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Privacy Technology

An ID Number for Everything 391

Posted by michael
from the technology-is-not-neutral dept.
jon323456 writes "Put this in your privacy pipe and smoke it. According to news.com, MIT researchers have cooked up a new barcode that has enough dataspace to include a unique serial number for everything. And in combination with RFID tags...."
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An ID Number for Everything

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  • 96 bits??? (Score:5, Funny)

    by corebreech (469871) on Friday August 29, 2003 @09:35AM (#6823994) Journal
    Damn man, MIT must be slipping. I could give you uniqueness using only 64-bits.

    So could any coder who cut his teeth on machine language.

    We need to stop teaching Perl/Python/Java as a first language. Make the uber-generation deal with opcodes and registers. Assembler will put hair on your chest boy!

    The point is, bits aren't cheap. If we're going to set standards for their allocation, let's let somebody who knows what they're doing do it. Yes?
    • Re:96 bits??? (Score:3, Informative)

      by l810c (551591) *
      I'm using tags [tagsys.net] right now that have 128bits memory.
    • by michiel.h (570138) on Friday August 29, 2003 @09:55AM (#6824220) Journal
      The point is, bits aren't cheap. If we're going to set standards for their allocation, let's let somebody who knows what they're doing do it. Yes?

      Yeah, those so called 'researchers' at MIT are nothing but frauds. We need people who know what they are doing. We need experience. We need expertise.
      I say we ask Ballmer. He'll help us out.

    • Re:96 bits??? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 29, 2003 @11:09AM (#6824972)
      Thank heavens you aren't allocating bit-space then. Part of the power of what you think are excessively large address spaces comes from the fact that they stay sparsely populated (and the resultant ease with which you can perform classifications due to that sparseness).

      Example: IIRC there are less than 256 countries in the world. One possible IPv6 allocation is an 8-bit country code field embedded in the 128-bit address, leaving 120 bits for each country to address devices. And then in the US, for instance: 6 bits for the state field, 8 bits for the county field, 8 bits for the city field, still leaving 98 bits for addressing *per city*. A similar example holds for 96-bit barcodes.

      • Re:96 bits??? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by fiannaFailMan (702447)
        But what happens when Quebec, British Columbia, the Yukon and Newfoundland & Labrador leave Canada, Scotland and Wales break away from England, more Balkan regions declare their independance, the Spanish regions break Spain into four, Iraq gets partitioned, and Texas secedes from the USA? Is 256 always going to be enough for all the countries?
    • To be usable, the new system would have to mimic the current one, with some bits dedicated to a manufacturer ID number, and some bits for a product-id-within-that-manufacturer numbers, with the new system adding more bits for individual-item-id-within-product number. Each field must be made large enough to accomidate all manufacturers (ie, CocaCola has few products, but ships millions of each, while a book publisher would have thousands of products but with some only shipping a few hundred). This means th
    • Re:96 bits??? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by gregmac (629064) on Friday August 29, 2003 @11:35AM (#6825244) Homepage
      I could give you uniqueness using only 64-bits.

      Sure, for a while. Back in the 70's, I'm sure they figured that 12-bit barcodes were plenty. According to the article, they're now starting to run out.

      It's called thinking ahead: Design a system that will last at least twice as long as you think you'll need. Yeah, 64 bits is incredibly huge. They're talking about serializing every product made by every company with a unique id. So say we plan on it lasting 100 years. That's still like 184,400,000,000,000,000 unique id numbers, per year (64bit). Actually, that does seem pretty damn excessive.

      But who knows - maybe there will be other uses for this space as well. Using a few bits to encode sizing/weight information, color, hazards, if it's flamable, disposal instructions, etc, to allow simpler devices to read it without having to link to a database somewhere. A good example of this is the licence scanners some bars use: they swipe your drivers licence, and it shows the info encoded on the card, and they compare it against the info printed on the card. It doesn't link back to a database to verify anything, its just a simple device to help prevent fake id's. Same sort of thing could apply here for shipping purposes, and probably lots of other things, too.

