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Errant E-Mail Shames RFID Backer 60

Posted by Hemos
from the the-joys-of-digging-up-dirt dept.
An anonymous reader writes "An article appearing in Wired today describes how the The Grocery Manufacturers of America inadvertently sent an embarrassing internal email to anti-RFID consumer group CASPIAN"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Errant E-Mail Shames RFID Backer

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  • Don't overreact. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Raven42rac (448205) * on Monday January 12, 2004 @12:06PM (#7953465)
    Don't overreact. These are not the Diebold memos, it is just some woman who sent a non-funny joke back to the victim of the joke by accident. I don't see what the hubub is about. Granted, getting RFID awareness is good, but this story was a waste of time save for some of the info about RFID technology.
    • by fuzzybunny (112938) on Monday January 12, 2004 @12:16PM (#7953586) Homepage Journal
      Well, kind of depends.

      If it's just a lame attempt at a joke, that's one thing. On the other hand, if the GMA guy's boss told him "find personal information on this Albrecht chick, she's being difficult", and the mail was a response to that, I'd be very concerned.

      If the latter is the case, the Wired article was very very tame considering how much of an embarrassment this would be for GMA. Digging up personal dirt on your business opponents, although it's done all the time, is simply not kosher tactics, and if an industry lobby and interest group is publicly admitting that it engages in this sort of unsavory activity to get its points across, then the average slob should know about it.
      • by Raven42rac (448205) * on Monday January 12, 2004 @12:23PM (#7953651)
        I can see both sides of the equation. It is very difficult to convey emotion and literal meanings of the written word. We just plain do not know if there was any malicious intent, or if the intern was just kidding around. I would lean heavily toward the latter as well. I just can't see where there would be blackmail in the RFID field. That would be kind of lame. That would be like trying to blackmail a polka dancer IMHO.
  • Other coverage (Score:5, Informative)

    by Malfourmed (633699) on Monday January 12, 2004 @01:10PM (#7954114) Homepage
    This story was covered in the Australian press [theage.com.au] a few days ago. Other sources [silicon.com] report that the GMA has apologised, describing the acction as a "youthful indescretion".
    • Re:Other coverage (Score:4, Insightful)

      by allism (457899) <alice.harrison@gm a i l .com> on Monday January 12, 2004 @07:02PM (#7957667) Journal
      Funny, though - the article doesn't make it clear as to which action was the indiscretion - the comment about digging up Albrecht's juicy past, or the mistake of replying instead of forwarding...

      Not to mention, nothing that Molpus was quoted as saying in the article actually indicated that they weren't trying to dig up dirt...for instance:

      "Her request for a copy of your bio was simply a part of a normal effort to obtain information about those who lead organisations with an interest in industry issues"

      This could mean that they were only trying to get a bio, or it could mean that their normal effort is to find some ammunition in their target's current life. It's not terribly clear, to me, anyway, but I tend to wear a tinfoil hat...
  • If someone would remove the gray bars then we'd have a juice past to use against that dolt!
  • It... (Score:1, Interesting)

    I still don't get it...Why all the concern about RFID?

    These aren't much useful after you purchase the product...

    You can be certain that if anyone has something to hide they will either find a way to disable the chip or simply buy products that don't contain an RFID chip...

    The batteries don't last forever either...

    So, I have to ask, why the concern? A specific person can be tracked much easier by the location of their cell phone, on-star equiped car, bank/credit card purchases, etc than by tracking the
    • Re:It... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by reinard (105934) on Monday January 12, 2004 @01:39PM (#7954428)
      Batteries? Have you ever even read anything about RFID technology? They don't have batteries, which is the only reason for their limited range. They get power directly from the radio waves.

      RFID tags in the packaging? They are now weaving them into of clothing, they are inside your tires, and in the handle of your razor.

      Disable them? Try microwaving your tire...

      The concern is that they don't deactivate themselves. And almost any RFID tag can be read by almost any RFID reader. So your boss can start checking how often you change your underwear, and indirectly can track you around the building by the tags in your clothing. Your car could be tracked at every intersection.

