of your privacy. They have an effective range of a few feet."

      From the article, it's because the tags are unique per instance of an article, not per class of an article.

      So next time you have a party on the beach and leave some beer-cans? Someone will be able to scan the tags, and indentify the person whose credit-card (or numbered banknote from an ATM) bought those cans.

      Kind'a like mobile phones: not invasive enough to cause widespread outrage, jus
    • by zogger (617870)
      --I really don't want to write this but I sorta have to. Please don't take this personal, I just need to rant on this stuff and in general, it's not addressed to you just it fits as a reply here, k? It's IMPORTANT. This is WAY more important than any video game, music track, latest CPU chip, latest cellphone-any of that stuff. That stuff is FUN, it's not IMPORTANT.

      OK, generic rant time

      Range on these tiny chips started out a few millimeters. Then quickly got to a few inches, then a few feet, and some are m
  • by FooGoo (98336) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @04:57PM (#6288904)
    me when I lined my trechcoat with copper screening in highschool!!! Whose laughing now suckers!
  • Two sides (Score:4, Insightful)

    by damu (575189) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @04:57PM (#6288907) Journal
    If there is no rugulation on this technology pretty soon we can see RFID tags that point you out in a mall, and tell the mall owners what shops you've gone to and what you've bought or looked at. So this is logical that these people are trying to limit the technology in its early stages.
    • And how are they going to tell you what items you've looked at? Now that is _really_ pushing it.

      And how would they know what stores you went to?

      And if you are carrying the item with you, they won't need no RIFD tag to see what you've bought. They can just look at your bag. Does it say "Foot Locker"? You've probably bought shoes. That's a trick anyone with eyes can do; you don't need any RFID tags.

      Whooptey-doo.
      • Re:Two sides (Score:2, Insightful)

        by patbob (533364)
        what items you've looked at?

        Your grocery store does this already. Those coupon dispensors in the aisles are not there simply to save you a little money.

        what stores you went to?

        Every store using RFID will undoubtedly have a reader at the entrances and exits. Simple matter for a mall owner to find a buyer for the data and provide each store with mall-owned readers for their entrances and exits. Since the mall owns them, simple matter to ook them all into a central database.

        You've probably bought sh

  • Seems to me (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @04:57PM (#6288912)
    that these RFID tags would be susceptible to a low power EM pulse. A little high school level physics ought to be enough to keep them from being a problem if they bother you that much.
  • has posted proposed legislation that would require a product to be labeled if it contained an RFID tag

    Use RFID tags under the labels to facilitate the tracking of RFID warning labels.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    it right...

    Privacy? You don't have any privacy. Get over it!
  • by NetDanzr (619387) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @05:00PM (#6288945)
    Their proposal seems to be quite well-prepared, albeit a little too general. However, I would really like to see another section under "Privacy", which would require the users of RFIDs to include them in a way that would make them easy to remove. People should have a choice whether to drive with the tags all the way home or remove them on the spot.
  • From the "Act":

    A person shall not manufacture, import, or package for sale or distribution in the United States any cigarettes unless its package bears a label:

    1. stating, at a minimum, that the package contains or bears a radio frequency identification tag, and that the tag can transmit unique identification information to an independent reader both before and after purchase; and
    2. in a conspicuous type-size and prominent location and in print that contrasts with the background against which it ap
  • by burgburgburg (574866) <splisken06NO@SPAMemail.com> on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @05:04PM (#6288979)
    http://www.stoprfid.org/faqs.html [stoprfid.org] says that disconnecting from the antenna and then puncturing/crushing/pulverizing is the suggested kill methodology. They warn that microwaves, though in theory effective, cause the RFID tag to burst into flames, which tends to be a bad thing.

    But earlier and later in the FAQ, they mention tags placed into the soles of shoes. Since this is done during the manufacturing process and would require slicing open the sole to find/destroy the tag (if you even knew where specifically it was), it doesn't seem there is an effective tag killer in this instance (and any other where the tags are deeply embedded).

    So, anybody else know of an effective tag killer that doesn't involve destroying the item and/or setting it on fire?

  • by Fez (468752) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @05:09PM (#6289026)
    If stores want to use them for inventory, why not have them in everything -- but -- once the item is purchased, it is disabled like the security tags (for instance, they swipe it over a pad of some kind.)

    This would negate the privacy concerns and let them reap the benefits of using RFID inventory.
    • I'll just stick everything I buy in the microwave for a few seconds :)

      Is there consumer-available equipment to read and write these things? Aside from the privacy concerns, it would KICK ASS if my shoe could log me into my server...

