RFID SPY CHIPS -- THIS MUST BE STOPPED
WHAT HAPPENED TO OUR PRIVACY ? WHERE IS OUR OUTRAGE ?
FDA Letter Raises Questions about VeriChip Safety, Data Security
Spychips | January 31, 2005
FDA letter to the Digital Angel Corporation spells out potential health risks associated with the VeriChip ID implant device. Click here to download a PDF of the full letter . (For the passage above, see page 3, paragraph 2.) Think it's completely safe to inject an RFID transponder into your flesh? Think again. Although the FDA approved the VeriChip implant last week, their approval does not mean the device is completely safe, according to an FDA letter CASPIAN has obtained. The letter, dated October 12, 2004, was sent to Digital Angel Corporation and outlines a number of potential health risks associated with the device. Among the potential problems the FDA identifies are: "adverse tissue reaction," "migration of the implanted transponder," "failure of implanted transponder," "electrical hazards" and "magnetic resonance imaging [MRI] incompatibilty." Not to mention the nasty needle stick from the "inserter" used to inject it. (The FDA lists "failure of inserter" -- a bloody possiblity we'd rather not contemplate -- among the risks.) To read the FDA's letter for yourself, download the PDF and refer to Page 3, Paragraph 2. Of the numerous risks listed, MRI incompatibility is perhaps the most serious. An MRI machine uses powerful magnetic fields coupled with pulsed radio frequency (RF) fields .According to the FDA's Primer on Medical Device Interactions with Magnetic Resonance Imaging Systems , "electrical currents may be induced in conductive metal implants " that can cause "potentially severe patient burns." Presumably, VeriChip-MRI incompatibility means that doctors will be unable to order this potentially life-saving diagnostic procedure for patients with VeriChip implants, unless the patient undergoes a surgical procedure to remove the VeriChip first.In addition to health risks, the FDA's letter identifies "compromised data security" as one of the concerns associated with the VeriChip. It appears that not only could someone use a reader device to capture the information from an implanted VeriChip, but they could use that information to create a cloned chip with the same functionality. (Of course, criminals lacking RF engineering skills might be tempted to take a more direct route and simply gouge the device out of their victims' arms instead.) If that's not enough to convince you to "say no" to the VeriChip, how about knowing your VeriChip implant can be read whenever you pass through a doorway equipped with a special VeriChip "portal scanner" ? The image at right comes from a company called "Find Me, LLC," a value-added reseller of VeriChip technology based in Louisiana. The company also sells a handheld reader , which presumably anyone can use to read VeriChip data. That's quite a lot of potential harm for something supposedly designed to help patients. If you're looking for a secure, non-invasive way to alert medical professionals to your health history, we recommend the MedicAlert bracelet as a safe alternative to the VeriChip. Given the MedicAlert's 48-year track record, all emergency health providers know to look for it. It costs far less and has none of the serious health risks associated with an implanted computer chip
CASPIAN UNCOVERS U.S. GOVERNMENT RFID PROMOTION SCHEME
Heads of Federal Agencies encouraged to "advance the industry"
Have you wondered why the U.S. Government seems so keen on RFID lately?
CASPIAN (Consumers Against RFID Privacy Invasion and Numbering) may have
found the answer in the form of a General Services Administration (GSA)
bulletin issued last month. The GSA is a federal agency that manages
purchasing administration for other federal agencies. In Bulletin "B-7 Radio Frequency Identification," heads of federal agencies are "encouraged to consider action that can be taken to advance the [RFID] industry by demonstrating the long-term intent of the agency to adopt RFID technological solutions." In addition, the document specifies that "agencies need to determine how to best implement RFID technology on current or proposed contracts, grants, and cooperative agreements." (See
ntentType=GSA_BASIC) The directive was signed by G. Martin Wagner, Associate Administrator for the Office of Governmentwide Policy, on December 4, 2004.
