RFID Fears and Myths

rfid chipIn an effort to dispel some of the privacy concerns surrounding radio frequency identification technology (RFID), the Information Technology Association of America has issued a white paper covering what the technology is and is not capable of.

The report “RFID Myths and Urban Legends,” available from the ITAA Web site, cites some of the benefits of the technology, including identity management, supply-chain efficiency, pharmaceutical tracking, food safety/recall, security, and stock control. RFID has the potential to have profound impact on industry.

As you know, RFID is an automated data-capture technology. The technology consists of RFID tags, RFID readers, and a data collection and management system. Because RFID can be used for personal identification, there are privacy and security concerns regarding the technology. The ITAA white paper is a useful resource to counter some of these concerns in your company by correcting misinformation:

* Companies and governments plan to track you using RFID.

Not true because an RFID tag has no awareness of geographical data. An RFID tag must be within 10 to 30 feet of a reader – outside of that range, tags don’t emit a signal. “Big Brother” type surveillance would require billions of readers and antennas within that range.

* RFID creates a database in the sky.

When it’s so difficult for companies to integrate their disparate sources of data, is it really realistic to believe there will be a single database that tracks all your purchases? RFID doesn’t change the way information is used or stored.

* RFID will spur drive-by reads.

RFID requires direct line of sight within the 10- to 30-foot range. It does not work through walls, so it’s highly unlikely someone could park at the curb to find out what’s in your medicine cabinet unless your lawn was dotted with readers.

* RFID can lead to identity theft.

The tags do not usually contain personally identifiable information. Rather, they transmit unique identifiers that function like license plates. You’d need access to a database that should be secured with encryption and all the other usual standard forms of protection.

3 comments to RFID Fears and Myths

  • art

    I am an RFID system developer. Been in the business about 5 years.
    I am not a fan of tagging people. Too many of the fears expressed here and elsewhere are indeed true.

    We may not be able to track everyone everywhere or to read tags through walls TODAY, but just wait! Technology is moving very, very fast. And reading tags in hard to read places is a very, very important part of today’s research.

    Who would have thought “Echelon” for the Internet a few years ago. Who would have believed the USA government would be listening to your phone calls.

    One does not have to have access to the “database” to track someone. I would suggest that a simple modification the the ubiquitous CCTV surveillance cameras popping up everywhere today could easily provide RFID “read” capability. Same infrastructure for moving data back to the monitoring point!
    Simply seeing the same tag many times and in many places — ie a Mall — would provide you a good deal of useful information; such as which stores are frequented, what is purchased. If you are familiar with Web “tracking cookies” you know exactly what I mean…

  • ashley

    umm..end times anyone?! mark of the beast?!?! " a chip placed in right hand or forehead" sound familiar?!?!?!?!

  • DR D

    This is frightening, to say the least. Orwell's "1984" is a good primer for this stuff. It is truely scary what can be done with the RFID chips. Especially the way technology is going these days.

    Hmmm ? "Land of the free" does not seem to hold water anymore.

    Like Ashley said above . . . . "In God We Trust" . . .should that still be on our money ?

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