      Anyways, I'll be lining everything I wear with copper and drag a grounding pole behind me everwhere I go. I'll also carry an ion-ray gun to disable any of those little bastards I come across...
  • by TWX (665546) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @05:11PM (#6289035)
    Remember. RFID isn't perfect. It's operation usually falls under Part 15 of the FCC rules, which is the whole "may not emit interference" and "must accept interference, even if it causes undesirable operation". RFID also uses 900MHz, 2.4GHz, 5GHz, and other public use frequencies, some of which are even also HAM bands. Amateur Radio isn't governed by part 15, so if a ham operator decides to operate on the frequency that RFID transceivers use, and if the HAM radio operator is operating legitimately, it's the RFID tranceiver's owner's problem, not the HAM's. Specific jamming is prohibited by the rules that amateur radio operators follow, but consumer use, nonlincensed devices are secondary users where both licensed and unlicensed spectrum overlap.

    so, what happens when someone is checking out, and the computer fails to record all of the RFID tags because of interference, but the person has legitimately purchased something? When they go to return it, the computer could possibly say that it wasn't purchased, and then the individual is left with more headaches.

    I think that the FCC should require that business-use devices like this be licensed, and each one individually identified in a publicly searchable database. I also believe that reissues of identification should be prohibited. This would work quite strongly to curtail use of RFID for tracking mechanisms.
  • explain this. These tags are 'attached' are they not. Is this not like the the ad labels etc I junk after a purchase ???

    From the hype I am starting to get the impression that somehow the clothing material is impregnated with some uniquely identifable device which will id me whereever I go, which I am pretty sure is not the case.

    This aside, modern forensics are pretty much advanced to the point where pretty accurate is available from the fabric alone so the fuss is over what ????
  • by binaryDigit (557647) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @05:16PM (#6289078)
    This is tooo funny. All these people paranoid about RFID. OK, two categories of folks to worry about with RFID, PITA marketing and the MIB. Whatever about the marketing, just use a seperate unlisted phone# and a po box and you eliminate huge amounts of unsolicted phone calls/junk mail.

    OK, now on to Big Bros. MIB knows that corps want RFID to save bucks (and maybe marketing, see above). Cool, MIB can maybe utilize it too (hey Joe bought a sixpack, how interesting, glad we have all these scanners everywhere). Best thing is, while everyone hoots and hollers about RFID, they fail to notice those "security" cams that can see your face + see what you bought + see the license plate of your car, all of which can be done TODAY, IF anyone really gave a crap that you bought some weiners and diet coke. We won't even talk about the instance when you use your CC. OK, so if Osama buys some slacks from Banana Republic using cash, we'll be able to tell if he tries to hop a Greyhound to Walla Walla because his RFID will set off the scanner. Assuming he's stupid enough to not be aware of the fact that RFID's are EVERYWHERE now, what are the odds that he can either disable, or better yet, make copies and distribute them EVERYWHERE, totally making the system worthless?

    Like others have said, privacy, forget it. All us cell phone toting, internet using, CC charging, electricity using folks aint got no privacy at all. If RFID makes Walmart more efficient so it can hire more people, drop more prices, fatten their wallets, I say more power to'em. We techno elitest getting all scared and up in arms about tech, we have to take the good with the bad, once you open the box, you can't filter what escapes.
    • " Cool, MIB can maybe utilize it too (hey Joe bought a sixpack, how interesting, glad we have all these scanners everywhere)."

      How about, hey this empty can on the side of the road was bought by Joe. Send him a ticket for littering, and put a tag in his file that he probably drinks and drives.

      "Best thing is, while everyone hoots and hollers about RFID, they fail to notice those "security" cams that can see your face + see what you bought + see the license plate of your car, all of which can be done TODAY"
    • Yeah, Except... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Greyfox (87712) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @06:13PM (#6289523) Homepage Journal
      Wal-Mart will use the technology to eliminate all their check-out people. You just walk up to a thing and scan your credit card and it figures out the crap you got. Every corporation's dream is to have 1 employee and still be able to rake in ungodly amounts of cash.
  • Privacy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by athakur999 (44340) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @05:21PM (#6289118) Journal
    I have no problem with RFID tags, as long as they are disabled when you purchase the product (like the tags that are used by many bookstores which are disabled after passing the book over that little pad). Until you actually hand the money over the cashier, it's not your property, it's the store's, and they have the right to keep track of it as they see fit (but not the continue keeping track of it after it's no longer their property).