      It's not that there is an inherent problem, it's just ripe for abuse, and big step towards slipping into a police state.

      Most of us just don't want to get anywhere near there. There is most definitely a need for concern.
      • Re:It... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by OneFix at Work (684397) on Monday January 12, 2004 @01:56PM (#7954616)
        Yes, that's true...I know a good bit of RFID tags use radio waves to operate, but if I remember correctly some of these actually power themselves...

        Anyhow exactly does my boss know it's MY underware? For instance, if you use a badge reader, what keeps me from going in behind a co-worker? What about the tire thing...it would be much easier to simply track you with a <gasp> license plate...

        The truth is, you can already be tracked, it's just that most of us are so boring it isn't worth the effort.
        • Re:It... (Score:3, Insightful)

          by reinard (105934)
          The connection between what is yours and what belongs to others is easily made when you pay for it with your credit card, or use your club card and pay cash. Sure some items like ties and underwear may be presents, but how often do you buy tires for someone else? Or conversely, this enables the interested parties, without effort to establish connections between people. Customer A bougth item I1 that is now being worn by Customer B. And suddenly people you have no relation to whatsoever know who bought you a
        • it would be much easier to simply track you with a license plate

          How? It would require a human observer, or at least a camera with humans looking at the recordings/photos, as opposed to automatic entries in a database when your tires pass an intersection. It's actually much much more difficult with a license plate, which brings me to your next point:

          The truth is, you can already be tracked, it's just that most of us are so boring it isn't worth the effort.

          That is true, but the question is whether RF

          • Not really. Some license plates have bar codes on them already...and it's farily trivial to incorporate optical character recognition software to automatically read the numbers from the plate...

            Then again, what makes you think that they couldn't recognize your vehicle by your inspection sticker (bar codes on some of those)...

            If RFID were really useful in this fashion, I'ld expect for states/localities to require RFID chips in the inspection stickers...these are installed by certified personel and could b
            • Optical scanning of quickly moving barcodes is hard. Also, I'm honestly less worried about the government implementing and requiring RFIDs (though still worried) than I am about corporations implementing them for their own purposes, and then "developing relationships" [wikipedia.org] with the government under the pretense of helping to enforce the law.

              It also wouldn't be states/localities collecting the information, since they almost never have the budget for that large an undertaking.
        • Re:It... (Score:1, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Yes, that's true...I know a good bit of RFID tags use radio waves to operate, but if I remember correctly some of these actually power themselves...

          That may be true, but practical cost and size considerations lead to the vast majority (I would guess well over 99.9%) of these things being passive. That is, they do nothing until they get lit up with an RF pulse, then use the small amount of energy received from such a pulse to transmit a reply back.

          Anyhow exactly does my boss know it's MY underware?

          It i

        • Re:It... (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Alsee (515537) on Monday January 12, 2004 @04:46PM (#7956248) Homepage
          Anyhow exactly does my boss know it's MY underware?

          Assuming your company set up an RFID reader at the entrance for any of a number of reasons, every RFID tag on your body would activate and broadcast it's serial number. That code would most likely contain a manufacturer code, a product code, and potentially a unique serial number.

          At the end of teh day you walk back up through the scanner. Maybe they are checking to make sure you aren't trying to sneek out with tagged company property. Rountine proceedure would be to subtract the list of ID's you entered with from the list of ID's you are trying to leave with.

          So, one day the computer alerts the security guard that you are trying to leave with an ID code taht you didn't have when you came in. The code number pops up and an automatic search is done on it. The computer comes back with two hits on the search. The first hit is a match on it's internal database - that ID came in this morning whith Sue from accounting. The external database hit reveals that manufacturer code code is for Victoria's Secret, product code Lowrise V-string panties, black, size 5.

          Security Guard shouts out in front of everyone: "Hey Bob! Whatchya doing with Sue's panties? Are they in your pocket or are you wearing them?"

