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Labelling RFID Products 325

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

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  • Two sides (Score:4, Insightful)

    by damu ( 575189 ) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @05:57PM (#6288907) Journal
    If there is no rugulation on this technology pretty soon we can see RFID tags that point you out in a mall, and tell the mall owners what shops you've gone to and what you've bought or looked at. So this is logical that these people are trying to limit the technology in its early stages.
  • Seems to me (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @05:57PM (#6288912)
    that these RFID tags would be susceptible to a low power EM pulse. A little high school level physics ought to be enough to keep them from being a problem if they bother you that much.
  • by NetDanzr ( 619387 ) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @06:00PM (#6288945)
    Their proposal seems to be quite well-prepared, albeit a little too general. However, I would really like to see another section under "Privacy", which would require the users of RFIDs to include them in a way that would make them easy to remove. People should have a choice whether to drive with the tags all the way home or remove them on the spot.
  • RFID tags in cash (Score:3, Insightful)

    by GGardner ( 97375 ) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @06:01PM (#6288953)
    The privacy folks worry mostly about RFID tags in cash.
  • by nzyank ( 623627 ) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @06:04PM (#6288983)
    Americans don't get it. Neither do 95% of Slashdotters for that matter.

    I just love to come on and watch the daily whining about the continuing loss of personal liberties in America. That and the daily /. patent whining.

    If you don't like it, don't cry about it here, write your congressman. Nobody but the other fools here care about your rants.

    I am fortunate because I have a forum to bitch about my pet peeve which is SlashDot. That's why I post here. This is the best place to whine about /. You should be somewhere you can actually make a difference like your congressman's website or
  • by nlinecomputers ( 602059 ) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @06:05PM (#6288988)
    Think of how much easier it would be to kidnap people from airports

    What a load of crap. By your own statements most of these "slaves" come here to find arranged jobs. Why have "tags" and risk being caught in a crowded airport with some kind of radio. "Officer that man just waved somekind of radio at me. Stop him I think he is a terrorist!"

    All you have to do is just wait till the woman shows up at your doorstep to go to work. DUH! They already have a method of rounding up slaves. Your thinking too much. Try again.
  • Re:My god... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by qorkfiend ( 550713 ) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (dneifkroq)> on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @06:05PM (#6288992)
    Yes, we are that paranoid. Americans have an obsession about their own privacy, and will usually cry havoc to the (immensely flawed) legal system when something even remotely looks like it could infringe on that.

    I suppose there is some justification for this - I personally do not trust the US government or most US corporations, and I'm sure I'm not the only one out there. RFID tags could be interpreted as microminiaturized radio collars, by the (vast majority of) Americans who are not too techno-savvy, and most people fear what they don't understand. You don't put a radio collar on something unless you want to watch where it goes and what it does.
  • Re:My god... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rjstanford ( 69735 ) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @06:09PM (#6289018) Homepage Journal
    Do you normally leave the barcoded tags on your clothing? Unless you follow the international conspiracy sites, most (all, probably) RFIDs will be easily removed in the same way by cutting off the labels. Its not like they're gorgeous. And yes, you can make washable circuitry, but why? The business of clothing manufacture operates on razor thin margins as it is...

  • by Fez ( 468752 ) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @06:09PM (#6289026)
    If stores want to use them for inventory, why not have them in everything -- but -- once the item is purchased, it is disabled like the security tags (for instance, they swipe it over a pad of some kind.)

    This would negate the privacy concerns and let them reap the benefits of using RFID inventory.
  • by binaryDigit ( 557647 ) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @06:16PM (#6289078)
    This is tooo funny. All these people paranoid about RFID. OK, two categories of folks to worry about with RFID, PITA marketing and the MIB. Whatever about the marketing, just use a seperate unlisted phone# and a po box and you eliminate huge amounts of unsolicted phone calls/junk mail.

