RFID tags useful but also potentially dangerous
One of the most exciting technologies to be implemented in recent years is Radio Frequency Identification (RFID).
By now, most folks know that the main component in RFID is a microchip outfitted with a tiny antenna, known as a "tag." This tag communicates information to a reader, which in turn relays that information to a computer system, which then performs tasks based on what is in the data it receives.
RFID is a relatively mature technology that has already been applied in many ways. For example, pet owners embed RFID tags under the skins of their precious ones. In case Fido gets lost, vets or others who find them can read the information on the tag and reunite the pet and owner.
Another popular use of RFID is for payment cards, especially mass transit.The Metro in Washington, D.C., and the Chicago Transit Authority use such cards. Simply run them past the reader and you're good to go.
Toll roads in many jurisdictions also are equipped with RFID to facilitate toll collection. Simply put a tag on your front bumper or windshield and you can zoom through the fast lane.
In the past year or so, the U.S. State Department began putting RFID tags into newly issued US passports The State Department claims that the tag stores only what is already printed in the passport, along with a photo, and the tag is only used to make traveling easier and more efficient.
The application of RFID to these types of situations is what causes a lot of consternation. People are worried that criminals, terrorists, and other lowlifes could simply improvise their own scanner and steal sensitive information off the RFID tag. The specs issued by the State Department call for safeguards to protect against this very scenario, but, of course, bad guys can often outsmart the good guys.
In fact, a vocal minority of folks believe that if we accept the use of sensitive information with RFID, it's only a matter of time before it is used for more nefarious purposes, such as tracking the whereabouts and doings of all citizens.There is even a rumor that the feds will toss anyone in jail for 25 years for disabling their passport RFID tag, under the presumption that this consists of passport tampering. Regardless, some folks advocate the destruction of the tag.
We certainly agree that there are legitimate concerns with RFID, especially with data security. But like any innovation, folks need to be aware of any pitfalls before embracing it.
is president of ISDI Technologies Inc., an IT consultancy. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org