Coincidently, since that time, major RFID initiatives have been publicized by a number of government agencies, including Social Security, NASA, the Postal Service, and the Department of Homeland Security, among others. "Buying needed equipment is one thing. Finding excuses to purchase and promote controversial technology at taxpayer expense is another," said Katherine Albrecht, Founder and Director of CASPIAN. "The RFID industry has planned to use 'top tier' government officials to advance their
agenda since 2002. Apparently those efforts are now paying off." "Albrecht points to a cache of confidential documents that her group discovered in 2003. These included a strategy document prepared for a prominent RFID industry consortium by public relations firm Fleischman-Hillard. The document recommended identifying "key
government, regulatory, and interest group leaders" to bring into the "inner circle" of support for the RFID industry. (See mirror of original document at
http://cryptome.org/rfid/external_comm.pdf, pages 28-29. CASPIAN's 2003
press release regarding these documents can be found at:
http://www.spychips.com/press-releases/security_gaffe.html ) In one of the confidential documents, Fleischman-Hillard indicated that there had even been a "successful meeting with Office of Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge." (See
rs.pdf) "We have no evidence that any specific public official was co-opted,"
said Albrecht, "but it's curious how many well-publicized RFID
deployments have been announced since that bulletin was released."
2015: RFID is all over - make way for super RFID
CNET | January 25, 2005
by Jo Best
RFID is now the mainstream, according to industry figures released today, and by 2015 it'll be time for the next generation of the technology. Speaking at the RFID ROI Summit in London today, Nigel Montgomery, director of European research at AMR Research, said the track-and-trace technology is now starting to reach maturity and businesses are clamouring for it. "The reality is RFID... has come on in leaps and bounds," he said. "There's been a lot of hype around what RFID might be able to do for you... but the reality is there's a business need there." "When people say [RFID] is immature... that is an incorrect statement," he added. "We're now in the early adopter stage." Sesh Murthy, director of IBM's RFID and sensors unit, said that by 2015 all processes will use RFID. "I don't know how we will get from here to 2015 but the technology will change," he said. As well as a revamp of RFID readers, "back-end systems will change, the processes that use RFID aren't set in stone," he added. However, with most CIOs now at least looking into the chip technology if not actively implementing it, the RFID pioneers are turning towards the next generation of the technology, dubbed 'super RFID'. AMR Research's Montgomery said: "The truth is the technology has moved on immeasurably in the last three years" and now "sensor technologies" are being added to the RFID mix. "There will be other sensors [coming to RFID] - temperature sensors, weight sensors," IBM's Murthy said. Super RFID is essentially a sensor network or sensor telemetry. Instead of passive tags, which simply store information, sensor networks can be used to monitor conditions and record that data, and, if necessary, set off an alert if a condition moves beyond certain criteria. Sensor networks could be used to monitor temperature-sensitive materials and send a text alert to a mobile phone if the material's temperature moves beyond its set range, for instance. Super RFID is already being used. BP is working with Accenture on a sensor network to look after its rail cars. As well as keeping track of a car's whereabouts with GPS, the sensors monitor a car's temperature, weight and whether it has been hit or knocked.
Tesco 'spychips' anger consumers
A US consumer privacy group has called for a global boycott of Tesco stores over the company's trial of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chips. The technology allows products to be tracked via radio waves. Privacy groups have labelled them "spy chips" because they fear the tags attached to products, can be used to track the behaviour of customers. But Tesco said the tags, being trialled on high value items in 10 stores, were only to help its distribution process. Automated checkout "Suggestions that Tesco might use this technology to track products once they have been purchased, thereby invading customers privacy are simply wrong, in fact it would be illegal in Europe," a Tesco spokeswoman told the BBC's Newsnight programme. "The radio barcode is only activated when in close proximity to the reader located in the store or distribution centre." Up to now the Tesco has used RFID chips on cases of non-food items at its distribution centres. The spokeswoman said the new trial was to help the company track products between its distribution centres and stores. "This helps us ensure that products are in the right place at the right time for customers." If RFID technology was attached to most products, checkout scanning would take seconds although Tesco has said in the past it had no plans to automate the payment process in this way. Informal moratorium The boycott is being called by the group Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering (Caspian). Caspian director Katherine Albrecht said the decision to carry out in-store RFID trials on products breached an informal moratorium that has, until now, limited the technology mainly to the production and supply-chain areas of big business. "More people across Great Britain will be taking home items containing spy chips, and that is simply unacceptable." She added: "If people must shop at Tesco, we are asking them to reduce their purchases."
