Friday, August 15, 2008

RFID Tags: one more thing to worry about . . .

An EPC RFID tag used by Wal-Mart.Image via Wikipedia In case you didn't realize it from what I write, I'm a pretty big fan of most technology. When I first heard about RFID [radio-frequency identification], I thought it sounded pretty good. Expensive. But pretty good. It just required a few years of investment for the price to come down. Once Wal-Mart established it as a standard, I figured its future is assured.

While I am still pretty excited about the technology, I read an article in the latest NewsMax magazine that has gotten me thinking.
"Most people don't realize that there's no law against who can read an RFID tag, and no limit on what can be placed on the tag," Democratic California state Sen. Joe Simitian told the Los Angeles Times.
Not that a law against something will preclude a criminal from doing what's wrong! But still, if, indeed, anyone can read the RFID, what real mischief can anyone do?

Calgary Libertarian J. C. Hester suggested one use that got my attention:
"Future burglars could canvass alleys with RFID detectors, looking for RFID tags on discarded packaging that indicates expensive electronic gear is nearby."
It requires someone with a good imagination to come up with scenarios like this! And yet . . . as someone has said, "If it can be conceived, it can be achieved." And it appears that criminal minds conceive an awful lot!

Still, I want to dismiss this idea. Who needs RFID? Hester suggested the burglars would look for "RFID tags on discarded packaging." Obviously, if they can find at the packaging, they can read it. They don't need RFID tags to determine what was in the box!

But then, on second thought, isn't the whole point of RFID tags to increase efficiency? In the same way that the tags improve throughput for stores that have them inserted in their products, so they can improve "throughput" for criminals. With advanced enough technology, the criminals can "read" a whole slew of packages all at one time. Suddenly, they don't have to use their eyes. Or, they can "search" a whole dumpster in the middle of the night without causing any noise and without having to bring a bright light.



I had never thought of that.

Anyone care to suggest some solutions?

[On the same page where Hester suggests the problem, a few respondents hinted at some possible solutions. An anonymous poster suggested

"Or if you want to take out all within a certain (rather large) radius. kill anything like that instantly."]

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