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Embedded Microchips In Virtually Everything 186

Posted by kdawson
from the minority-report-by-other-means dept.
Microsoft CRM recommends a long AP article laying out the nightmare scenario of RFID chips in everything tracking not only things but people. The darker possibilities of a technology capable of enabling ubiquitous surveillance are not news to this community, but it's not so common to see them spelled out for a wider audience. "Microchips with antennas embedded in virtually everything you buy, wear, drive and read, allowing retailers and law enforcement to track consumer items and consumers wherever they go. Much of the radio frequency identification technology that enables objects and people to be tagged and tracked wirelessly already exists and potentially intrusive uses of it are being patented, perfected and deployed... [A director at FTI Consulting] said:] 'It's going to be used in unintended ways by third parties — not just the government, but private investigators, marketers, lawyers building a case against you.'"
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Embedded Microchips In Virtually Everything

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  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Sunday January 27, 2008 @12:32AM (#22198086) Journal
    In light of the obviously undesireable implications of having every detail available to any spook with a scanner, I imagine that we'll start seeing systems designed to detect and neutralize the tags. Given that they are designed to respond to scans they shouldn't be too hard to ferret out(until the RFID equivalent of port knocking comes out, of course). Presumably a variety of little arms races will be kicked off, between the cypherpunks and the feds, the counterfeiters and the corporations, etc.

    The more interesting question, though, is what the reaction will look like on a social scale. Will RFID tags be routinely removed at point of sale, the way dye tags are, or will they be aggressively integrated into products in an effort to make them tamperproof? Will people at large see neutralizing RFID tags in items you own as a common, sensible, precaution, like shredding important documents, or will that be seen as the sort of thing that only hackers, criminals, and other shady characters would do?

    It will also be interesting to see what sorts of uses the vast amount of ambient information will be put to. Obviously, the usual surveillance and marketing stuff will be pretty thick on the ground; but there might be some rather more curious things as well. I can just imagine the horde of social networking gimmicks that will spring up around the ability to detect the consumer goods carried by those around you. It'll be just like Zune Squirting; but ubiquitous!(Does anybody else miss the days when the future was going to have flying cars and robots?)
  • by megamerican (1073936) on Sunday January 27, 2008 @01:17AM (#22198248)
    If you own a cell phone and often carry it with you everywhere you go, you can be tracked. You can even be tracked with your phone turned off. The government has been asking to track people even without sufficient probably cause(and probably doing it illegally since we know about it).
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/11/22/AR2007112201444.html?hpid=topnews [washingtonpost.com]

    I believe this was mandated in the 1996 Telecommunications Act for all cellular devices and has been implemented long since.
  • by mosb1000 (710161) <mosb1000@mac.com> on Sunday January 27, 2008 @02:14AM (#22198468)
    They can't track your phone when it's off. It can't be tracked if it's not emitting a radio signal. Maybe you think off means something other than off?
  • by Zymergy (803632) * on Sunday January 27, 2008 @03:24AM (#22198672)
    Incorrect. I respectfully beg to differ.
    If the wireless device is powered off, if its is battery is removed, and if it is placed *inside a closed Faraday Cage*, would I then agree it can't emit a signal.
    Besides, What makes you think that similar techniques to RFID passive pinging reply signals are not already used in current/future cellular devices with their much higher gain omnidirectional transceiver antennas?
    Even without the main battery, these devices contain efficient capacitors with stored current and many others have small lithium backup batteries.
    There are also other methods of producing a unique identifier reply signal from a timed transmitted volley of tower triangulation "pings".

    There was a very real reason for Gene Hackman's character "Brill" to place the cell phone (and other items) belonging to Will Smith's character "Robert Dean" inside a mylar potato chip bag in certain a scene from the movie "Enemy of The State". This was a impromptu very poor man's Faraday Cage. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faraday_cage [wikipedia.org]
    NOTE: "Enemy of The State" came out a decade ago in 1998, what does a decade's worth of technological advancements bring us on this topic?
  • by camperdave (969942) on Sunday January 27, 2008 @10:58AM (#22200086) Journal
    Do you think that the logs from your security system won't be able to tell someone exactly which door you triggered at exactly which date and time? Your movements are being tracked. It's just that right now, nobody cares.

    While Christmas shopping with my mom, we purchased our items and left the store. As we were leaving the security system announced that apparently someone had failed to remove the inventory control tag from an item. We looked around to see who was making off with store goods, but just saw normal holiday store traffic. We made our way through the mall and entered another store. We heard that store's security system asking a customer to return to the cashier to have the inventory control tag removed. I remarked that it must be a busy day for shoplifters. We made our way through the store to a side exit near our parking spot. Again the security system tripped. This time, we were the only ones using the entrance, so it was obvious that one of our inventory control tags was the one causing the problem. My point, we were tracked by different stores. Our progress through the mall could have been monitored. We definitely had our photographs taken by the store security cameras. Were it not for the security system announcement giving us the opportunity to have the tag removed, we could have been tracked without our knowledge.

    Now there are plenty of places where controlled access points exist: stores, subway stations, airports, sports arenas. If sensors were placed in these places, movements could be tracked from place to place, and from city to city. If they put RFID sensors in cell phones, instead of the radiation sensors they were talking about in another story, someone could track you through crowded streets. Your own phone could give you away.

    Right now there are three things protecting us. First and biggest, nobody cares. Second, the systems are not integrated (although my trip through the mall shows that many stores already use the same system). Third, right now we can ditch the RFIDs. They're attached to the shoebox, not the shoes; to the price tag, not the item. Once the RFIDs are embedded in the item, we lose that capacity.

    Sure, right now it's just a barcode. But it would not take much to change that barcode to a Universally Unique IDentifier, readable from multiple, integrated systems.
  • by rc5-ray (224544) on Sunday January 27, 2008 @04:05PM (#22201836)
    My favorite quote from the article is:

    "Heady forecasts like these energize chip proponents, who insist that RFID will result in enormous savings for businesses. Each year, retailers lose $57 billion from administrative failures, supplier fraud and employee theft, according to a recent survey of 820 retailers by Checkpoint Systems, an RFID manufacturer that specializes in store security devices."

    So, a company who makes RFID chips does a study showing the businesses lose $57 Billion every year? That sounds as reliable as some of the Business Software Alliance statements on losses from piracy. To call this self-serving would be an understatement.

"A mind is a terrible thing to have leaking out your ears." -- The League of Sadistic Telepaths

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