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

    Like others have said, privacy, forget it. All us cell phone toting, internet using, CC charging, electricity using folks aint got no privacy at all. If RFID makes Walmart more efficient so it can hire more people, drop more prices, fatten their wallets, I say more power to'em. We techno elitest getting all scared and up in arms about tech, we have to take the good with the bad, once you open the box, you can't filter what escapes.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @06:18PM (#6289091)
    Just collect several hundred RFID tags for all different and varying kinds of products and sew them into your clothing to deliberately confuse the hell out of the scanners.
  • Privacy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by athakur999 ( 44340 ) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @06:21PM (#6289118) Journal
    I have no problem with RFID tags, as long as they are disabled when you purchase the product (like the tags that are used by many bookstores which are disabled after passing the book over that little pad). Until you actually hand the money over the cashier, it's not your property, it's the store's, and they have the right to keep track of it as they see fit (but not the continue keeping track of it after it's no longer their property).

  • by baby_head_rush ( 131448 ) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @06:27PM (#6289153) Homepage Journal
    This will be the best thing for grocery self-checkout.
    Have you ever been in line behind Joe "I have no idea where the UPC is" Blow and watch him try to get the scanner to recognize his can of Dinty-Moore stew? It's torture watching him wave the thing 3 feet away from the scanner or swing it back and forth in front of it at 100 mph.
    With this he can drop his carton full of Lean Pockets on the counter, pay, and be gone!
  • $20 RFID Reader (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 4/3PI*R^3 ( 102276 ) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @06:31PM (#6289179)
    Wal-Mart doesn't exactly higher the "brightest bulbs in the chandelier" if you know what I mean.

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

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

    I guess I'll be buying one as soon as they come to market.
  • by GigsVT ( 208848 ) * on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @06:33PM (#6289194) Journal
    Giving you the benefit of the doubt:

    It's about tracking things and the people that own them after purchase. RFID tags in tires could track everywhere you drive. RFID in clothes or shoes can track where you go.

    Maybe you don't care because you don't do anything important to participate in the democratic process, but for anyone even involved with it to the basic level of civil duty, there will always be groups that don't agree with you that wield some power, and who are willing to use any means necessary to discredit or get you thrown in jail.

    Everyone does some things that are illegal, because we have way too many laws that are very broadly written. I'm willing to bet you have committed several felonies in the past. We don't have enough resources to put everyone in jail, but we do have enough resources for a group in power to jail those with dissenting viewpoints.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @06:42PM (#6289263)
    You know, this is actually a good idea to combat the problem before it begins.

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

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

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

    Once companies have this data and ways to track it, they will NEVER want to give it back. And little guys usually have trouble fighting the big guys with even bigger wallets.
  • by clickster ( 669168 ) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @06:45PM (#6289293)
    I buy a shirt at Wal-Mart and wear it a week later to my friendly supermarket. Since the RFID tags broadcast, the supermarket counter realizes that the person at the counter has RFID #123456789. Once I swipe my debit card, they can combine my name, debit card, and an RFID. Each time my debit card is swiped at the store, a new RFID may be logged along with it. The next time that I pay with cash, the device at the counter may still be able to track what I buy because it knows that RFID 123456789 is John Doe and he just bought some . Broadcasting IDs is a VERY bad thing because it allows passive devices to pick it up. I don't want to be able for my local store to be able to identify me based on the shirt I'm wearing.
  • Re:My god... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Asetilean ( 540060 ) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @06:49PM (#6289314)
    Why is this important?

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

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

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

    by silentbozo ( 542534 ) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @06:49PM (#6289317) Journal
    They have an effective range of a few feet.

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

    RFID tags stay live until you disable them. Unless the cashier is kind enough to nuke your purchases before you leave, it is conceivable that the RFID tags will continue to stay live - each with a unique ID code. If you're the kind of person who isn't bothered by remotely-interrogatble serial numbers embedded in your property, go ahead. Me? I'll invest in a portable HERF gun so I can delouse my clothing purchases...
  • Re:My god... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by UnknowingFool ( 672806 ) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @06:50PM (#6289326)
    Unlike barcodes which must be scan directly, RFIDs only need to be within a range of an antenna. If RFIDs are intact, they could potentially allow someone to know everything that you have bought and from where.

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

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

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

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

    That's just the start.

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

    by JeffSh ( 71237 ) <> on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @06:52PM (#6289348)
    Through all the posts replied so far, I do think this one has been ignored.

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

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

    by blibbleblobble ( 526872 ) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @06:54PM (#6289355)
    "maybe I don't get it, but how are RFID tags a violation of your privacy. They have an effective range of a few feet."

