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RFID Explained 305

Posted by michael
from the ping-pong dept.
SecurityFocus has a nice column summarizing the last year's worth of stories about RFID. Of course, you, diligent Slashdot reader, have read about many of these already. But for your slacker friends that need an RFID education in one easy-to-digest article, here you go.
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RFID Explained

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 27, 2003 @12:36PM (#6312179)
    and the only way to defend ourselves is with an electromagnetic pulse, our only defense against sentinel tags.
  • by Meat Blaster (578650) on Friday June 27, 2003 @12:37PM (#6312190)
    I guess I don't see why we aren't using it already. This could drop inventory costs to a quarter of what they were before -- no more all-nighters trying to discover what's in stock and what isn't.

    Isn't Wal-Mart adopting it?

    • This could drop inventory costs to a quarter of what they were before -- no more all-nighters trying to discover what's in stock and what isn't.

      I'm betting that manual inventories would still be required periodically. It might only happen once a year instead of every quarter, but there would still have to be some proof for the accountants. This would be especially true in the first few years of the system, when the bugs are still being worked out.
    • Here's a quote from the article, which, to me, indicates why we should all be against ubiquitous RFIDs:

      Right now, you can buy a hammer, a pair of jeans, or a razor blade with anonymity. With RFID tags, that may be a thing of the past. Some manufacturers are planning to tag just the packaging, but others will also tag their products. There is

      no law requiring a label [stoprfid.org] indicating that an RFID chip is in a product. Once you buy your RFID-tagged jeans at The Gap with RFID-tagged money, walk out of the stor

      • This is just completely irrational: Right now, you can buy a hammer, a pair of jeans, or a razor blade with anonymity.

        Umm...not unless you buy with cash

        Once you buy your RFID-tagged jeans at The Gap with RFID-tagged money, walk out of the store wearing RFID-tagged shoes, and get into your car with its RFID-tagged tires, you could be tracked anywhere you travel. Bar codes are usually scanned at the store, but not after purchase. But RFID transponders are, in many cases, forever part of the product, and
        • Personally i have found that companies hire others to snoop in other stores to see what advantage a competitor has so yes i can picture them standing outside a competitors store analyzing the shoppers bags as they exit.My answer and response to this is to encourage all of my older friends to stand in line and insist on the removal of the tags before leaving the store cause older people seem to appreciate privacy and technology isnt as important to them.Can you imagine the employees having to explain these a
          • "so yes i can picture them standing outside a competitors store analyzing the shoppers bags as they exit"

            This is exactly why the store would remove them in the first place. Would you really want to use a security device on your wares if that very device could be used by your competition against you?
        • Um... The RFID devices are already being built into the products, not into the tags, but into the products themselves. Also, microwaving an RFID tag embedded in an article of clothing is a fire hazzard. Oh, and what do you do when the embedded RFID device is built into something that would be destroyed by microwaves, say an MP3 player?

          Granted, RFID tagged items would be a boon to inventory systems. But it does create an potentially undesirable electronic trail (manufacturer->vendor->credit/debit c
        • If a tag costs 5 cents and is 1/3 millimeter across, removing it from the product and inserting it into another product is going to cost a lot more than 5 cents (if a $6/hour worker requires 30 seconds to remove the tag and put it in another product, that's a nickel right there).

        • by elwinc (663074)
          My original message was modded down for being redundant, but most of your objections could have been answered by reading the original article. [securityfocus.com] There's a simple solution: the tags will be removed from the products you buy at the store, much like current devices are.
          If you read the article you'd see be aware that Michelin, for example, plans to embed tags in every tire, and to associate the tags with your VIN. As the article says: "Do you really want your car's tires broadcasting your every move?" Ag
      • Right now, you can buy a hammer, a pair of jeans, or a razor blade with anonymity. With RFID tags, that may be a thing of the past. Some manufacturers are planning to tag just the packaging, but others will also tag their products.

        So pay cash, and there's no name associated with the purchase, and thus the RFIDs.
        • Except the tags could be in the cash.

          Europe is already considering this.

          Oh, and to the guy suggesting that stores will remove the tags, umm, no, they will be in the closthing and products, not on it.

      • While the arguments against abuse of the technology are obvious, the benefits to the consumer are not so obvious.