          He could quite easily pull up your history of ID tags for the year and see what brand(s) of under wear you wear, how many different pair you have worn, and yes, he could easily see how often you wear the exact same pair two or more days in a row.

          RFID tags are already being embetted in the fabric of some peices of clothing. As RFID becomes common situations like I described above can become quite common. That daily RFID scan can be analized for any number of reasons, and the data can be extensive and invasive.

          Every single store you walk into could preform such a scan. Obviously the "intended" purpose is to make sure that you don't walk out with unpaid merchandise, but once they've done that done that then all of the data is already in the computer it can trivially be used for any purpose at all.

          -
        • Underwear is optional; underware can be enforcably mandatory.
        • by cymen (8178)
          The ones with a mini-nuclear plant onboard are a real bitch.
        • "Anyhow exactly does my boss know it's MY underware?"

          Maybe he's worried that you're wearing someone else's underwear.

      • Can electromagnetic pulses be used to destroy RFID's ?

        Jurgen
      • "Almost any RFID tag can be read by almost any RFID reader????" You sir, have no clue what you're talking about. As a general rule, tags and readers are made by the same company. The RF protocols used are generally not published, and so it is very rare that a reader from Company A can read a tag from company B.

        If you're going to freak out about RFID tags, at least get some of your facts straight.

        • by reinard (105934)
          Granted the statement was an exaggeration, but so is yours. "The protocols used are generally not published"... there are several ISO standards (ISO 14443 A/B, ISO 15693, ISO 18000, EPC) that just about everybody uses, same with the frequencies. (125KHz (new), 148KHz (old), 13.56 MHz (probably most common for short range, the one I was referring to), 315 MHz (long range, expensive))

          Check these [skyetek.com] out. They read just about any standard on 13.56MHz (and really, almost everybody uses that frequency).

          If I had so
          • What I meant to say is that the protocols are generally not published. Sure, there are many standards that are published, but your average "Mobil Speedpass", keyless entry pass, garage entry pass, etc. are generally using unpublished, custom protocols with custom readers. Very few people currently use the various ISO standard protocols. (And BTW, EPC isn't a standard, it's a set of standards including Class 0, 1 and 2 among others). The frequencies aren't the issues. Sure, you need radio hardware that

            • by reinard (105934)
              You obviously know a lot about this issue. I never did or even tried to dispute that.

              I never claimed I knew all the ins and outs of this technology either. And as far as the technical aspects go, I don't have a problem admitting that I'm in a little over my head.

              I've done my share of reading on it however, more so the social implications than the technical implementations. I'm not an electrical engineer, and didn't claim to be one. The statement I made seemed plausible conclusions to me, given what I see
              • "If there are individual readers for each one, build a device that incorporates all of them try one at a time until you get an expected result." Sorry, it doesn't work like that. You can't just tape them all together. See, the problem is that they're all emitting and reading RF, and if you have more than one active at a time, you'll get nasty interference. The fact is, it is hard to build a device that does multiple frequencies and protocols.

                "But what makes you think anti-collision is even necessary

                • First, thanks for the reply. I wasn't sure you'd write back.

                  "If there are individual readers for each one, build a device that incorporates all of them try one at a time until you get an expected result." Sorry, it doesn't work like that. You can't just tape them all together. See, the problem is that they're all emitting and reading RF, and if you have more than one active at a time, you'll get nasty interference. The fact is, it is hard to build a device that does multiple frequencies and protocols.
                  I r
                  • by Merk (25521)

                    Thanks for the links, but I still disagree on them. First of all, they're not exactly impartial sources -- hell, you even referenced the mothership of RFID fearmongers [slashdot.org]. The clothing tags they talk about in all the articles are attached to the clothing, but not inconspicuously weaved into them: "an antenna-bearing chip smaller than a grain of rice that's attached to the clothes' labels". It's pretty easy to rip off a label, I do it for comfort pretty often. That's a longshot from one hidden by being w

    • Re:It... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by pbox (146337)
      Your sentence:

      These aren't much useful after you purchase the product...

      Should correctly read as:

      Currently these aren't much useful after you purchase the product...

