Thursday, July 22, 2004

RFID, the one 'Chip' to bind them all?

"And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name" Revelation 13:16-17

For years the typical paranoid lunatic was one who feared that the government was going to put chips in us all for mass crontrol and tracking. Well, paranoid lunatics or not, it's well on its way to being a reality.

RFID (or Auto-ID) chips are, as of this writing, actively being deployed as a replacement to the bar-code system that's been widely used for the last 20 years. These aren't, yet, being considered for widespread insertion into people, but that's merely a matter of time, and the technology does exist to insert tracking chips into people. They are currently being inserted into people for specific purposes, such as people with extreme medical conditions, in high class business executives prone to being kidnapped, or parents worried about their children getting lost. And, of course, it's starting to be big business to put chips into the family pets in case they go wandering.

Resources

[Guardian Unlimited; Sep 21, 2003] 500 paedophiles to be tracked by satellite tags (http://observer.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,6903,1046614,00.html) Paedophiles are to be electronically tagged in the UK for the first time in a move that could prompt a revolution in the treatment and monitoring of sex offenders. A British company is to hold talks with Ministers in the next few weeks with a view to launching a Home Office-backed trial involving between 100 and 500 child sex offenders. It is also talking to government officials in the United States, Italy and Ireland and is to tag a number of paedophiles who have volunteered to wear the device. ... Civil liberty groups expressed deep concerns last night. 'If they have been released, they should be free to live their life in liberty. This muddies the waters between guilt and innocence,' said Mark Littlewood, campaigns director of Liberty.

Sky Guardians: http://www.skyguardian.freeserve.co.uk/ and http://skyguardian.net/

[C|NET August 29, 2003] MIT to uncork futuristic bar code (news.com.com/2100-1019_3-5069619.html) A group of academics and business executives is planning to introduce next month a next-generation bar code system, which could someday replace with a microchip the series of black vertical lines found on most merchandise. The so-called EPC Network, which has been under development at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for nearly five years, will make its debut in Chicago on Sept. 15, at the EPC Symposium. ... There are several key differences between an EPC and a bar code. First, the EPC is designed to provide a unique serial number for every item in the system. By contrast, bar codes only identify groups of products. So, all cans of Diet Coke have the same bar code more or less. Under EPC, every can of Coke would have a one-of-a-kind identifier. Retailers and consumer-goods companies think a one-of-a-kind product code could help them to reduce theft and counterfeit goods and to juggle inventory more effectively. ... "Put tags on every can of Coke and every car axle, and suddenly the world changes," boasts the Web site of the Auto-ID Center, the research group at MIT leading the charge on the project. "No more inventory counts. No more lost or misdirected shipments. No more guessing how much material is in the supply chain--or how much product is on the store shelves." Another feature of the EPC is its 96-bit format, which some say is large enough to generate a unique code for every grain of rice on the planet. "Every molecule on Earth is what the MIT boys said," Abell said.

EPC Symposium (show.epcsymposium.com/epcsymposium/V40/index.cvn): The symposium has two tracks, one for CEO's the other for CIO's, and apparently none for normal people.

Planning committee is (as listed in http://www.autoidcenter.org/media/symposium_2003.pdf)

  • AdvanStar
  • American Trucking Association (ATA)
  • Association of Automatic Identification & Data Capture Technology (AIM)
  • Auto-ID Center (AIDC)
  • Canadian Council of Grocery Distributors (CCGD)
  • Defense Logistics Agency (DLA)
  • Electronic Commerce Council of Canada (ECCC)
  • Food Marketing Institute (FMI)
  • Fleishman Hillard
  • Grocery Manufacturers of America (GMA)
  • International Mass Retail Association (IMRA)
  • National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS)
  • National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS)
  • Point of Purchase Advertising International (POPAI)
  • Uniform & Textile Service Association (UTSA)
  • Uniform Code Council (UCC)

[C|NET August 18, 2003] Privacy advocates call for RFID regulation news.com.com/2100-1020_3-5065388.html A handful of technology and consumer privacy experts testifying at a California Senate hearing Monday called for regulation of a controversial technology designed to wirelessly monitor everything from clothing to currency. The hearing, presided over by state Sen. Debra Bowen, focused on an emerging area of technology that's known as radio frequency identification (RFID). Retailers and manufacturers in the United States and Europe, including Wal-Mart Stores, have begun testing RFID systems, which use millions of special sensors to automatically detect the movement of merchandise in stores and monitor inventory in warehouses.

[C|NET July 9, 2003] Wal-Mart cancels 'smart-shelf' trial news.com.com/2100-1019_3-1023934.html Wal-Mart Stores has unexpectedly canceled testing for an experimental wireless inventory control system, ending one of the first and most closely watched efforts to bring controversial radio frequency identification technology to store shelves in the United States. ... A Wal-Mart representative this week told CNET News.com that the retail giant will not conduct a planned trial of a so-called smart-shelf system with partner Gillette that was scheduled to begin last month at an outlet in Brockton, Mass., a Boston suburb.