        Have you ever gone to BestBuy and purchased a new piece of software, opened it at home and realized that you just bought a box with a manual and nothing else? Good luck explaining to the manager that someone must have opened the box and taken the jewel case before you purchased it. With RFID you would be protected from this situation by checking the contents of the box automatically at the re
        • by Phwoar (586006)
          Wouldn't it bother you knowing that when you walk down the street, anybody walking near you could know how much money you had in your pockets, how many credit cards and which companies they are with, what make of mobile phone you have, what underwear you have on, what personal cd player you are carrying, what type of laptop you have in your case, whether you have a PDA in your bag??

          Or that somebody could come upto your home, maybe scan your burglar alarm to find out what type it is and check up on the 'ne
          • by MatthewB79 (47875) on Friday June 27, 2003 @02:34PM (#6313328)
            I'm not trying to discount the dangers of abuse of RFID. Anyone who values privacy and security should be aware of the potential dangers. If some guy on the bus decides he going to snatch my CD player, it's not as if having an RFID tag in it was going to be a huge factor in tempting him.
            somebody could come upto your home, maybe scan your burglar alarm to find out what type it is and check up on the 'net to see if it can be easily disabled? Somebody could scan through your window (or wall?) and see what type of computer, tv, vcr, dvd player you have? see what type of clothes you have in your cupboards? what dvds/cds in your collections?
            This is interesting to me because I thought about this myself. The sticker on my window tells a burglar exactly what security system I use and who administers it.
            Additionally, it has been said many times that the range of the RFID transmitter unit is not more than 3-5 feet. It's not like the drug-addict burglars are going to be picky and choosy over what model and brand name DVD player I have. "Oh wow, my RFID scan-o-matic says this guys got a brand new Mac G5, we better stop here and pick this thing up before we head to the next place!" Why can't my home security system be programmed with the contents of my living room and automatically set off an alarm if any of those tags leave the premises? We might see a shift in the way we look at home security. Instead of just trying to keep people out, there can be ways of keep our valuables in.
  • by conner_bw (120497) on Friday June 27, 2003 @12:37PM (#6312193) Homepage Journal
    Thank god, for a while there it looked bad, but now that Walmart can profile all my purchasing power and sell that information to other marketers, the world is coming together for the best.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 27, 2003 @12:38PM (#6312205)
    But for your slacker friends that need an RFID education in one easy-to-digest article, here you go.

    Oh, you mean the slacker friend who didn't spend his Friday afternoons reading frivilous websites, who managed to get that promotion instead of me. I'll forward him the link.
  • But for your slacker friends that need an RFID education in one easy-to-digest article, here you go

    Most of my slacker friends need an education period.
  • by nhaze (684461) on Friday June 27, 2003 @12:38PM (#6312211)
    Anyone who has used an RFID-based security pass card knows that they are easily shielded. Placing your RFID-secured product in an discreetly shielded bag would render the product nonexistant from RFID-probing security. I hope store that use it to augment theft security don't get lazy and think its unbeatable.
    • by MosesJones (55544) on Friday June 27, 2003 @12:52PM (#6312335) Homepage
      True.. but if using smart shelves the store will know that the item has been removed from the shelf and now is no-longer in range of a scanner... this should cause an alert as that is not normal behaviour.

      Most theft is internal so identifying patterns of behaviour could be an effective way of decreasing theft.

      The RF elements are the hardest part of this as the power levels are so low, in the US its 4 watts max for the READER, and in Europe its .5 watts. When you consider that the passive tags use the power that the reader puts out you can imagine how sensitive to interference these things are.

      • True.. but if using smart shelves the store will know that the item has been removed from the shelf and now is no-longer in range of a scanner... this should cause an alert as that is not normal behaviour.

        Based on the research of the RFID org that is fighting this (and I can't find the link now but I got if from a recent RFID posting on /.) The range of RFID tags can be up to 40 feet.

        Technology always get's better and more efficient, not the otherway around, so I am going to safely assume that presentl

        • Active v Passive... (Score:3, Informative)

          by MosesJones (55544)

          Active tags have a long range, Passive tags have a short range. Its Legislation that limits readers to 4watts in the US and 0.5 in Europe, not to mention other elements that make UHF RF-ID not feasible in Europe (channel hoping can't be done).