      It's a lot easier to just use 96 bits now, than switching to 64 now, and then having to switch to 96 again in a few (or many) years.

  • Barcode? (Score:3, Funny)

    by l810c (551591) * on Friday August 29, 2003 @09:36AM (#6824001)
    Why call this a barcode? It's an ID tag. Kinda like a DSL 'modem' I guess.
    • Re:Barcode? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by cdrudge (68377)
      And why isn't a DSL 'modem' not a 'modem'? Does it modulate and demodulate? Yes. Ok then, I guess it fits the definition of a modem. Same thing applies to cable 'modems'.
    • Re:Barcode? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by ExportGuru (130832)
      This ought to be a snap. 120 countries have already agreed to an eight-digit system for identifying everything. It's called the Harmonized Tariff Schedule. The U.S. adds two more digits. The U.S. edition stretches 2100 pages. Take a peek at it at www.usitc.gov/taffairs.htm.
  • by ajuda (124386) on Friday August 29, 2003 @09:36AM (#6824003)
    It takes all those PhDs to figure out that a really, really big number can hold lots of information.
  • by phunhippy (86447) * <zavoid&gmail,com> on Friday August 29, 2003 @09:36AM (#6824005) Journal
    So basically.. they're using a 96 digit bar code instead of a 12 or 14..

    wow stop the presses.. thatis revolutionary..

    oh wait I got an idea.. lets use 128.. or better yet 1024!!! we'll never need to make a new standard for thousands of years!

    woooo!(ric-flair like woooo)
    • I remember when someone was selling data keys that carried a 512k ERPOM.

      I was thinking "Passcode"... Dude it's a key why not use it as the ultimate key. Hack hack got nothing on me.

      Now with 512k you'd have not just enough room to ID everything but enough room to breath.
      Made it tight enough and someone will enter random codes just to get results.

      And then there is the mistakes.. accadentally using the wrong code. It would be better if a defective ID tag gave an error than a false result.
    • Oh, but wait!!! There's also the tantalizing "in combination with RFID tags" that just adds oh so much to the article. Is this /. or Access Hollywood? Yeesh...
    • by cdrudge (68377) on Friday August 29, 2003 @09:45AM (#6824116) Homepage
      Why not just assign everything an IPv6 IP address under the notion that someday you will be able to plug it in. There's enough addresses in that space to go around...plus your sweater and can of chicken soup one day will be net-enabled anyways.
    • The shift here is that instead of identifying the _type_ of item like a traditional bar code, these will identify the _specific item_.

      That might not sound very significant but it is.
    • Do you know barcode tech?

      Current UPC barcodes use only digits 0-9 so they are only 10^12 in range, which is a lot smaller than 2^64, or for that matter 2^96.

      My question is whether they are still stripes or use 2D coding (I am assuming 2D, unless they use compressed printing and or improved 'variable width' scanning units).

      Barcodes are a series of wide and thin transitions (or heights as in postnet) which in certain combinations of multiples of transitions represent numbers. The stripes themselves may e

      • Confusing article. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by AlecC (512609) <aleccawley@gmail.com> on Friday August 29, 2003 @11:10AM (#6824975)
        The article is pretty confusing. This is not a barcode at all: it is just setting up the number space that will be used for RFID tags. All that has been decided, AFAICS, is that it will be a 96 bit code in the RFID chip, MIT will hold the central registgry, and many interested manufacturers are meeting to agree on how to divide up and administer that 96 bit space.

        Bit of a "Duh" if you ask me. Of course it has to be done, but this is pure implementation territory: it doiesn't affect the privacy issues on bit.

        Mind you, I do wonder what the delta cost on the RFID chip of moving from 96 bit to (say) 128 bit - or even 256-bit. While I agree that these things are going to be produced in trillions and therefore millionths of a cent add up, I would have thought that most of the cost was constant per unit - slicing, packaging, testing etc.
    • wow stop the presses.. thatis revolutionary..