      If all your garnments have built in RFID tags, it is just a question of installing RFID sensor all over the place, and have an uber-company evaluate all of the data, and your location can be tracked to a minitue detail. Would that worry you? (Than again almost everyone is toting a cellphone around - but at least that can be switched off
      • Investigators (Score:3, Insightful)

        by schmaltz (70977)
        A previously anonymous item of clothing, with a sewn-in RFID tag, has a potentially traceable history- where it was made, where shipped, warehoused at, retailed, who it was sold to, when, how much.

        I imagine this would delight both law enforcement and attorneys [slashdot.org] alike. DEA too [slashdot.org].

        You almost have to wonder if, despite our best efforts, in twenty years time when RFID is presumably more prevalent, that there will be developed a system which generates a snapshot profile of a person based on what the RFIDs in thei
    • Re:It... (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Imagine this scenario.

      You buy a gift for someone from a store. The RFID scanner at the register identifies you by your previous purchases (that you're wearing/are on you/etc) while you slide your debit card in the reader. Then you give that gift to someone else.

      That person goes shopping anywhere (because RFID data would surely be shared through some clearinghouse) and they use their debit card to make a purchase. If they're wearing your gift, the clearinghouse has now identified a relationship between you
    • by gral (697468)
      RFID tags don't use batteries. They are powered by the Reader while they are being read.

      The idea is that someone could look at what you have purchased just by "Reading" you.
    • Re:It... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jc42 (318812)
      These aren't much useful after you purchase the product.

      Oh, I dunno about that. I'm imagining that I'm in charge of the software that collects the RFID data. What I do is have the software note not only the articles that are placed on the counter at checkout, but also the tag number in the clothing that you're wearing as you leave the store. If any of those "extra" tags agree with articles that the store sells, with some low probability (1% or 5% maybe), the software adds it to your bill.

      What I'm bett
  • by dtfinch (661405) *
    The reply and forward buttons are like right next to each other.
  • There's nothing special about this. For anyone who has worked in an office, they already know that the chief source of entertainment is ridiculing the customers.

    After all, they make it so easy ...

  • The tags are great news for companies because they mean that each item can be tracked forever. No longer can you buy the same exact model of a video card and swap your old busted one in for an instant return/repair. Of course nothing is stopping a theif from blocking the RFID tag's radio waves and just stealing said item.

    I'd rather just see more complicated Barcodes.

    • serial numbers can do that just fine (such as on a PS2 where there is a hole in the box so they can scan your serial number barcode when they ring it up) RFID is not that big deal, in fact i believe that RFID will turn into a wonderful source of entertainment for slashdot crowd types, carry a tag marked 1337 or 31337 in your wallet
  • Who Is A Lawyer? How do we Americans document our expectations of privacy in cheaply-defensible precendents? We need something to build an eventual Supreme Court case on, after the current gang of robed liars is flushed from the system. That will take years - meanwhile, these privacy invasions are in their infancy, where they can be nipped in the bud.
  • ... the email exchange basically go like:

    - intern:
    Hey, Ms Anti-RFID-Advocate, I'm working for a major retailer of soon-to-be-RFID'ed goods. Could you send me your bio ?

    - Ms.:
    Err, yes, but why ?

    - intern (to manager):
    I don't know what to tell her ! "Well, actually we're trying to see if you have a juicy past we could use against you." ?
  • Dumb. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Fnkmaster (89084) * on Tuesday January 13, 2004 @06:38PM (#7967803)
    If you want to get your interns to collect dirt on somebody, you are supposed to have them conceal their identity. What the hell good is it to use an intern for this kind of sniffing around unless you tell them to send the email from their college email account and request information "for a paper they are righting on consumer rights organizations"? If they come out and say "Hi, I work for the industry association that you oppose, can you send me your biographical information?" it's not going to get you very far.


    Which leads me to believe this (dumb) kid may have been acting on his own. Or his boss is REALLY fucking stupid.

Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig. -- Lazarus Long, "Time Enough for Love"

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