          The tags that Walmart will use will be passive as they cost alot less.
        • Based on the research of the RFID org that is fighting this (and I can't find the link now but I got if from a recent RFID posting on /.) The range of RFID tags can be up to 40 feet.

          This strongly depends on the tag type. Even passive tags can have a range of 75 or so yards depending on the design of the tag (RF backscatter tags have an incredible range for a passive device...), frequency used, and the sensitivity and noise rejection characteristics of the reader's RF subsystems. Most of the tollway

    • shoes, pants, tires, body in shields whenever I leave my house? After the doctors spent all that time convincing me to take off the tin foil suit, you're telling me to put it back on?
    • So those bags that ram and computer chips come in have a secondary use?

      Another issue with RFIDs on the privacy department is range- SURE, my tired may be broadcasting their Id's, but if I'm in the countryside, what good does that do me? A satellite can't pick me up, so if I break down, neither can AAA (or insert Euro equivalent).
    • That's why I drive with tin foil around my Michelin RFID tagged tires. I go through a lot of tin foil...
  • uh oh... (Score:2, Funny)

    by Afbc0m (623144)
    *watches walmart become target of infinate number of home made EMP devices

    On the other hand, this will prevent people from theft, and quite possibly lower costs, or raise stock value, either way, someone benifets
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 27, 2003 @12:44PM (#6312264)
    "Of course, you, diligent Slashdot reader, have read about many of these already"

    Read? No. Commented about? Yes!
  • Concerns (Score:2, Interesting)

    by cybermint (255744) *
    While these chips sound very interesting at first, there are obvious privacy concerns. I'm not very comfortable knowing that someone with a portable transceiver could tell exactly how much cash I have in my wallet or what items I just purchased at the store. Criminals could also use this to determine what expensive items were hidden under the back seat of your car before they decide to break your window. The possibility of having RFIDs in my shoes is quite disturbing. I don't want to be tracked everywhere I
    • Re:Concerns (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Grax (529699)
      If you microwave your money and blow out the rfid tags will it still be legal tender?
    • by jimkski (304659) on Friday June 27, 2003 @12:55PM (#6312381)
      I think one of the responders (Stefan Sokolowski) to the article did a good job of shedding a little more light on some of these concerns:

      As a real security professional (i.e. one that does not go around screaming that the sky is falling) and as someone who has worked with RFID for the military and for civilian uses (mainly Post Offices) for over six years, I find your article makes a number of glaring omissions that would allow any sensible human being to make a rational judgement about this technology.

      Omissions:

      1) Range verses size. Very basic issue. The smaller it is, the closer you have to be to it to pick up the signal. For a small passive tag we are talking inches (3-4 feet max). In order to track something from 200 yards (maximum range currently in use), you need an active tag (i.e. with a battery) and it has to be the size of a beer mat. I think you would notice it in your jeans. The signal generator in this case is also a non-trivial device. It is the size on a lamp-post and weights in excuss of 30Kg. Hardly PDA attachment material.

      2)Storage area on the device is tiny. For the small passive devices you are referring to the storage area is less than 1Kilobyte. Not much space for your medical records here.

      3)The logic associated with the tyre scenario. The association of the vehicle number and the tyre would not be stored on the tag. There is no space, and Read/Write tags are much more expensive (and larger). Easy to overwrite also. So for your big brother is watching scenario, you would need to replace every lamp-post on every highway with a signal generator, have assess to the database that cross-references your vehicle ID with the tag ids, and be able to monitor all of the signal generators in real-time to see what was happening.

      And all this just to find out where you are. Are you really that important? I think ringing your mobile would be easier.

      There is also a problem with reading many tags at once. The current limit is around 200 tags per second for the best sensor. The tag will respond and continue to respond at regular intervals (sub-second usually but dependant on set-up). Because they are all talking at once on the same frequency, the sensor cannot distinguish and ignore tags in real-time. It may recieve many responses from the same tag, and there is no way to tell the tag to shut up. So imagine the situation across a busy highway.

      • This is the kind of information people need to read, to counter all the paranoid babbling, by people who are only reading negative articles about this stuff and don't really know how it works.
      • I'll take your word for all of this - it sounds plausible.