      Did you remember to file for a patent?
  • Great! (Score:5, Funny)

    by cyclist1200 (513080) on Friday August 29, 2003 @09:37AM (#6824019) Homepage
    Now I can start tagging my subatomic particle collection!
    • Re:Great! (Score:5, Funny)

      by alexre1 (662339) on Friday August 29, 2003 @09:56AM (#6824244)
      In recent news, Stanford's physics department took a leaf out of the infamous "Pet Rock" success story, and made an absolute killing with their new product line "Pet Subatomic Particles" (marketed by Mattel). They come in two varieties: the cute and cuddly "Pet Lepton", for those little girls out there; and the big and fierce "Pet Quark". Each Pet Subatomic-Particle is stamped with it's very own, unique ID number! You can get your very own for only 5 easy payments of $99.99 US!

      In related news, this move pissed the hell out of the MIT researchers who developed the so-called "Everything Barcode", which they claimed had enough dataspace to uniquely indentify everything. Said one reasercher, (off the record): "Man, did this come as a surprise. I mean, we made space for every single atom in the entire friggin' universe in this barcode system, but did we think about Quarks and Leptons! Argh! We'll have to go back to square one on this. Give us another two years, and we'll find a number so big, that ... well, you get the idea!"
  • So, my tinfoil hat will now have a unique code as well. What's a paranoid /. geek to do?
    • Im sorry sir you cant return that tin foil because it didn't block the mind control lasers, as this barcode clearly states your warranty has expired.
  • Maybe I'm the only one confused here, but why would anyone want to invest absurd ammounts of money into upgrading an id system when the current is good enough.

    I don't remember anyone complaing about not having enough barcodes etc...
    • by hattig (47930) on Friday August 29, 2003 @09:41AM (#6824062) Journal
      If you had read the article, then you would have noticed that it said that the current 12 digit barcode is running out of room, and that they are having to move to a 14 digit barcode system in the next year. It also said this new system would take around a decade to catch-on, because obviously the cost of printing a bar code on an already existing bit of paper on the product is a lot less than creating a little microchip/transmitter/thingy.
      • They could just go alpha-numeric. then 12 spaces would be plenty for a while.
        • by hattig (47930)
          I think that there would be problems encoding more than 10 or so bar patterns to deal with the extra characters, however.

          Admittedly you could have more bars to compensate.
  • Gillette (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Neophytus (642863) * on Friday August 29, 2003 @09:39AM (#6824036)
    Gillette was listed as an attendee. This is the same gillette who took photos of customers [indymedia.org.uk] purchasing their products using an rfid-triggered cameras.
  • Lets see (Score:4, Funny)

    by chrispycreeme (550607) on Friday August 29, 2003 @09:40AM (#6824055)
    that's 2^96 = 79,228,162,514,264,337,593,543,950,336
    hosts... minus 2 for the broadcast and the network address. Um...No thats not right.. damn cisco.
    • that's 2^96 = 79,228,162,514,264,337,593,543,950,336 hosts... minus 2 for the broadcast and the network address. Um...No thats not right.. damn cisco.

      Actually, it's minus three. You forgot to allow for the Evil bit.
  • Hmmm... (Score:5, Funny)

    by hak hak (640274) on Friday August 29, 2003 @09:41AM (#6824061)
    To start with, let's give each of those ID chips a number! Oh wait... now there are no numbers left for all my other stuff!
  • The article mentions "an ID on every car axle". Even my Hemi? How are you gonna get an ID on the axle of my Hemi with my boot shoved.. well you know where. Not likely! There will be a huge fight against these in terms of the privacy issues -- tracking cars, for example.
    • by avalys (221114) on Friday August 29, 2003 @09:50AM (#6824168)
      There will be a huge fight against these in terms of the privacy issues -- tracking cars, for example.

