Saturday, July 11, 2009

RFID Chips in Official IDs Raise Privacy Fears

An AP newswire article by Todd Lewan, via The San Jose MercuryNews, reports that:

Climbing into his Volvo, outfitted with a Matrics antenna and a Motorola reader he'd bought on eBay for $190, Chris Paget cruised the streets of San Francisco with this objective: To read the identity cards of strangers, wirelessly, without ever leaving his car.

It took him 20 minutes to strike hacker's gold.

Zipping past Fisherman's Wharf, his scanner detected, then downloaded to his laptop, the unique serial numbers of two pedestrians' electronic U.S. passport cards embedded with radio frequency identification, or RFID, tags. Within an hour, he'd "skimmed" the identifiers of four more of the new, microchipped PASS cards from a distance of 20 feet.

Embedding identity documents — passports, drivers licenses, and the like — with RFID chips is a no-brainer to government officials. Increasingly, they are promoting it as a 21st century application of technology that will help speed border crossings, safeguard credentials against counterfeiters, and keep terrorists from sneaking into the country.

But Paget's February experiment demonstrated something privacy advocates had feared for years: That RFID, coupled with other technologies, could make people trackable without their knowledge or consent.

He filmed his drive-by heist, and soon his video went viral on the Web, intensifying a debate over a push by government, federal and state, to put tracking technologies in identity documents and over their potential to erode privacy.

Putting a traceable RFID in every pocket has the potential to make everybody a blip on someone's radar screen, critics say, and to redefine Orwellian government snooping for the digital age.

More here.


At Sat Jul 11, 08:33:00 PM PDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Embedding identity documents — passports, drivers licenses, and the like — with RFID chips is a no-brainer to government officials"

I presume this is referring to the lack of brains of said officials.

In any case, it [the increasing presence of RFID in our IDs] is nothing that judicious use of a hammer won't solve. A hammer will certainly be the first thing to greet any ID of mine of any kind that contains any such dangerously deployed technology.


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