        But each of your points apply to today's technology.

        Moore's law tells us range will increase, size and cost will decrease, storage will increase, etc. etc.

        So the sky isn't falling today - but tomorrow - that's another story.

  • by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Friday June 27, 2003 @12:45PM (#6312273)
    The same thing is happening today. I'm here to tell you that the bar code's days are numbered.

    When DigitalConvergence [digitalconvergence.com] 's CEO and entrepreneur extraordinaire J. Jovan Philyaw [digitalconvergence.com] hears about this, he'll start making free RFID scanners (CueDogs?) before you know it.
  • Mark of the beast? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cleancut (16625) * on Friday June 27, 2003 @12:46PM (#6312284) Homepage
    Yes...this always comes up anytime some story regarding chips underneath skin. But it doesn't sound too difficult to slip a RFID tag underneath a hand or forehead.

    Sounds an awful lot like this. [biblegateway.com]
    • I'm all for an embedded RFID, as long as I don't have to worship someone to get it (you need to include verse 15, too):
      • 14 Because of the signs he was given power to do on behalf of the first beast, he deceived the inhabitants of the earth. He ordered them to set up an image in honor of the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived.

      • 15 He was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that it could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed.
        16 He also forced
  • by Anonymous Coward
    These RF tags are perfect for tagging clothes, as the blurb pointed out. But an even more sinister use than tagging clothes is tagging the people who wear the clothes. And I'm especially referring to a certain kind of person:

    Slavery is alive and well in this country, and I'm not referring merely to rhetorical or political slavery, but actual slavery. Women from foreign countries, particularly southeast-Asian countries are flown to America and promised low-paying but normal jobs performing menial labor or h
    • The exact same post get's made to every RFID story, and it's completely paranoid rambling that is far more expensive and complex to actually get to work than simply kidnapping these people when they show up at their supposed place of employment.
    • Okay. You got your super-sensitive RFID receiver. Picking out one tag. At an airport. Keep in mind you can't even wait by the jetway anymore, you wait by the terminal exit. Which I guess will have ... a few tags wandering about?

      Might just be easier to make the clothes distinctive, ya think? Besides, most of them believed the pitch, I'm guessing they walk quite willingly into the hands of their captors.

      How about the slave labor of the prison system?
  • Simple Answer (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rabtech (223758) on Friday June 27, 2003 @12:50PM (#6312321) Homepage
    I think Congress should mandate that any product which contains an RFID tag must be clearly labelled as such, and the store must provide you the option of disabling the tag before leaving the store (perhaps a certain device you walk through or something?)

    Products that have RFID tags only in the packaging could be exempt, since those tags don't stick with the product.
  • Everyone freaks out about RFIDs, but I remain in the camp that these could be really cool, as long as consumers (ok, geeks) figure out how to control them (by burning them out or just finding the darned things and removing them from unwanted places, like the back of a Yugo [1])

    Ever lose your cell phone and have someone call it so you could find it? Imagin being able to do that with any random item? superglue a RFID onto it, and walk around with a semi-portable RFID scanner. OK, not as great due to the limited range of the things, but you could pretty easily determine if the keys were under the couch or not.

    Now, the sucky thing will be if (when) manufacturers build RFIDs into places that you can't get to without destroying the item or voiding the warranty.

    So, we need an opt-out method for RFIDs, which may be as simple as a way to find the lil' bastards and plier them flat, but beyond the scare, there's promise:

    telnet homenetwork : fridgeport
    Brr! it's cold in here [45F]! Can I have your username?
    > JoeBachelor
    And your password?
    > gotb33r?
    Welcome to your Refridgerator/Freezer system!
    >cd fridge
    >ls
    Directory of /fridge:

    Beer/
    Beer/Shiner Bock (1)
    Beer/MGD (5)

    Condiments/
    Condiments/ketchup package (13)
    Condiments/mustard package (2.5)
    Condiments/SoySauce package (1)
    Condiments/Unidentifiable (5)
    Condiments/mayonnaise (1) (warning: use-by-date 5 months expired!)