      Yeah, imagine how awful it would be if every car had a unique identifier associated with it. You could be identified wherever you go by anyone with access to the right equipment.

      Ever heard of a license plate?
      • by Mortanius (225192) on Friday August 29, 2003 @10:33AM (#6824635) Homepage
        Well, the raw tag number is unique within any given state, but looked at nationally, each number could have up to 50 duplicates, ignoring the state of origin. Besides, what can you tell from a license plate itself? There's a much more serious issue in the automotive industry; the VIN.

        The VIN is truly unique; no two cars have the same number. They are unique amongst a common manufacturer, and unique amongst all automotive manufacturers. Every car, truck, minivan, SUV, etc. has one of these numbers, often written in multiple places, and oftentimes PHYSICALLY STAMPED in the material of the car so as to prevent fraud (it's illegal to remove this privacy-infringing device!)

        These numbers are not protected at all; they're prominently displayed on the dash of all vehicles equipped with them, so that anyone simply walking past your car can look in and record the number. From it, they'll know what manufacturer produced your car, the car's series, its body style, engine type, emissions, what model year it is, what factory it was produced in, and on top of that, A SIX-DIGIT UNIQUE IDENTIFIER!

        This problem has existed for decades, and few people actually know the evils that lurk inside! This must be stopped! Stand up to your car manufacturers, tell them you WILL NOT BUY another vehicle from them until this travesty is corrected!

        (Peace out, yo.)
      • by pmz (462998)
        Yeah, imagine how awful it would be if every car had a unique identifier associated with it.

        If your car's whereabouts were tracked and stored in a database, there's the chance the employere could find that their employees are interviewing, which customers are shopping around and where, etc. What if you were recorded simply driving down a street within minutes of a crime committed by someone else? What's your alibi? There were no witnesses to the crime other than the database, of course.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Thus with 80 digit barcode you should able to label every particle in the universe :)
  • ...don't they know that their inventions will only be used for evil?
  • by Malicious (567158) on Friday August 29, 2003 @09:42AM (#6824073)
    If you beleive that bar-codes are infringing on your privacy rights, there is a simple solution.
    Take a felt tipped marker. Make one of the lines thicker.

    Problem Solved!

    Did I just violate DMCA?

  • by GeckoFood (585211) <geckofood AT gmail DOT com> on Friday August 29, 2003 @09:42AM (#6824075) Journal
    Actually, having a unique bar code could be very beneficial when recovering lost and stolen property. If everything is uniquely identified, and you have somehow recorded your id codes for certain things that are of some value (either real value or sentimental), this could potentially aid in goods recovery. Granted, it could be taken to absurd extremes, but for more important items (artwork, computers, rare books, etc), this could be invaluable.
    • by jaxle (193331) * on Friday August 29, 2003 @09:47AM (#6824148)
      A lot of products already have this don't they? Like computers have unique serial numbers etc. Besides, whats to stop the criminal from removing it?
    • by putaro (235078) on Friday August 29, 2003 @09:54AM (#6824213) Journal
      Pieces of fine art and rare books are not enhanced by slapping a bar code label on them.
    • by tomzyk (158497) on Friday August 29, 2003 @09:59AM (#6824283) Journal
      this could potentially aid in goods recovery.

      Um, I'm gonna say "not bloody well likely" to that. A few years ago when my car got broken into, my cellphone, digital camera, PDA and CD player were all stolen. They all had serial numbers, which I had documented, and I gave the info to the police. What happened? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Just because it has a unique ID labelled on it (whether it's a number or a barcode or a hologram or anything else!), doesn't mean you can recover it any easier.

