[Politech] RFID tags sneak into public libraries [priv]

From: Declan McCullagh (declan@private)
Date: Tue Oct 21 2003 - 17:03:12 PDT

  • Next message: Declan McCullagh: "[Politech] Yet Another Congressional Anti-Piracy Caucus forms [ip]"

    To: Declan McCullagh <declan@private>
    Subject: RFID Move Into Public Library
    X-Hash-House-Harriers: Are You?
    Comment: Are you fer us or a guinness?
    From: Small Grey <munge@private>
    X-Home-Page: http://www.attrition.org/~munge/
    Date: Mon, 20 Oct 2003 21:17:07 -0400
    Message-ID: <59fzhnqtik.fsf@private>
    I didn't notice this on Politech
    RFID Moves into Public Library
    By Roy Harris, Associated Press Writer
    October 3, 2003
    SAN FRANCISCO (AP).A civil liberties watchdog group is expressing
    concern over the San Francisco Public Library's plans to track books
    by inserting computer chips into each tome.
    Library officials approved a plan Thursday to install tiny radio
    frequency identification chips, known as RFIDs, into the roughly 2
    million books, CDs and audiovisual materials patrons can borrow. The
    system still needs funding and wouldn't be ready until at least 2005.
    The microchips send out electromagnetic wave to a device that converts
    them to digital data containing a host of information. In libraries,
    the system is primarily designed to locate books in branches and speed
    up the checkout process.
    Library officials say the "passive" chips would be deactivated as
    materials are taken from the library, thus preventing any stealth
    tracking of books _ and by extension, people _ off premises.
    But Lee Tien, a staff lawyer for the Electronic Frontier Foundation,
    is concerned that the chips may have information that would remain
    accessible and trackable, whether by ingenious hackers or law
    enforcement subpoena. That, he says, would be a threat to privacy
    "If there's a technology for temporary deactivation, then presumably
    there's a system for reactivating it," Tien said. "Does the person
    have the ability to know if the RFID is on or off?"
    Some of the foundation's concerns are rooted in the provisions of the
    USA Patriot Act, which critics have assailed as giving government the
    authority to obtain the records and threatening the privacy and First
    Amendment rights of library and bookstore patrons.
    San Francisco's city librarian, Susan Hildreth, says the devices will
    help streamline inventory and prevent loss. Tracking people is not the
    goal, she insisted.
    "It will not allow us to track people to their home or any location,"
    Hildreth said.
    She pointed out that several other major libraries, including the
    Seattle public library system, are moving to the chips instead of bar
    "Industry trends show that it's going to replace the bar code very
    shortly," Hildreth said. "We're trying to prepare for the future."
    Seattle's 24 libraries are installing RFID tracking systems, with the
    first to be ready next spring.
    The city of Santa Clara is installing RFID tracking at its main
    library and the county is considering a similar move.
    Still, it's the opportunity for unauthorized tracking that concerns
    "The issue is other people, other institutions. What will they do if
    the RFID is insecure?" Tien said. "We're talking about the imbedding
    of location trafficking devices into the social fabric."
    Hildreth said San Francisco library officials may hold a public forum
    to discuss the chips further.
    Politech mailing list
    Archived at http://www.politechbot.com/
    Moderated by Declan McCullagh (http://www.mccullagh.org/)

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Tue Oct 21 2003 - 17:29:07 PDT