    Vegetables/

    Soda/
    Coke (.5)
    Mountain Dew (4)
    non-caffeinated/
    ActualFood/
    lunchmeat_ham (1) (warning: use-by-date 1 week expired!)
    cheese_cheddar (2) (warning: use-by-date is tommorow!)
    End of directory. No healthy food available.
    >man healthy
    Sorry, you need to install the Mother or Health-Conscious-Girlfriend modules for these extensions
    >make food
    Unable to make food. Stop.
    >exit.
    Goodbye.

    see?!!!!! see! this is my vision!

    unrelated, I'm worried about /.s email garble today : Email
    GriffJon@[ ]mail.com ['Hot' in gap]
    hot in gap? what does that imply?

    [1] That's a "Mall Rats" reference, for the rest of you.
    • Actually, back to the "lost keys under the couch", I'd very much like to stick RFID's on:

      My TV remotes (especially the oft-unused VCR or DVD remote)... it always pisses me off when someone misplaces these and I really want to watch a tape or DVD.

      My keys and work badge -- Why is it I always leave these in different places? Guess I'm lazy.

      Anyways, it'd be neat to have a home that could tell you the location of an item in your "inventory", at least down to the room... of course, that would require you to h
    • I have a relative who is one of the original developers of this type of RFID tag. They have (or had) a fridge at MIT which would automagically order certain items of food from Peapod whenever they got low. For instance it could be programmed to always maintain 2 Gallons of milk in the fridge. Whenever there was only one in the fridge for a certain amount of time (the length of time that milk would go bad) it would add the second to it's weekly peapod order.

      More scarily they also had a demo of potential us
  • Security paranoid? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by noitalever (150546) on Friday June 27, 2003 @12:52PM (#6312344) Homepage
    ok, so in the first part of this article the guy says

    "When a transponder receives a certain radio query, it responds by transmitting its unique ID code, perhaps a 128-bit number, back to the transceiver. Most RFID tags don't have batteries (How could they? They're 1/3 of a millimeter!). Instead, they are powered by the radio signal that wakes them up and requests an answer."

    Later he throws in this little paranoia bit about "Do you really want your car's tires broadcasting your every move?" What's that about? He knows they don't "broadcast" and that you'd have to be within several feet to monitor. You already have a frickin license plate on your car, so who cares? The good side of that is that you could prove that your tires were now living on someone else's car when they were stolen...

    And in that line of thinking, how long will it take for commercial "scanners" to come around, so you can locate the chip and neutralize it? It just seems that people are freaking out about security when in reality, people can already track everywhere you go anyway. How many people out there use cash exclusively? No one I know. I can't WAIT for the day when I just walk out the door with a cart full of stuff and it's automatically taken out of my checking account. that would well be worth someone being able to count how many hammers I buy in a month.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      I can't WAIT for the day when I just walk out the door with a cart full of stuff and it's automatically taken out of my checking account.

      The thought of my wife doing that scares the living shit out of me.
    • by Scrameustache (459504) on Friday June 27, 2003 @01:09PM (#6312499) Homepage Journal
      Later he throws in this little paranoia bit about "Do you really want your car's tires broadcasting your every move?" What's that about? He knows they don't "broadcast" and that you'd have to be within several feet to monitor. You already have a frickin license plate on your car, so who cares?

      Trancievers in every street light...
      London would be the first city to implement it [guardian.co.uk].

      how long will it take for commercial "scanners" to come around, so you can locate the chip and neutralize it?

      How long will it take for DMCA-like laws that make that practice illegal?

      I can't WAIT for the day when I just walk out the door with a cart full of stuff and it's automatically taken out of my checking account. that would well be worth someone being able to count how many hammers I buy in a month.

      Yes, and I can't wait for organised crime to automatically skim a lil' bit off the top of all our checking accounts as we walk past 'em.
      Not much, just a few bucks per person, walk around in a crowd and you'd make a few thousand dollars in minutes...
      • Trancievers in every street light.

        Extremely high-powered tranceivers? Remember - these tags are passive. You need to be within a few inches (or extremely powerful) to read a signal much farther than that. And of course, there's interference.

        How long will it take for DMCA-like laws that make that practice illegal?

        Is it presently illegal to remove barcodes from products you purchase? No? Then what makes you think laws could/would be enacted to make an analogous act illegal?

        Yes, and I can't wait
  • by MosesJones (55544) on Friday June 27, 2003 @12:55PM (#6312378) Homepage

    For anyone who is interested in looking more at this area and has a Linux box....