      Hell, doesn't pretty much everything have a serial number now anyways? Yeah, so what if my couch might have the same serial number as my computer monitor; I'm still not going to confuse the two.
      • "Just because it has a unique ID labelled on it (whether it's a number or a barcode or a hologram or anything else!), doesn't mean you can recover it any easier"

        True, but it does mean that if the item is recovered, the police have grounds to give it back to you. I think the police in my town still come around to the elementary schools and give a talk about bike safety, and how kids should have their parents take the bicycle down to the main police station to get an ID stamped on it and have that ID assoc

    • by JaredOfEuropa (526365) on Friday August 29, 2003 @10:24AM (#6824529) Journal
      Well, the advantages do not outweigh the scary possibilities of this scheme. Imagine receiving the following in the post:

      You, person #825765.983.9782.2987634 have hereby been fined $500 for littering. Coke can #178246.886.1235.783553 was found on 29-8-2005 in an area not sanctioned for waste disposal. Bank and customer records show that you purchased the aforementioned can, therefor the fine is yours. This fine can not be contested as our Object Tracking Database is infallible. Have a nice day.

      Never mind that some homeless guy fished your can out of the trash and dropped it later.
    • Cars have the VIN number secreted in multiple locations (not just the one you see on the dashboard)to aid in identification of vehicles in the event of theft, among other reasons.

      As many reading this, I imagine, can speak to, it hasn't done a great deal of good in recovering their cars.

      -H
  • Oh no (Score:5, Funny)

    by l810c (551591) * on Friday August 29, 2003 @09:42AM (#6824076)
    This barcode tatoo on the back of my neck is going to seem So Dated.
  • Everyone knows how much street cred you get with a low /. ID..
  • IPv6? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by achurch (201270) on Friday August 29, 2003 @09:43AM (#6824088) Homepage
    Why not just give every item an IPv6 address? Assign the UCC a /16 for merchandise and you've got 2^112 == 5e33 possible codes. The IPv6 folks are going on and on about giving everything an IP address--wouldn't this be a perfect application?
    • back when OSI nsap addressing was a big deal, they claimed their addressing could be enough for every molecule in the universe (the numberspace was that big. 160bits or something crazy like that).

      but how does one telnet to a molecule, that's what I want to know.
  • by iapetus (24050) on Friday August 29, 2003 @09:44AM (#6824096) Homepage
    And in combination with RFID tags....

    Hmm. If everything can have a unique ID, and an RFID tag to go with it, then my cunning solution is to insist that each RFID tag has its own unique ID (and tag) as well. Privacy intrusion defeated by the power of recursion!

  • by surstrmming (674864) on Friday August 29, 2003 @09:46AM (#6824122) Homepage
    It has been shown that IPv6 will provide 4 IP numbers per square centimetre of space on earth. That should be enough to cover all products. My proposal would be to make the UPC the same as a IPv6 number, and then make the barcode show the item's IPv6 address. Network configuration would be simplified - just scan the barcode - and the item wouldn't need a UPC *and* a IPv6. They would be the same. That would simplify marketing and tracking as well, items such as coke cans and underwar could simply be ping:ed on the net. No need to bother with those RFID tags.
  • Knee Jerk (Score:5, Funny)

    by tunabomber (259585) on Friday August 29, 2003 @09:46AM (#6824131) Homepage
    Put this in your privacy pipe and smoke it.

    Maybe the things that I smoke in my privacy pipe is my own freakin' business- that never occurred to you now, did it?
  • RFID can do that (Score:3, Informative)

    by throbbingbrain.com (443482) on Friday August 29, 2003 @09:47AM (#6824133)
    Passive RFID [inkode.com] can already do that.

    ...and can be read at greater distances, can't be duplicated, can be used in any type of material, is more durable, etc...
  • "79228162514264337593543950336 bar codes ought to be enough for anyone."
    --MIT, 2003
  • Infinite numberspace for numbering, well, pretty much anything and everything.

    http://www.alvestrand.no/objectid/

  • This is fantastic. I can RFID tag every single item that I own and find anything at any time. I'll never lose the TV remote, or have to use my clapper key ring again! I'll even be able to find that 1980's Member's Only jacket when it comes back into style.
  • by MoeMoe (659154) on Friday August 29, 2003 @09:48AM (#6824156)
    Maybe it'll be like vanity phone numbers... I got dibs on 1337!!!
  • Another feature of the EPC is its 96-bit format, which some say is large enough to generate a unique code for every grain of rice on the planet. "Every molecule on Earth is what the MIT boys said," Abell said.