  • RFID hackers (Score:4, Interesting)

    by gouldtj (21635) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @05:22PM (#6289123) Homepage Journal

    Now that's what I'm interested in. I want to be able to grab the numbers, and then change them. I want to be able to walk into a store and instead of "How did you like those pants?" I want it to say "How did you like those extra-large elephant sized condoms you bought last week?" :)

    There are just so many possibilities to hack these things and have tons of fun with retail stores if they use them for anything useful. Maybe I should start my own organization: The Anti-Datamine (TAD). And we'll go around trying to screw with all the data mining techniques out there.

  • The RFID tags in each and every one of our Cheetos are for quality assurance purposes only. The rumors about their barbed surfaces being intended to lodge in the colon are completely unfounded.
  • While the potential invasion of privacy is fairly scary, the likelyhood of these things turning into massive invasion is small. With active RFID systems, the power output will be tiny if they're going to have a shelf life of more than a few hours, which means range will be short. VERY short. While I can get a fair range with low power on the VHF bands, these things are TINY, with corespondingly tiny antennas and tiny power outputs. With a zillion of them transmitting at once, they will have a useful ran
    • If it ever seems that a project like citywide RFID tracking would be impossible, just stop and think for a minute about how many traffic lights there are in a city. How many post boxes. How many street signs, rubbish bins, hydrants, parking metres and a thousand other thigns built and maintained by various state agencies.

      Setting out enough transponders to ensure that, for example, a given person couldn't move from one block to another without being tracked would be a piece of piss by comparison.

      • While I can't deny the possibility of this being abused, I still find it very unlikely. As you point out, there could be a network of readers strewn across any area. But the fact remains that they would still be range limited and easily blocked.

        If you're curious about range, just think about the typical ranges experienced by Wireless Network users. Your wireless NIC runs miniscule power, but it's still vastly more power than an RFID chip will ever generate. You can make up for a lot with sensitive dire
  • This will be the best thing for grocery self-checkout.
    Have you ever been in line behind Joe "I have no idea where the UPC is" Blow and watch him try to get the scanner to recognize his can of Dinty-Moore stew? It's torture watching him wave the thing 3 feet away from the scanner or swing it back and forth in front of it at 100 mph.
    With this he can drop his carton full of Lean Pockets on the counter, pay, and be gone!
  • Here on the South Sandwich Islands" [cia.gov] we've been using this technology for some time, the results have been remarkable, shop lifting has been totally eliminated, none of our department stores ever run out of stock, and the only drawback seems to be a small localised outbreak of testicular cancer. But most people seem to agree that its benefits far outweigh its drawbacks.
  • $20 RFID Reader (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 4/3PI*R^3 (102276) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @05:31PM (#6289179)
    Wal-Mart doesn't exactly higher the "brightest bulbs in the chandelier" if you know what I mean.

    The good thing is that if RFID tags become omnipresent then so will RFID tag readers. As such an RFID tag reader should be small, simple to use, portable, and dirt cheap.

    In fact the RFID Journal [rfidjournal.com] has a story [rfidjournal.com] about just such a reader being developed.

    I guess I'll be buying one as soon as they come to market.
  • by alizard (107678) <alizard@ecis.cCOBOLom minus language> on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @05:33PM (#6289198) Homepage
    If and only if this bill finds a Congressional sponsor to introduce this. Which is extremely unlikely, but possible, I suppose.

    However, business from WalMart on down will unite to fight any restriction or product labeling requirements.

    Remember, there are people who want a Minority Report style future. There are others who simply see it as a way to make money... there are people who see "You wear adult diapers? We have Depends on sale" as simply an opportunity to make money.

    It is the job of your Congressperson to make sure that his consituents are served. His constituents are the people who send him checks and only those people.

    And if your RFID tag gets missed at checkout, it'll be your word against the store's that it's their fault. Enjoy your stay in jail.

  • build an RFID killer (Score:4, Interesting)

    by puzzled (12525) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @05:42PM (#6289268) Journal


    Those are tiny little radios - find out the frequency they use, rig up $10 worth of Radio Shack parts, hook it up to a 9v battery, and go for a walk in the offending store.

    If you feed them an order of magnitude more energy than they're designed to take in exactly the band they're using .... *POW* ... and they won't catch fire, you'll just toast the chip.