    For more info [autoidcenter.org] and then Download it here [autoidcenter.org]

    If you want to build an RF-ID lab you need some cash to get tags and readers but this would help with the theory.
  • by rpiquepa (644694) on Friday June 27, 2003 @12:55PM (#6312379) Homepage
    You'll find the summary of this Business 2.0 [business2.com]'s story on Smart Mobs [smartmobs.com]. And on my blog, you can find two other stories about RFIDs, Bye-Bye Bar Codes? [weblogs.com] and The Eerie Possibilities of RFID Tags [weblogs.com].
  • Ironic (Score:2, Interesting)

    by wiggys (621350)
    Doesn't anyone think it rather ironic that the year Big Brother's powers to watch us changed dramatically was...

    [Drum roll]

    1984.

    • Re:Ironic (Score:3, Insightful)

      by brlewis (214632)
      Um, how exactly did bar codes change Big Brother's powers dramatically? Only for bar codes was 1984 a significant year, not for RFIDs.
  • Privacy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by msheppard (150231) on Friday June 27, 2003 @01:13PM (#6312538) Homepage Journal
    From the article:
    your privacy is at stake.

    Am I the only one sick of "privacy" being used as an argument? It reminds me of "won't someone think of the children." The Constitution/Declaration of Independance do not stipulate privacy.

    I'm beginning to think that privacy is costing us too much. If we had access to a plethora of medical information, perhaps we could do some data mining and identify some patterns that would benifit us more than we can imagine.

    I'm trying to remember WHY I want all this privacy, why it's so impoartant my purchases be private, who is it I'm afraid of them knowing that I bought a copy of "swank" magazine. I guess if I was a politcian I wouldn't want people to know some things, but I'm just a pretty average citizen, I don't need someone else protecting my privacy.

    Maybe an employer would do a backround check and find something - but if they won't hire me becuase of some obscure piece of information, maybe I don't want to work there. Perhaps I'm the kind of person who doesn't really have something like that to hide... it seems the only people concerned about privacy are trying to hide something. Now I'm beginning to ramble...

    M@
    • Re:Privacy (Score:5, Insightful)

      by darthtuttle (448989) <meconlen@obfuscated.net> on Friday June 27, 2003 @01:42PM (#6312834) Homepage
      What happens when someone gets a list of everyone who's had an abortion and posts it somewhere so that others can go and shoot them all, or (this is less of an issue now, but would have been) a list of people taking AZT, so the gay bashers can go beat them up.

      The ability to access and share information to help the world would be great, it if wasn't for selfish people who will use that information to their own advantage and the disadvantage of the people who the information is about.

      Or how about the government monitoring everyone who reads 'Leaving the 21st Century' (not the book about music), 'The Anarchists Cookbook', '2600' or any number of other books.

      Here's the thing about privacy, it's yours to give up. You are or will be a responsible adult who can make desicions about how your personal information is distributed and used. You can publish all the facts if you like.

      You do need someone to protect your privacy, because you can't get it back once the cat is out of the bag, therefore you need to make the responsible choice about it's use. You can't do that if it's not protected, the desicion is made for you.

      What happens when someone who takes Catherine McKinnon's thinking a little to far and decides to shoot people who look at porn (I don't think Catherine would ever do or suguest that).

      We all have things to hide. Sure, we would all like to work somewhere were we are wanted for what we can do and not who we are, but the reality of the situation is some of us need to have jobs and we can't pick and choose. In Florida your employer could fire you for the fact that you look at porn in the privacy of your own home. Some companies have fired everyone in the company who was gay or lesbian. Even with protected status clauses often times you get fired for one reason, but they wanted you gone for another. Privacy protects that.