RFID Paypass System at Superbowl Event
SAN FERNANDO, Calif. Precision Dynamics Corporation will provide the Jacksonville Suns and the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville with radio frequency identification solutions for age verification and cashless payment during the Times-Union SuperFest, an official Super Bowl XXXIX event, taking place February 3-6 in Jacksonville, Fla. According to a news release, the Jacksonville Suns will implement PDC's AgeBand Electronic Age/ID Verification System along with Smart AgeBand Wristbands to prevent underage drinking at the event. PDC's cashless payment solution consisting of Smart Kiosks, Smart Band RFID Wristbands and Smart Readers, will be used to provide fast and convenient cashless point-of-sales during the event. PDC's wireless cashless payment solution helps increase throughput at concession stands and reduce long lines. Smart Kiosk is a free-standing booth with a touchscreen that allows patrons to load money using cash, credit or debit cards onto Smart Band RFID Wristbands. Smart Readers replace expensive stand-alone POS systems and provide convenient wireless cashless POS. AgeBand utilizes special software to verify the authenticity of state issued drivers licenses or ID credentials. The system scans the magnetic stripe and 2-dimensional bar code of the credential and prints patron's pertinent information on a non-transferable Smart AgeBand Wristband containing an RFID chip. "We use AgeBand at the stadium during baseball season and it has been a great enhancement to our operations," said Peter Bragan, Jr., general manager for the Jacksonville Suns. "During SuperFest we hope to discourage underage drinking and encourage a safe Super Bowl party using AgeBand. We also look forward to implementing a new cashless RFID system during the event to improve patrons' overall experience and streamline operations."
DONT SPY ON US
US to slap tourists with RFID
The US Department of Homeland Security has decided to trial RFID tags in an effort to make sure only the right sort of people get across US borders.
The controversial US-VISIT scheme for those visiting the US from abroad already fingerprints holidaymakers on their way into the country and is now adding RFID to the mix in order to improve border management, the department said.
The trials will start at a "simulated port" in the spring and will then be extended to Nogales East and Nogales West in Arizona; Alexandria Bay in New York; and Pacific Highway and Peace Arch in Washington by the end of July.
The testing phase will continue until the spring of next year. The exact way RFID will be used with the travellers is not yet known.
RFID chips will be used to track both pedestrians and vehicles entering the US to automatically record when the visitors arrive and leave in the country.
So far, over 400 people have been turned away from the country or arrested as a result of US-VISIT checks.
US Under Secretary for Border & Transportation Security, Asa Hutchinson, said in a statement: "Through the use of radio frequency technology, we see the potential to not only improve the security of our country, but also to make the most important infrastructure enhancements to the US land borders in more than 50 years."
The US government has already shown a marked fondness for the tagging technology. The US Department of Defense mandated its suppliers to use the technology , while the Food and Drug Administration is encouraging the pharmaceutical industry to use the chips in an attempt to beat counterfeiters.
Outbreak of RFID tagging at medical facilities
The Jacobi Medical Centre in New York is tagging patients with RFID chips in a pilot project run with Siemens Business Services.
The chips are incorporated into the wrist bands issued when a patient is admitted. The idea is that the chips will cut down on patient misidentification, and make accessing medical records faster. The chip holds basic, identifying information: name, date of birth, sex and a medical record number.