    Rich area of pop-cultural history, examples like this. "All the grains of rice in the world" sure sounds like a lot. When people want to describe a huge expense, they often stack one-dollar bills "to the moon and back" a certain number of times. (If they want to diminish a similarly huge cost number,

  • by weston (16146) <westonsd @ c a n n c entral.org> on Friday August 29, 2003 @09:50AM (#6824169) Homepage
    Wow! This needs some kind of cool name, like... like...

    MIT Everyware [slashdot.org], perhaps?
  • by Population (687281) on Friday August 29, 2003 @09:52AM (#6824186)
    We're talking some heavy crunching power.

    To have any useful application, those codes would have to be linked to transactions and locations.

    Imagine trying to update the transactions and locations of just every can of Coke sold every day.

    Manufactured
    Shipped from the manufacturing plant
    Received at the warehouse
    Shipped to the store
    Sold to the customer
  • Simplistic article (Score:5, Informative)

    by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Friday August 29, 2003 @09:53AM (#6824204)
    The 12-digit bar code that's used across the United States was introduced in the 1970s, and the retail industry is close to running out of new combinations.

    UPC-A barcodes are 12 digit long. There are many many other types of barcodes, including 2D barcodes that can hold up to 1K of data on them. They just have to pick another type of barcode, like CODE128, for consumer products and declare it the new standard. No need for revolutionary changes here.

    Look in the SUPPORTED_BARCODES file in the cuecat driver [easyconnect.fr] archive to see how many 1D barcode types already exist.
  • barcodes for every thing, even cash. It could be well nigh impossible to have an anonymous transaction, unless you resort to barter, but make sure that you have removed the RFID (if it is legal to do so). So you microwave you dollars to fry the RFID, this could be illegal and no business would accept your cash. The possibilities are endless, and very scary.

    But if you are not doing anything illegal you have nothing to worry about
    Tell that to the Cubans who simply want to loan books to their friends---oops
  • by globalar (669767) on Friday August 29, 2003 @09:55AM (#6824227) Homepage
    "No more inventory counts. No more lost or misdirected shipments. No more guessing how much material is in the supply chain--or how much product is on the store shelves."

    Wrong. Completely wrong. If you have ever worked for a major retailer, you will come to understand this reality.

    ID's are not a panacea. You have to have a system of control and accountability over your inventory that makes use of a unique ID and checks itself constantly, forcing correction.

  • by putaro (235078) on Friday August 29, 2003 @09:58AM (#6824261) Journal
    When some doofus screws up the "next ID" field and a bunch of items get duplicate ID numbers? Creation of unique ID's is a PITA problem and I don't think that the average manufacturer is going to get it right for some time.
  • If I remember my physics correctly, there are approx 2^(1E80) particles in the universe. This is going to be one heck of a long barcode. I hope I'm not in a supermarket self-checkout line with someone with a whole basket of these things. :-)
  • by DrSkwid (118965) on Friday August 29, 2003 @10:00AM (#6824297) Homepage Journal
    I hearby claim first bar

    |

  • Privacy? (Score:3, Funny)

    by Wvyern (701666) on Friday August 29, 2003 @10:01AM (#6824303)
    So where are they gonna put this barcode, oops, ID Tag on people? If it's on the ass no one will be able to scan mine through all the hair.
  • Let's see... 2D bar-codes have been able to hold more than that for... how long?