      People say your information wants to be free, but I'm still waiting for them to free their credit card numbers and enough bank details to give me access to them.
    • Re:Privacy (Score:2, Interesting)

      by mark_lybarger (199098)
      'We want Information...Information...Information.'
      'Who are you?'
      'The new Number Two.'
      'Who is Number One?'
      'You are Number Six.'
      'I am not a number - I am a free Man!'

      as much as the constitution doesn't explictly define a right to privacy, it doesn't either require one to diseminate their own information. thus, it allows privacy. it also restricts unreasonable searches and seizures on your property which does provide a level of privacy.

      you don't seem to mind others profiting from your person
    • Re:Privacy (Score:2, Interesting)

      I partially agree, but to play devil's advocate:

      It's about power, and how knowledge is power. Politicians (as you mentioned), CEO's, and other powerful high profile people will tend to protect their privacy while seeking to violate ours. They can project any image of themselves they want so long as their privacy is intact, and anyone who challenges their authority automatically gets whatever skeletons they have in their closet dragged out into the public eye.

      The situation is exacerbated by our tende
    • Re:Privacy (Score:4, Insightful)

      by pmz (462998) on Friday June 27, 2003 @02:00PM (#6312982) Homepage
      If we had access to a plethora of medical information, perhaps we could do some data mining and identify some patterns that would benifit us more than we can imagine.

      Access to aggregate information can accomplish nearly the same thing without identifying individual people in the process.

      I'm trying to remember WHY I want all this privacy...

      Okay, citing recent news, what if you were an "evil" sodomizer in Texas, who happened to get "evil sodomizer" stamped on his permanent criminal record, potentially harming him for life in the midst of a bigoted and unfair society?

      Everyone has different reasons for desiring privacy. Most of those reasons are very subjective in light of religion, culture, and politics. Is there any logical reason why sodomy should be illegal? Absolutely not. What about if you are a Southern Baptist? Or a member of the KKK? What if a person with access to a national database finds you immoral, based on their own bias, and injects incriminating data into your profile? What if you are among the millions of people whose lifestyle doesn't match assumptions built into an arbitrary database schema?

      Databases, by themselves, are benign. Databases in the context of human administration and consumption are terribly dangerous.

      I guess if I was a politcian I wouldn't want people to know some things, but I'm just a pretty average citizen, I don't need someone else protecting my privacy.

      This really answers your own question. There should be no barriers for average citizens to become politicians, if they choose. Representation by the people for the people, or something like that. Simply, privacy is necessary for democracy.
    • Would you like to advertise the fact that you pick your nose? Or that you masturbate, or read Mein Kampf, or possess a large collection of medieval weaponry and wearing a black trenchcoat in your spare time? I know people that do each of these things, yet for obvious reasons none of them would wish for these facts to become widely known.
      There's a whole lot of things that people do which others have no need to know whatsoever. If it has no effect on my work habits and does not lead to performing illegal b
    • Replying to my own post in effort to reply to all those who replied to it as well.

      First: I am VERY impressed with the decorum exersized in the replies so far! There are some VERY good arguments made.

      There seems to be a common thread of "What if they could find out you were gay," and I'd like to suggest that maybe if it were easy to tell if someone was gay (not so much a matter of public record, but just easy to tell) then we'd realize how totally NORMAL this is and the biggotry might be greatly dimished.
  • i'm so unfamiliar with this i assumed the first two letters stood for "Read the F**king"

    scary stuff
  • "So what changed in 1984? Who, or what, caused the change?

    Wal-Mart."


  • Microsoft: We know where you've gone today.
  • will we have to begin microwaving them for reasons of security? We've been microwaving them for fun for years, but doing it for security reasons takes some of the fun out of it.
  • The other side (Score:3, Interesting)

    by costas (38724) on Friday June 27, 2003 @01:22PM (#6312624) Homepage
    I am on the other side of this argument: RFIDs are actually good for the consumer, and there is little financial incentive for retailers to do anyting too big brotherly with RFID data; here's my older /. post on the matter [slashdot.org].

    However, I've had yet another thought recently, one that I haven't heard in any RFID discussion; I am currently in Hong Kong, home of the wondrous Octopus Card [octopus.com.hk] an RFID-based smart debit card. Octopus is used for every transit system in the HK metro area, and is increasingly used by retailers to pay for small transactions. Now, actual use of the Octopus rocks: you don't have to take it out of your wallet/bag/briefcase, just swap the whole thing over the reader; you can get an Octopus chip implanted in things other than a card, e.g. the back cover of a Nokia phone, etc.

    But one other feature is very cool: an Octopus is anonymous. Anonymous as in cash: you can buy an Octopus and charge it with cash and it does not get traced back to you. There's the potential of RFIDs to actually enhance your privacy by reducing the overhead of certain transactions, and that's pretty big in my book.

