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Universal Surveillance, Inc.
July 8, 2003 7:35 AM   Subscribe

RFID tagging and tracking plans (mirror 1, mirror 2) With the tag line "Identify Any Object Anywhere Automatically", this group (the MIT Auto-ID Center) is leading the way into our bold new future of total tracking. {Originally uncovered by CASPIAN (Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering)}
posted by Irontom (18 comments total)

 
Here's another article / blog entry on the subject.
posted by Irontom at 7:40 AM on July 8, 2003


In 5 years RFID is likely to completely supplant bar codes in major retailers.
posted by the fire you left me at 7:48 AM on July 8, 2003


Interesting case study with Prada.
posted by the fire you left me at 7:51 AM on July 8, 2003


We should start figuring out how to disbale these things, how to remove them or break them or turn them off, or better yet, how to hijack their signals and send false information.
posted by eustacescrubb at 7:53 AM on July 8, 2003


here is a good thread about disabling these tags. Please read through them for the explanation on things with metal.
posted by chrisroberts at 8:09 AM on July 8, 2003


I would hope retailers would disable the tags at the checkout. Philips has introduced a tag with a kill command. Still, that doesn't stop retailers from tracking your movement through their store.
posted by F Mackenzie at 8:16 AM on July 8, 2003


I liked the idea of allowing manufacturers to use all the RFID tags they want, but legally mandating that they be on a paper tag or something else that is labelled and trivially removable by the consumer. It seems like a good compromise that allows the commercial sector to use the tags for shipping control, etc. while preserving the ability of consumers to maintain privacy.

PS- I submitted what may have been the first Slashdot post on consumer RFID tags back in February 2001. 2 and a half years later, and people are still oblivious.

PPS- The link used for the Slashdot post is dead, and it has been removed from the Wayback Machine ("blocked site"), but the text of the article is still rattling around on good ol' Usenet.
posted by NortonDC at 8:42 AM on July 8, 2003


i see tiny RFID jammers over the horizon. it's not too difficult. remember kiddies: "wireless" is the same as "radio" and radio had been around for a long long time. we know how to deal with radio.
posted by quonsar at 8:50 AM on July 8, 2003


The real issue with RFID isn't so much the potential for panoptical surveillance - as worrisome as that is - as much as the spoor of heavy metals (lead, cadmium, mercury) each contains.

Consider that these things will be imprinted in *everything*, and that the trace amounts we're talking about are damnably hard to recover, and I call that a prescription for major landfill seepage and leaching into groundwater in about 25 years' time.
posted by adamgreenfield at 9:15 AM on July 8, 2003


the spoor of heavy metals (lead, cadmium, mercury) each contains

Says who? Those metals are usually associated with batteries, and RFID tags don't have any batteries. They are powered by the externally induced RF field. They carry no power source of their own, including batteries where one might expect to find such metals.
posted by NortonDC at 9:43 AM on July 8, 2003


RFID tags don't have any batteries

That depends on whether they are active or passive tags. Active tags do have batteries (and new thinner ones are currently being developed).

Here's a story at the RFID Journal about these reports being made public.

Caspian's excuse is that the ease with which it obtained the material shows the center can't be trusted with sensitive information. The real conclusion one should draw is that the center is not the Machiavellian organization Caspian makes it out to be. If it were, it would spend a lot more on security.

What security? They openly admit that all this guy did was type "confidential" into their search engine and look at the results. Seems like no security at all. Of course, now they are saying that these documents were already public, or would be public soon. Sure they were. :D
posted by Orb at 10:23 AM on July 8, 2003


If these tags were on paper or otherwise easily removable, they wouldn't provide much of a theft-prevention deterrent, now would they? IIRC Benetton used these, said they deactivated them upon leaving the store, but didn't.

Given that I am now filling opt-out privacy notices quarterly (despite requesting permanent removal less than 6 months ago) and given business' quest to wring the last bit of profit out of any system, I think I'll be suspicious of any company that claims my privacy is safe with these things.

I also read a few of the docs from the site and I shall remain suspicious of RFID use until there is a law saying they will be deactivated upon purchase of an item. Wouldn't surprise me if DMCA is trotted out when people use jamming devices on these things.
posted by infowar at 10:48 AM on July 8, 2003


What security? They openly admit that all this guy did was type "confidential" into their search engine and look at the results. Seems like no security at all. Of course, now they are saying that these documents were already public, or would be public soon. Sure they were.

They can do this for the reason that the censors can let Animal Farm be performed at a theater in Beijing. Such a small percentage of the population realizes what is going on and sees the implications, that it doesn't matter.
posted by weston at 11:35 AM on July 8, 2003


i see tiny RFID jammers over the horizon

Two years from now I see trondant in the parking lot of his local Wal-mart with an illegally-boosted transmitter in the trunk of his car. One flick of the switch and *poof*! Wal-mart will have to do inventory and ringing up purchases by hand - no more barcodes, see? When they restock, lather, rinse, repeat.

I can't wait.
posted by trondant at 11:54 AM on July 8, 2003


I'd go the other way: start mass-producing misleading tags and distributing them by the million. I personally would like to attach a tag to my key ring that indicates to anyone with the means to scan me that I'm carrying an M1 Abrams tank.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:22 PM on July 8, 2003


Or you're just happy to see them.
posted by NortonDC at 2:21 PM on July 8, 2003


people are still oblivious

RFID's made it to businessweek, so it must be a big :D now. thank wal-mart!
posted by kliuless at 5:35 PM on July 8, 2003


trondant, I hope that car's an early 1970's Buick or something -- couldn't it scramble the electronic ignition otherwise?
posted by alumshubby at 4:39 AM on July 9, 2003


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