    Yes, you can know the operating frequency without a fancy spectrum analyzer - the data sheets on those things are pretty much public knowledge ... you don't have to hit it dead on, just get close with more juice than they can take and you've done the job.

  • I buy a shirt at Wal-Mart and wear it a week later to my friendly supermarket. Since the RFID tags broadcast, the supermarket counter realizes that the person at the counter has RFID #123456789. Once I swipe my debit card, they can combine my name, debit card, and an RFID. Each time my debit card is swiped at the store, a new RFID may be logged along with it. The next time that I pay with cash, the device at the counter may still be able to track what I buy because it knows that RFID 123456789 is John D
    • I don't want to be able for my local store to be able to identify me based on the shirt I'm wearing.

      How is this any different from your local store being able to identify you by your face if you go in there enough times?

      • It's different because 7-11 doesn't write "2 slurpies and a Ho Ho" next to my name every time I come in, whether they recognize my face or not. It would be too time-consuming. It's often "ease of use" that prompts information-gathering.
    • RFID's do not broadcast. They are passive devices without a power supply. The power is supplied by the reader which excites the chip, providing power for the chip to broadcast.

      NEXT!
  • by release7 (545012) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @06:00PM (#6289412) Homepage Journal
    I'm not knocking the legislation itself, but this bill's political viability is next to zero.

    First, there is perhaps .01% of the population who even know what these RFID devices are, never mind the alleged societal dangers that lurk within them. Very few politicians are going to fight very hard to pass a piece of legislation that has so little public spotlight. Most politicians, especially the powerful ones who can sway votes, are media whores. No one is going to get on a network Sunday morning political program talking about RFID tags.

    Second, the political winds are blowing gale force in the anti-regulation direction. Any piece of legislation that isn't privatizing workers or loosening government oversight is pretty much dead in the water without some kind of immediate crisis (like the recent corporate scandals). The best that could be hoped for is that congressional folks would say, "let's see what the free market does with these devices first and then regulate them if need be."

    Third, Wal-Mart & Co., if there was a miraculous surge in support for this legislation, would easily lobby to defeat the bill or get it placed into committee for further study which would effectively kill the bill. A grassroots campaign would be too disorganized, too broke, and too unsophisticated to ever hope to win such a battle.

    I'm not recommending whoever is sponsoring this bill to give up. I'm a firm believer that even losing battles are important to fight because they do raise awareness and keep alive the chance for change sometime in the future.

  • CASPIAN (Score:2, Informative)

    by Yagdrasil (635158) *
    CASPIAN also has some pretty far out claims when it comes to rfid technology. Among my favorites is this page [nocards.org] which claims These tiny tags, predicted by some to cost less than 1 cent each by 2004, are "somewhere between the size of a grain of sand and a speck of dust." They are to be built directly into food, clothes, drugs, or auto-parts during the manufacturing process. Directly into food!?!? Seriously folks, I work for a major food manufacturer and we would never dream of putting these things directly
  • I think the major problem here we're all missing because of the huge uproar over privacy, are the tons and tons of potential lost jobs to this technology.

    There are entire segments of the lower class and college students that populate the ranks of cashiers and warehouse workers, and the list goes on.

    Im a firm believer in laissez faire, and this could lead to a day when not everyone *HAS* to be employed full time busting ass and instead can concentrate on school, or whatever... but i believe the much more l
  • I love lobbies like these. I'm going to lobby to get products clearly labeled that have a barcode stuck to them. I think that's important, you know. You just can't forgot about the thousands of people a day who purchase things not understand the purpose of a barcode.

    Ok, so I'm confused. Why is this important? Why does it matter if a retailer has a little RFID tag instead of a big, ugly looking barcode? Transactions still take place as usual, don't they? I give the merchant money, they give me produ

  • The possibility of these things being put into pieces of currency (as described here [boycottbenetton.org]) is probably even more worrisome than them being put into consumer products. No more anonymity in cash transactions. (By the way, would they interference with wireless devices, cordless phones, etc? I don't want to have to change into an old shirt to use the phone!)
  • by zerofoo (262795) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @08:54PM (#6290694)
    I can see this going down in walmart's stock room:

    1. Take individual products out of main container.
    2. Replace products with bricks and RFID tags.
    3. Place main container in inventory.
    4. PROFIT!

    Seriously, if they are going to do inventory without actually opening boxes and COUNTING individual pieces then they are going to have alot of shrink and no one will know about it until the main carton is cracked open to stock the shelves.

    -ted

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