    I guess it's kind of the same thing as GSM SIM cards: yes they can be used to trace you --both phone-record-wise and location-wise via E911 services-- but you can also go to a shop and pay cash for a cell and a pre-paid SIM and you're online anonymously. There are two sides to every coin...
  • Maybe someone here can answer what I sent, since I'm not sure he'll reply:

    Hi Scott. I just read your recent article on RFID tags, and I was wondering if you could help me out. While I understand that the potential of privacy loss with the use of RFID tags is certainly there, and while at first my knee-jerk reaction says, "Whoa! Hold on there!", I then take a step back and have to say, "so what?"

    Here's my predicament. I once saw an article regarding RFID tags that was much like yours (regarding privac

  • RFID chips are used as passive anti-theft devices in automobiles. The RFID tag is embedded in the key. The antenna is in the ignition switch.
  • Just microwave your clothed for 15 seconds before the first time you wear them. :)

    -Chris
  • by DailyGrind (456659) on Friday June 27, 2003 @01:56PM (#6312949) Homepage
    Think of it this way... you will be able to go to a bar with your trusty wrist watch RFID scanner, go up to a pretty girl and be able to tell that yes indeed she is wearing a thong, one of those frilly kinds, no bra, her purse contain three condoms, ribbed, and a lubricant plus she has a Palm with bluetooth.... I could go on but it is hard to type with one hand....
  • Jamming? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Pendersempai (625351) on Friday June 27, 2003 @02:00PM (#6312979)

    I'm no expert on RFID tags, but it seems that the signal they emit must be fairly faint if it is only a modified echo of the transmitted query. For passive tags, this means their emission can be no stronger (and in reality must be far weaker) than the strength of the query signal when it reached the tag. Transmitted through three dimensions, my college physics course tells me that these signals drop off proportionally to the inverse square of their distance -- and for RFID, whose query signal must be bounced back without additional power, the distance would have to be double that from interrogator to tag. And then we'd have to factor in the unavoidable inefficiency in the tag itself.

    So the signal is going to be faint. Why can't we carry around a jammer? It wouldn't have to be very complicated to function quite elegantly -- it could passively monitor RFID query broadcasts and automatically reply with misleading noise. Since it can measure the signal strength of the query, it could use its own power source to magnify its response by, say, 20%. It seems that should be enough to drown the response from any tag in one's clothing, driver's license, or other effects. A switch could allow the user to disable it when he wants RFID signals to get through -- to have the cashier ring up his purchase, for example.

    I can't imagine that the power requirement for extended usage would be that steep -- active (powered) RFID tags theoretically function for 10 years or longer. The circuitry, too, seems like it would be fairly trivial. I'd guess that they wouldn't be significantly more costly to produce than regular AA battery cases. Maybe they could even function for years on the juice of a button battery, and fit the form factor of a credit card.

    So why doesn't CASPIAN or anyone else against RFID privacy violations mass-produce these things and sell them online for a couple bucks? I'd grab one just for the coolness factor, and I'm sure lots of privacy advocates would use them too. It'd certainly protect the privacy of anyone using one, and by making the collected data less reliable, even those without would indirectly benefit.

    It wouldn't interfere with non-retail uses of RFID tags, since there is a specific spectrum range reserved for retail use -- something like 1.25-8.64mHz. And by introducing a degree of randomness into marketers' data, general trends (governed by the Central Limit Theorem) could still be deduced, whereas individual data points would be significantly less reliable. Hence, the data would be quite useful for tailoring goods to what most people want (a good thing) without allowing individual-level violation of privacy.

  • RFID (Score:3, Funny)

    by minus_273 (174041) <aaaaa@NOSPAM.SPAM.yahoo.com> on Friday June 27, 2003 @02:04PM (#6313015) Journal
    Read the Fucking ID??
  • by bear_phillips (165929) * on Friday June 27, 2003 @02:39PM (#6313369) Homepage
    Don't RFID tags have a range of just a few feet. It would be cool to put tags on my remote, keys, cell phone etc, then just walk around the house with a scanner each time I lose something. Anyone know how much a home scanner and tags would cost?

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