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Weekly column: Could we be tracked by micro RFID tags?


   RFID tags: Big Brother in small packages
   By Declan McCullagh
   January 13, 2003, 6:26 AM PT

   Could we be constantly tracked through our clothes, shoes or even our
   cash in the future?
   I'm not talking about having a microchip surgically implanted beneath
   your skin, which is what Applied Digital Systems of Palm Beach, Fla.,
   would like to do. Nor am I talking about John Poindexter's creepy
   Total Information Awareness spy-veillance system, which I wrote about
   last week.
   Instead, in the future, we could be tracked because we'll be wearing,
   eating and carrying objects that are carefully designed to do so.
   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.
   You should become familiar with RFID technology because you'll be
   hearing much more about it soon. Retailers adore the concept, and CNET
   News.com's own Alorie Gilbert wrote last week about how Wal-Mart and
   the U.K.-based grocery chain Tesco are starting to install "smart
   shelves" with networked RFID readers. In what will become the largest
   test of the technology, consumer goods giant Gillette recently said it
   would purchase 500 million RFID tags from Alien Technology of Morgan
   Hill, Calif.
   Alien Technology won't reveal how it charges for each tag, but
   industry estimates hover around 25 cents. The company does predict
   that in quantities of 1 billion, RFID tags will approach 10 cents
   each, and in lots of 10 billion, the industry's holy grail of 5 cents
   a tag.

   It becomes unnervingly easy to imagine a scenario where everything you
   buy that's more expensive than a Snickers will sport RFID tags, which
   typically include a 64-bit unique identifier yielding about 18
   thousand trillion possible values. KSW-Microtec, a German company, has
   invented washable RFID tags designed to be sewn into clothing. And
   according to EE Times, the European central bank is considering
   embedding RFID tags into banknotes by 2005.

   [... remainder snipped and available at http://news.com.com/2010-1069-980325.html ...]

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