    To be fair, I higher density 1D bar-code that can be reliably read would be useful to a whole lot of industries, but it's just not revolutionary.
  • by tomhudson (43916) <barbara.hudson@NOSpAM.barbara-hudson.com> on Friday August 29, 2003 @10:08AM (#6824373) Journal
    Article states:
    "No more inventory counts. No more lost or misdirected shipments. No more guessing how much material is in the supply chain--or how much product is on the store shelves."
    Boy, these guys need to get into the real world. Stuff gets spoiled, damaged/dropped/spilled, eaten by rats, misfiled/misplaced, etc. Sure, you query the rdif tags, and they report back that you've got 6 cans of #2345 white paint in stock. Now you go to ship all 6, and find that 3 cans are leaking, 2 of the other cans are mislabeled, and the last one, someone's opened and "borrowed" the contents to repaint the john..

    You'll always have a need to do a physical audit.

  • I'd rather have each item identified by a unique bar code than a unique RFID chip. Bar codes don't broadcast information. Unfortunately I predict the more invasive technology (RFID) will become the industry/worldwide standard.
  • Database (Score:2, Interesting)

    by nonameisgood (633434)
    Man, I don't want to be respomsible for that database.
    Hey, Microsoft, maybe you'd like a shot at this one? Then everyone would be happy knowing that there data may not be secure, but when it crashes (not if), we all get to start over.
  • I know everyone is going to be jumping on the "1984-esque abuse of privacy" bandwagon shortly, but I have to say (donning flame-retardant suit), that this doesn't seem like a bad idea.

    I know there is the potential for this to be misused, but to be honest, I don't think the potential is much worse. If a big bad tracking company is going to follow me, I don't feel any worse about them knowing that I bought this specific can of Coke rather than just a can of Coke.

    On the other hand, if my bike is stolen, an

  • by DickBreath (207180) on Friday August 29, 2003 @10:14AM (#6824427) Homepage
    While reading another article about those nasty RIFD tags the other day, I suddenly had a thought....

    Why not just attach the RFID tags to the product packaging rather than permanently to the product itself. The packaging gets thrown away, not the product. Most of the privacy issues simply disappear. (Other than that someone could run your trash through an RFID scanner, but would still need access to a database in order to determine that that number is a particular subversive book that you should not be reading.)

    I'm not saying it's a total solution to the problem of RFID tag privacy. But if tags were affixed to packaging rather than products, most / many privacy issued just go away. (Some remain.) Or have I overlooked something major?
  • by Junior J. Junior III (192702) on Friday August 29, 2003 @10:14AM (#6824428) Homepage
    So you have a 96-bit ID number. That means you have 2^96 unique numbers.

    Make a tag for each one.

    Let's say for the sake of argument that the tags weigh 0.01 grams.

    Now make all 2^96 of them. You have just created 792,281,625,142,643,375,935,439.50336 kg of tags.

    That's a shitload of tags! For reference, Planet Earth has a mass of 5.972e24kg. Your tags would weigh 1/132 as much as the entire planet.

    That's less than 1%, but that's still a MAJOR volume of tags. We'd be choking on them. They'd be everywhere.

    At 1,000,000 tags per second, how long would it take to manufacture 2^96 tags? 7,922,162,514,264,337,593,543 seconds. That's 2,512,308,552,583,217 years.
  • by Gudlyf (544445) <`moc.ketsilaer' `ta' `fyldug'> on Friday August 29, 2003 @10:15AM (#6824430) Homepage Journal
    When I read this line (from the article):

    "Under EPC, every can of Coke would have a one-of-a-kind identifier."

    It occured to me that it's quite possible that such unique id's on consumable items could later get tracked back to their purchasers, then automatically impose a littering fine on them if said Coke can is found empty and discarded on the ground somewhere.

    I don't really see that as becoming a reality, but it's possible.

    • On the upside, tracing individual packages of products means more precise recalls. Also, companies will be able to track all the steps a product went through, from manufacturing, to storage, to delivery, to shelf life, to consumer. Yes, it has got its privacy issues but the benefits exist as well.
    • Tracing trash (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Hoi Polloi (522990)
      The same exact thought occured to me. Right now, if someone dumps garbage in, say, a park the only way they can investigate it is if there is a witness or they find addressed mail (or similar papers) in the pile. Now they'll just have to put bar codes on all of those damn Dunkin Doughnut coffee cups I constantly see on the ground.

