Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Ill-educated privacy fears around RFID

Hattip: Wired
Wired is reporting on how IBM has released a "new" RFID tag that allows a consumer to rip off part of the antennae to reduce the range of the device while retaining the tags usability. I love the quote from Robert Atkinson (president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation):
"The Clipped Tag shows that IBM is addressing privacy concerns, even those that are unreasonable" basically showing the derision of the industry towards privacy groups such as Caspian - who provide information like:
"While highly useful, some critics worry that RFID tags could expose individuals to privacy risks. For example, information sent wirelessly could be intercepted and deciphered by someone with the appropriate tools and skills, with little chance of detection. Since the unique RFID serial numbers on purchased goods -- called electronic product codes -- will be matched with credit card and customer loyalty card numbers in databases, the RFID tags could be used by marketers and spies to track individual consumers"

However this completely ignores the fact that the intercepting person needs access to the database with that relationship in to know it. Ignores the fact that RFID tags rely on their antennae not only for the transmission / receipt of signal, but also to induct the power to make the response.  IE they are very sensitive and something like washing your clothes is likely to destroy most of the tags.  And that even ignoring that - the tracking of an individual by their Credit Card / Loyalty Card does not need RFID - and is already done.

And the privacy advocates also conveniently ignore that most organisations are still finding it difficult to justify the cost of RFID tags at the pallet level - let alone the individual item.  Furthermore the types of large stores (Walmart / Toys R Us / etc) that could be realistically assumed to have datacentres able to process this type of information - are already struggling under the load of processing their sales orders and purchase orders.  Adding the data-mining complexity of  terrabytes of data that someone has come into the store wearing something they MAY have bought here before just is not that likely.

But personally - when it is possible - I welcome the possibility that I will only get approached by a store salesperson that is only going to bug me about things that I might be remotely interested in...
Tags: , ,

No comments: