Techie Trepidation – RFID Update

Last winter I wrote about the civil liberties and other concerns that accompany the continued development and proliferation of RFID (Radio Frequency ID) chips in everything from store goods to currency to identification cards. Some recent news events make this worth mentioning again.

In the last years of the Bush Administration, almost half of the states passed legislation in opposition to implementing the provisions of the REAL ID Act of 2005. This law is basically dead in the water, given the opposition of so many states to many of its provisions. Many forms of Federal ID, including US Passports, already have these chips in them. Many border states that did not oppose REAL ID have started to issue drivers licenses with RFID chips as well.

The proliferation of RFID technology, despite some qualified concerns from many trade groups, privacy advocates, fraud prevention organizations, and the ACLU, has the potential to escalate exponentially with the introduction of another questionable bill from a Democratic lawmaker.

The PASS ID Act, or S. 1261, is currently awaiting committee hearings after being introduced by Hawaii Sen. Daniel Akaka. Sophomoric humor about the bill being a piece of ‘Akaka‘ aside, its provisions include national standards for state-issued IDs, much like REAL ID attempted to do before so many states passed laws essentially flushing it. The new chunk of merde in this version includes mandatory RFID chipping of drivers licenses.

In case you were wondering how much this means to your freedom, these IDs are designed to be read by scanners from nearly 30 feet away. Detection of movements by citizens is a big potential issue, but so is fraud, as reported by Todd Lewan of the Associated Press. The Sentinel thought enough of the story to put it on Page One (below the fold) of Sunday’s paper, but a much more comprehensive version of the story is available here. An excerpt or two:

RFID…has a fundamental flaw: Each chip is built to faithfully transmit its unique identifier “in the clear, exposing the tag number to interception during the wireless communication.”

Meanwhile, (the U.S. Department of) Homeland Security has been promoting broad use of RFID even though its own advisory committee on data integrity and privacy warned that radio-tagged IDs have the potential to allow “widespread surveillance of individuals” without their knowledge or consent.

RFID’s role is to make the collection and transmission of people’s biometric data quick, easy and nonintrusive,”…”Think of it as the thread that ties together the surveillance package.”

If you care about individual liberty and preventing the unreasonable monitoring of the lawful movements and activities of citizens, the ACLU has comprehensive information and an action center available online. I also have the bill listed in my Bad Law Tracker on the sidebar of this page.

Have a great day.

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