[Politech] Computerworld falls for RFID "sniper rifle" hoax?

From: Declan McCullagh (declan@private)
Date: Tue Apr 27 2004 - 21:05:08 PDT

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    See as background:
    -------- Original Message --------
    Subject: RFID hoax story in ComputerWorld
    Date: Tue, 27 Apr 2004 22:33:37 -0400
    From: Richard M. Smith <rms@private>
    To: 'Declan McCullagh' <declan@private>
    Sniper rifle may aim RFID tags at human targets
    Julian Bajkowski, Computerworld
    28/04/2004 09:04:22
    If the thought of a government secretly inserting miniature tracking chips
    into persons deemed enemies of the state harks of an Orwellian conspiracy
    theory, a Danish company is doing its level best to bring this type of
    technology into the hands of authorities.
    Specialising in a variety of surveillance technologies, Copenhagen based
    firm EmpireNorth is currently demonstrating a modified sniper rifle as a
    means to inject unsuspecting targets with an RFID tag in order to track
    their movements.
    "It is used to implant a GPS-microchip in the body of a human being, using a
    high powered sniper rifle as the long distance injector. The microchip will
    enter the body and stay causing no internal damage, and only a very small
    amount of physical pain to the target," marketing material from EmpireNorth
    According to the firm, being hit by one of its RFID projectiles is virtually
    a painless affair, with unsuspecting targets allegedly able to go about
    their business as usual - providing the area hit is relatively soft and
    "The microchip will enter the body and stay there. It will feel like a
    mosquito bite lasting a fraction of a second," the firm's sales material
    Another feature of the rifle includes the ability to capture high-resolution
    imagery of targets via the rifle's scope that is fitted to a camera. The
    images and data from the RFID tag can then be exported to external
    monitoring systems to keep track of the target.
    While technical specifications for the rifle and projectile are not given, a
    source at the University of Sydney's department of physics said the concept
    was not impossible if the materials used were sufficiently lightweight and
    the velocity of the projectile calculated in conjunction with the range.
    However, the source questioned whether human or animal targets hit by such a
    device would remain oblivious to their skin being penetrated, noting a
    projectile travelling at just under the supersonic envelope would probably
    be above most people's threshold of perception.
    "It could be as small as grain of sand.but I reckon it might still hurt.
    You'd want some velocity on this to cover range, otherwise it would bounce
    off," the source said, adding that clothing and body armour also presented
    physical barriers to sub-dermal penetration.
    As for who would use such a device, EmpireNorth is pitching its new toy at
    what it calls the "urban battlefield" for the purpose of crowd control.
    "The attention of the media changes the rules of the game. Sometimes it is
    difficult to engage the enemy in the streets without causing damage to the
    all-important image of the state."
    A spokesman from EmpireNorth said that the product prototype was being
    demonstrated in the US and had been exhibited at the China Police 2002
    Exhibition in Beijing.
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