Medical staff will carry RFID readers and tablet style PCs with Wi-Fi access to the medical network. The patient record is connected to the labs, pharmacy and, perhaps most usefully for hospital administrators, to billing.
In Mexico City as well as chipping staff at risk of being kidnapped , authorities have implanted the Applied Digital Solutions tags in approximately 1,000 patients, including Alzheimer's sufferers, the Washington Post reports.
Battersea Dogs' Home in the UK offers a similar service for its many canine, and less numerous feline, residents.
RFID Company Matric's RFID chip forms a swastika
April 6, 2004
This image is from RFID wireless computing technologies company Matrics, Inc.
Matrics, Inc. 's "about" page states:
"Matrics was created with a vision to revolutionize the logistics and supply chain processes by deploying breakthrough RFID systems. Today, as Matrics is delivering customer success in pursuit of their vision, Bill and Mike continue to serve the company enthusiastically as Chief Scientist and Chief Technology Officer, respectively.
Matrics provides EPC-compliant RFID systems for retail, CPG, defense, transportation and other vertical markets. MatricsÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…Â¡ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â´ commitment to customer success is measured by increased asset visibility and an easy route to compliance. We deliver high performance, cost-effective RFID systems scalable to our customerÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…Â¡ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â´s requirements.
Headquartered in the state of Maryland in the United States, Matrics is actively working with customers and partners in Europe, Asia and Latin & South America. Matrics, along with its partnership network, provides RFID solutions to many of the Fortune 1000 companies, government, as well as international businesses. Current customers include International Paper and McCarran Airport..."
Hmmm.... interesting design for this new design for a tracker chip put out by a company called Matrics. They're not throwing it in our face, or anything....
(see the original image on Matric's website at: http://www.matrics.com/images/lvl2/products/tags/fullres/RO_DD_General_Plastic_Tag.jpg)
April 07, 2004
The Carlyle Group, run by Frank Carlucci, was strategically placed before Sept 11th to maximize profits by controlling almost every sector of the police state's architecture in America.
Upon looking at Matric's structure , Alex found the following Carlyle Group members on the Board of Directors at Matrics:
Brooke Coburn: Managing Director of The Carlyle Group
Mark Ein: "Previously, he was with Washington, D.C.-based Carlyle Group for seven years where he had responsibility for many of its telecommunications investment activities including: LCC International; Telcom Ventures, a founding shareholder of Teligent; several companies that were merged into Nextel; a company that was merged into American Tower Corp.; and Prime Cable (which acquired cable systems in the Washington D.C. and Chicago markets from SBC and later formed a strategic relationship with Comcast)." (from Matric's website -- http://www.matrics.com/about/board.shtml)
Michael Arneson: (take a look at spook-man) "Michael Arneson has over 20 years of experience with the National Security Agency/Department of Defense in electronic design, development, and integration of advanced electronic security technologies. He specialized in the re-engineering applications of smart materials, sensors, software, and hybrid integrated circuitry and managed multi-million dollar government programs, from research to implementation into the commercial sector. Mike holds eight patents for commercial and classified purposes and has five patents pending.
Mike has been published in technical publications, has received the Distinguished Service Award from NSA, and has received several awards from DARPA, the Department of State, and NSA. He received the Domestic Technology Award for the transfer of advanced government technology into the commercial sector in both 1995 and 1998. He also served in the Air Force and was awarded the Presidential Citation Award, which was presented by the Vice President of the United States." (from Matric's website -- http://www.matrics.com/about/board.shtml)
When you look closer at the website, you will notice they talk about using RFID for Homeland Security and it's clear that they're selling the RFID as part of Big Brother's infrastructure.
When we first looked at the image of the RFID styled like a swastika we thought it was so in-your-face that we needed to do more research. We didn't have to dig very deep to find the shadowy figures behind Matrics.
About Matrics -- http://www.matrics.com/about/
LETS STAND AGAINST THIS ATTACK ON OUR PRIVACY
"Smart Dust" May Soon Be Watching You
It's a project first dreamed up by the military to get information from the battlefield.