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

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

    Kind'a like mobile phones: not invasive enough to cause widespread outrage, just subtly eating away at your ability to do stuff without being watched.
  • by burnin1965 ( 535071 ) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @07:06PM (#6289460) Homepage
    The majority of the RFID tags in use are the read only type that repsond with an identification number. This number is useless without a database to cross reference the number to some item, person, whatever. If anything should be feared it is the database not the tag. There are many other methods of tracking besides RFID, i.e. finger prints, retinal scans, your face! Any of these distinct features can also be cross referenced to a database. So attacking some simple technology like RFID tags is pretty stupid. Instead there should be concerns, attacks, legislation, etc. against the data that goes into a database and how it is used. burnin
  • Yeah, Except... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Greyfox ( 87712 ) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @07:13PM (#6289523) Homepage Journal
    Wal-Mart will use the technology to eliminate all their check-out people. You just walk up to a thing and scan your credit card and it figures out the crap you got. Every corporation's dream is to have 1 employee and still be able to rake in ungodly amounts of cash.
  • by clickster ( 669168 ) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @08:10PM (#6289991)
    It's different because 7-11 doesn't write "2 slurpies and a Ho Ho" next to my name every time I come in, whether they recognize my face or not. It would be too time-consuming. It's often "ease of use" that prompts information-gathering.
  • Re:Two sides (Score:2, Insightful)

    by patbob ( 533364 ) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @08:29PM (#6290104)
    what items you've looked at?

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

    what stores you went to?

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

    You've probably bought shoes

    Which brand did you buy? Which model? How much were you willing to pay? What else did you buy on your trip? What stores did you browse at? What was you path past the entrances of the other stores in the mall? Did you dash in for something then dash out again, or did you stay for a while? What did you do in the mall before you bought those shoes? What do people who buy those kinds of shoes also like to buy? Connect it up with other databases, and whay kinds of spam should they send to you? How often do you return to that mall? What other kinds of things do you buy at that mall? Do your purchases follow any kinds of cycles? Did they suddenly increase or decrease? Did you suddenly start buying good you would never be able to afford on your above-the-table income? Should they sell your name to the IRS as a potential audit target because of it? Or to credit card outfits as someone needing more credit?

    I could go on forever.

  • by Mikeytsi ( 186271 ) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @08:52PM (#6290273) Journal
    "Meant for" and "used for" are not necessarily the same thing. As another poster stated, SS numbers were not originally intended to be your ID number, they were intended specifically for government benefits.

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

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

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

  • by zerofoo ( 262795 ) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @09:54PM (#6290694)
    I can see this going down in walmart's stock room:

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

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

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

    by femto ( 459605 ) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @09:58PM (#6290715) Homepage
    Nice irony. ;-)

    The Australian Government accidentally released an uncensored report into cryptography and other things (the Walsh Report []). The uncensored version was withdrawn a few weeks after release, but by then people (such as the EFA []) had taken copies.

    Here is section 6.3.4 of the Walsh Report. It is in red, which means it was removed from th ecensored version.

    6.3.4 The relationship of these agencies with AUSTRAC may well prove crucial once encryption becomes more pervasive. Major subjects of investigation, whether they be narcotics suppliers or distributors, pornography distributors, money-launderers or terrorists, rely and will continue to rely on the banking system to provide value to their transactions. The 'money trail', provided by credit and smart-cards, not to ignore fly-buys, may well provide a continuously available hand-rail in a darkening investigative world.
    The 'fly-buys' (my emphasis) mentioned is Australia's version of 'Airmiles'. Basically, the Australian government thinks 'fly-buys' is a good thing since it allows them to track cash transactions. That was back in the 1990's, so by now there is a fair chance tracking has actually been implemented. I can't imagine the US government is any different. It also explains why the government has not eliminated 'fly-buys' as a breach of competition law.
  • by psb777 ( 224219 ) on Wednesday June 25, 2003 @04:11AM (#6292196) Homepage
    The underpants of this person and the panties of that person were in the same hotel room for an hour.

"I don't believe in sweeping social change being manifested by one person, unless he has an atomic weapon." -- Howard Chaykin