      I'm sure we'll see a market for microchip destroying devices of some sort for home use if RFID's ever take off in significant numbers.
    • if said Coke can is found empty and discarded on the ground somewhere.

      All it would take is a little wind to blow it out of the over-full trashcan it was carefully placed in, or a homeless man to accidentally drop the can on the way to the recycling center.
  • Well 96 bits is a little inconvenient for storing these values in a database.
  • by gsliepen (303583) on Friday August 29, 2003 @10:30AM (#6824597)
    2^96 is not nearly enough for every molecule on earth. Avogadro's number is 6 * 10^23, which is approximately the number of protons that weigh 1 kilogram together. Most molecules weigh less than 100 protons. 2^96 = 8 * 10^28. So at most 10^7 kilogram can be tagged uniquely with ECP. The earth weighs approximately 6 * 10^24 kilograms. Yeah, those "MIT boys" are really smart...
  • by pmz (462998) on Friday August 29, 2003 @11:04AM (#6824903) Homepage
    When our whole lives are encoded in a database, what is to stop future legislation that punishes people for crimes they never knew they commited? What about people who make mistakes in their young adult years and want to reinvent themselves somewhere else but can't due to their digital legacy? What about people whose business isn't our own but who have access to this data and use it against us?

    Databases of this scale are immensely dangerous regardless of what trivial conveniences they allow. These databases can take our lives out of their social context and make us vulnerable to blackmail and extortion by public officials.

    These databases also violate the Fourth Amendment. What about a future where law enforcement officials don't even need to step on a person's property to execute a search?

    Simply, privacy is fundamentally important and is a fundamental human right. Only when citizens can control their own information, can a proper balance of power be mainained in a representative democracy like the USA. Remember, those who hold the information are those who are truly in power.
    • Reality is that the likelihood of extortion and blackmail over previous events in life becomes far less likely if everyone is held accountable. Currently the system is built more around how much money one can throw to make things go away.

      The sad state of affairs, particularly in the US, is that everyone is expected to live up to a high level of morality, because everyone hides what they've done wrong. When no one can hide what they've done wrong, the system as a whole becomes far less black and white.

      The

  • by deeLo57 (641046) on Friday August 29, 2003 @11:54AM (#6825420)
    MIT Researcher 1: so , should we make it 96 bits or 128? MIT Researcher 2: "96 bits should be enough for anybody."
  • by gerardrj (207690) * on Friday August 29, 2003 @12:10PM (#6825558) Journal
    After reading the article I don't understand a few things:

    1. Why the article's title on CNET mentions "futuristic barcode" when the project is apparently in relation to low capacity (96bit) RFIDs or the like.

    2. Why it took 5 years to develop. RFID technology is readily understood. Databases are readily understood, wireless communication is readily understood. Prototyping hardware and writing some connectivity software should not have taken 5 years for such a "group". I'm either dissapointed or confused.

    3. Why give each tag a only specific serial number that MUST be looked up in the database to ID it. The current barcode mass-grouping is still valid even with more bits. A stripped down database could then be used for off-line reading and you would still know the manufacturer and possibly the product family. For example barcodes starting with "636920" are from O'Reilly; all barcodes starting with "05000" are from Nestle. Isn't that much easier than having NO idea what "aj380dk358fh3k8i" is?

    4. Why access a database directly? Why not use the Internet and stanard DNS and HTML/XML? Purchase a domain and make simple IRLs that include the tag info: http://www.taginfo.org/044254 ? The server would see the code, and send back a response containing one of two things: 1: the product information in XML (including a link to more info from the manufacturer), 2: an error. Such a thin HTTP/HTML client could be written quite quickly and be embedded in almost anything. There are already many synconization and caching sytems in place for HTML.

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