They call it "Smart Dust" and it may soon make it possible to keep track of anything, anywhere, including you.
They are the world's smallest wireless sensors. And at about the size of a wristwatch, the contain a battery powered microphone, an accelerometer, as well as temperature and humidity sensors, according to Sam Godwin, Vice President of Crossbow.
Scatter them 250 feet apart and they will form their own wireless network similar to a spider's web.
Smart Dust was first designed for the military, enabling troops to crop dust enemy lines with of millions of networked wireless sensors too small to see and too numerous to destroy.
They can be used to track enemy troops or where a gunshot is coming from.
Through a contract with the Pentagon, researchers invented Smart Dust at the University of California in the late 1990s.
"I coined the name Smart Dust to describe where all this was headed," said Kris Pister, chief technology officer for Dust Networks.
Pister said an initial prototype as small as a grain of rice was able to sense, think, talk and listen.
Smart Dust has enormous potential to improve lives. It can offer a high-tech inexpensive way to monitor a pipeline in Auburn, securing the perimeters at the Purdy jail, monitoring the nuclear power plant in Hanford or sensing vibration on Tacoma Narrows bridge, even monitor children at day care centers.
But privacy experts warn Smart Dust has a potential dark side. Imagine living in a city coated with wireless sensors.
In the futuristic movie "Minority Report," even billboards seemed to know the identity of people passing by.
Something like Smart Dust is already on the way even closer to home.
Radio frequency ID chips, RFID, may soon be in driver's licenses and passports, even consumer items like clothes.
"And these chips can be read without your knowledge. And by reading them people can get a unique number which means you can be tracked using them," said Kevin Bankston, with the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
And guess what? RFID can be read by Smart Dust.
"That is a concern," says Godwin.
Not just the government, but businesses could trade information about where you are, what you are wearing, what you eat and where you shop.
"This is like when you are walking around, someone is following you everywhere you go and writing it down and storing it and probably selling it to someone," Bankston says.
But some argue most of it is already possible because of credit card records, cell phone logs, security cards.
"If you think it is going to enable people to invade privacy in ways they haven't been able to do before, that is not true," says Pister.
A Smart Dust coated world may still be a few years away.
But it's possible for an invention that could save us from pipeline accidents and keep our children safe, to also put Big Brother on every building, door and window ledge.
PFABF IS STANDING AGAINST BIG BROTHER
Big brother is watching ... and sending help to motorists
Walking into the Transportation Management Center (TMC) is eerily akin to stepping into the situation room in any modern war movie.
A gigantic plasma screen dominates a two-story semi-dark "operations center," with an image of the metro roadways... switching in real time from green to yellow or red, depending on driving conditions.
Three live video feeds on screens - provided by 474 moveable cameras that can pan, tilt and zoom remotely - anchor the mega-map, giving visual proof of the changing colors on the giant screen above.
Bordering the whole thing are color-coded synopses of ongoing traffic events and their status.
The whole thing is called the X-wall. It's 18 feet high by 24 feet wide and it's the primary source of light in the cavernous semi-dark, two-story "operations center." The colored glow creates an atmosphere of reverence, seriousness and purpose, where people talk in hushed tones and walk slowly.
Overhead, an Emergency Command Center sticks out over the floor from above. Behind the glass wall allowing the room's occupants to literally oversee the entire operations center is a conference table with a phone outlet in front of every seat for all of the mission-critical DOT department heads in force during emergencies. Mobile plasma screens that can be jacked-in to any camera stand dark in the corner.
On the operations center floor below, DOT employees talk quietly into headsets, dealing with individual incidents: wrecks, lane closures, HERO truck emergencies, stranded motorists... even the occasional stray piece of furniture that flies off the back of a truck.
