FC: Weekly column: Could we be tracked by micro RFID tags?

From: Declan McCullagh (declanat_private)
Date: Mon Jan 13 2003 - 19:12:27 PST

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       RFID tags: Big Brother in small packages
       By Declan McCullagh
       January 13, 2003, 6:26 AM PT
       Could we be constantly tracked through our clothes, shoes or even our
       cash in the future?
       I'm not talking about having a microchip surgically implanted beneath
       your skin, which is what Applied Digital Systems of Palm Beach, Fla.,
       would like to do. Nor am I talking about John Poindexter's creepy
       Total Information Awareness spy-veillance system, which I wrote about
       last week.
       Instead, in the future, we could be tracked because we'll be wearing,
       eating and carrying objects that are carefully designed to do so.
       The generic name for this technology is RFID, which stands for radio
       frequency identification. RFID tags are miniscule microchips, which
       already have shrunk to half the size of a grain of sand. They listen
       for a radio query and respond by transmitting their unique ID code.
       Most RFID tags have no batteries: They use the power from the initial
       radio signal to transmit their response.
       You should become familiar with RFID technology because you'll be
       hearing much more about it soon. Retailers adore the concept, and CNET
       News.com's own Alorie Gilbert wrote last week about how Wal-Mart and
       the U.K.-based grocery chain Tesco are starting to install "smart
       shelves" with networked RFID readers. In what will become the largest
       test of the technology, consumer goods giant Gillette recently said it
       would purchase 500 million RFID tags from Alien Technology of Morgan
       Hill, Calif.
       Alien Technology won't reveal how it charges for each tag, but
       industry estimates hover around 25 cents. The company does predict
       that in quantities of 1 billion, RFID tags will approach 10 cents
       each, and in lots of 10 billion, the industry's holy grail of 5 cents
       a tag.
       It becomes unnervingly easy to imagine a scenario where everything you
       buy that's more expensive than a Snickers will sport RFID tags, which
       typically include a 64-bit unique identifier yielding about 18
       thousand trillion possible values. KSW-Microtec, a German company, has
       invented washable RFID tags designed to be sewn into clothing. And
       according to EE Times, the European central bank is considering
       embedding RFID tags into banknotes by 2005.
       [... remainder snipped and available at http://news.com.com/2010-1069-980325.html ...]
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