[C|NET] Big picture page around the above story: http://news.com.com/2104-1019_3-1023934.html?tag=bigpic

[CNN Online, July 9, 2003] Goodbye UPC bar codes cnn.com/2003/TECH/ptech/07/09/beamed.barcodes.ap/index.html Razor blades and medicines packaged with pinpoint-sized computer chips and tiny antennae to send retailers and manufacturers a wealth of information about the products -- and those who buy them -- will start appearing in grocery stores and pharmacies this year. Within two decades, the minuscule transmitters are expected to replace the familiar product bar codes, and retailers are already envisioning the conveniences the new technology, called "radio frequency identification," will bring -- even as others are raising privacy concerns. ... "It would help you manage your inventory a lot better," says Todd Andrews, spokesman for the Rhode Island-based CVS pharmacy ... "If you could utilize RFID technology to tell you that a prescription is in the waiting bin, maybe the product could say: 'I've been here 10 days and I haven't been picked up yet.' Then, you could call the patient," Andrews says. ... "Simply stated, I don't think most people want their clothes spying on them," Rotenberg said.

[The Register June 27, 2003] RFID Chips Are Here theregister.co.uk/content/55/31461.html Bar codes are something most of us never think about. We go to the grocery store to buy dog food, the checkout person runs our selection over the scanner, there's an audible beep or boop, and then we're told how much money we owe. Bar codes in that sense are an invisible technology that we see all the time, but without thinking about what's in front of our eyes. ... Surveillance is getting easier, cheaper, smaller, and ubiquitous. Sure, it's possible to destroy an RFID tag. You can crush it, puncture it, or microwave it (but be careful of fires!). You can't drown it, however, and you can't demagnetize it. And washing RFID-tagged clothes won't remove the chips, since they're specifically designed to withstand years of wearing, washing, and drying. You could remove the chip from your jeans, but you'd have to find it first.

This article is a compendium of activities and links to articles describing each one, as follows:

[Computerworld; APRIL 01, 2004; Bob Brewin; computerworld.com/securitytopics/security/privacy/story/0,10801,91830,00.html?nas=PM-91830]

TSA eyes RFID boarding passes to track airline passengers

APRIL 01, 2004 (COMPUTERWORLD) - CHICAGO -- The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is examining the use of RFID-tagged airline boarding passes that could allow passenger tracking within airports, a proposal some privacy advocates called a potentially "outrageous" violation of civil liberties.

Anthony "Buzz" Cerino, communications security technology lead at the TSA, said the agency believes the use of boarding passes with radio frequency identification (RFID) chips could speed up the movement of passengers who sign on to the agency's "registered traveler" program. This would permit them to pass through a secure "special lane" during the boarding process.

Under the registered traveler program, frequent fliers would provide the TSA with detailed personal information that would be correlated by a background check. Privacy advocates said they believe the RFID boarding pass would then serve as an automatic link to the registered traveler database. Details about how the system might work haven't been released by the TSA, and Cerino couldn't be reached today for further comment. ... The TSA has already started to work on deploying RFID boarding passes in Africa under the Federal Aviation Administration's Safe Skies for Africa Initiative (http://www.ssfa.net/), Cerino said. He didn't say which countries would use the boarding passes or when the project would start. The initiative identifies Angola, Cameroon, Cape Verde, the Ivory Coast, Kenya, Mali, Namibia, Tanzania and Zimbabwe as member countries.

Links to related sites

EPCglobal (epcglobalinc.org/): "EPCglobal is leading the development of industry-driven standards for the Electronic Product Code (EPC) Network to support the use of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) in today’s fast-moving, information rich trading networks. We are a member-driven organisation comprised of leading firms and industries focused on creating global standards for the EPCglobal Network. Our goal is increased visibility and efficiency throughout the supply chain and higher quality information flow between your company and its key trading partners."

Auto-ID center (autoidcenter.org/): DEFUNCT industry consortium driving the development of the RFID / Auto-ID system. NOTE: The web site now has a notice saying the Auto-ID Center has closed down, and been replaced by EPCglobal and the Auto-ID Labs (www.autoidlabs.org). The Auto-ID labs web site is not responding as of this writing.

STOP RFID (www.stoprfid.org/): Activist organization aimed to stop the spread of RFID and related technology.

RFID Journal (rfidjournal.com/): RFID Journal is an independent, online daily devoted to one thing: educating business people about radio frequency identification and its many business applications.

Combat Zones That See (CTS; dtsn.darpa.mil/ixo/solicitations/cts/index.htm): A US DoD project to develop to track "everything", supposedly to be used in combat zones apparently. Village Voice article (villagevoice.com/issues/0328/shachtman.php): Big Brother Gets a Brain: The Pentagon's Plan for Tracking Everything That Moves

Safe Skies for Africa Initiative (http://www.ssfa.net/) A project run by TSA to establish RFID use in African airports. This is likely a beta test outside the eyes of privacy advocates in the U.S. of something which will be fielded in the U.S. eventually.

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