RFID Tags - Real Life Minority Report?

News to me, am I out of touch? Retailers worldwide are eagerly anticipate the insertion of RFID tags into their merchandise, such as clothing. These paragraphs in particular caught my attention:

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.

That raises the disquieting possibility of being tracked though our personal possessions. Imagine: The Gap links your sweater’s RFID tag with the credit card you used to buy it and recognizes you by name when you return. Grocery stores flash ads on wall-sized screens based on your spending patterns, just like in “Minority Report.” Police gain a trendy method of constant, cradle-to-grave surveillance.

Full article here: http://news.com.com/2010-1069-980325.html

Wired has an interesting article on a technology already being developed to combat this: http://www.wired.com/news/business/0,1367,62468,00.html?tw=wn_tophead_2

The SF movie implications are limitless. Will everyone be walking around with their own personal firewall to block RFID transmissions? Will spammers learn how to hack the frequency and broadcast Viagra spams in broken English? Will you be sitting in a board meeting, and all of a sudden receive a commercial for 20% off at your local clothing store?

Then again…maybe this will be forgotten like the universal bar code reader?

Or you know, you buy the sweater, take it home, and take off the RFID tags along with the size sticker and manufacturer tag.

I thought they were going to be deactivated when the product was purchased for security purposes – such as active RFID tags leaving the premises being potentially stolen. Yah know, like current security technology, but still works even in the face of incompetent clerks!

Not bitter …

These things are really not a threat at present. I spent a few months working with RFIDs as a researcher looking into new electronic commerce applications for them. Cool tech, but hardly a general threat to your personal freedom. If you really object to people tracking your movements within a store, better stay home, as the CCTV cameras are on you 24/7 at the mall…

Anyhow most product RFIDs are the high-frequency/short-range variety that are used as smart bar-code replacements to help shoppers, not hinder them – unless you scan them manually they won’t respond, since they only have a few inches range. There are also of course low-frequency long-range tags such as the ones used for toll booths, but they are larger and more expensive, as is the equipment needed to scan them, and in any event if you buy a product with a tag, you can always peel it off after the purchase. There are also super-dumb tags that just go ding to warn for shoplifters passing those mall-store security gates, but they aren’t smart enough to track your movements, and in any event you can again just peel the thing off once you buy your product.

Someday some kind of ubiquitous computing smart dust micro tag thing may be more of a privacy threat, but compared to other more significant risks to personal security and privacy, I don’t think this is a big deal right now.

Mind you, when I posted this I didn’t have imminent Armageddon in mind. I agree it’s far more likely that kids will yank tags and play pranks on complete strangers instead. Come on, surely I’m not the only person that yanked a tag from a book in Barnes and Noble and planted it on some random obnoxious idiot, am I? I am? Oh, dear…


Anyway, I agree it’s rather easy to yank tags off clothes. I’m betting the first step (assuming these catch on) will be inserting them inside consumer electronics (PDA, MP3 player) where they can’t be easily removed. I can already see the Web headlines - “consumers outraged that opening their PDA to remove the RSID voids the support warranty”.

Alright, now how about this?


Anyone want to microwave their money?

What jump in logic made them think there were RFID tags in the bills? If i put my tin foil hat in the microwave it goes crazy, is that because the government has embedded RIFD tags in my tin foil hat?


From the original article I linked, and I quote:

the European central bank is considering embedding RFID tags into banknotes by 2005.

I almost want to try microwaving a new $20 to see what happens. Then again, I’m willing to bet banks won’t exchange burned money.

But wait! Reason prevails!


Bearing in mind that the writer of that site thinks that the Presidents worship an evil owl god, and was ultimately reponsible (since it’s his site) for continuing the nonsense story by namechecking the New World Order…

…no. I genuinely hope it wasn’t a hoax though, because the idea of these fools actually torching a grand in their microwave is just too funny.

Trust me, there are no RFIDs implanted in our money. Any money will burn when microwaved for long enough, the ink will heat up… Feel free to put some old cash in the 'wave if you want to waste it.

Some currency may have filaments for anti-countrfeiting purposes (ours doesnt) but if an RFID was placed in money it would be obvious, due to the foil antenna and the microchip.