Cameras and computer software aren't the only monitors sending reports back to the TMC. There are a dozen Highway Emergency Response Operator (HERO) trucks patrolling the metro area interstates during commute hours, and they come as far south as the Eagle's Landing/Hudson Bridge Road exit on I-75. The HEROs handle all types of roadway emergencies, and each of the 56 trucks in the DOT's HERO fleet is capable of righting an overturned 18-wheeler.
Despite whatever chaos may be transpiring on the big screens -- and out on metro Atlanta's interstates and state highways -- it all seems to be under control.
As it should be. The TMC is the command center for Metro Atlanta traffic. It's a nexus of dozens of streams of traffic-related information that is, magically it seems, filtered and digested by some incredible software called Navigator into what looks like a giant video game.
The TMC was opened in 1996 and was part of improvements resulting from the '96 Olympics. Today, there are 56 HERO trucks patrolling metro Atlanta, 1,361 cameras statewide -- with 1,245 stationary cameras providing traffic speed info from around metro Atlanta alone -- and a Web site with live video feeds of metro Atlanta traffic.
And, the TMC doesn't just keep the info to itself. There is a network of 80 changeable message signs in the system, 18 of which are dedicated just to the HOV lanes. (The messages are automatically generated by the Navigator software as it digests, distills and filters the stream of data coming in.)
The TMC's mission is to monitor Georgia's interstates and state highways. It is also responsible for maintaining watch on, and helping to clear, all traffic incidents on those roadways. For the TMC, an incident is "cleared" when most of the lanes that were affected have reopened.
Besides the coolness factor of the TMC, it has become a standard of traffic safety and monitoring throughout the country. Officials from Florida visited recently to study the TMC system in order to better cope with hurricanes, said TMC spokeswoman Valerie Griffin during a recent tour through the facility.
As befits the critical nature of the TMC, it is locked away in a complex in Grant Park that also houses the GEMA offices and a military supplies warehouse. Visitors must pass a security checkpoint buttressed by the same kind of concrete dividers that can be found on the highway.
Once inside the TMC building, which is built around the round, operations center, visitors must sign in. Key entryways require ID cards for access. Visitors lucky enough to be taken to the operations floor are carefully guided and kept out of the way, not allowed to stray far, if at all.
While the TMC may not be the easiest place to visit in person, there are several easy, and instant, ways to access its services from just about anywhere. Motorists can call the TMC directly, either locally (404-635-6800) or toll-free (888-635-8287). They can call it on their cell phones by dialing *DOT (*368). They can check traffic through the TMC's own cameras on the Internet: www.georgia-navigator.com.
They can even set up their own personalized traffic report system, including traffic alerts and notifications from the DOT delivered right to their e-mail or palm-held device.
Or, they can simply sit in their car and wait, until they are spotted by one of the dozen people scanning the screens to send one of the HERO units to help.
“Tagging” U.S. Schoolchildren
Houston’s Spring Independent School District “is equipping 28,000 students with ID badges containing computer chips that are read when the students get on and off school buses,” reported the November 17 New York Times. “The information is fed automatically by wireless phone to the police and school administrators.” Police can monitor children from the time they leave home to their arrival on campus.
“In a variation of the concept, a Phoenix school district in November is starting a project using fingerprint technology to track when and where students get on and off buses,” continues the Times. “Last year, a charter school in Buffalo began automating attendance counts with computerized ID badges ÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¢ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…Â¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¬” one of the earliest examples of what educators said could become a wider trend.”
That trend has been referred to as “tagging” schoolchildren, supposedly as a measure to prevent child abductions. The favored method involves radio frequency identification (RFID) computer chip technology “similar to that used to track livestock and pallets of retail shipments.”
Understandably, many older students object to the technology. “It’s too Big Brother for me,” complained 15-year-old Kenneth Haines. “Something about the school wanting to know the exact place and time makes me feel kind of like an animal.”
Misgivings of that sort are not likely to abate as the RFID technology becomes more widespread ÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¢ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…Â¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¬” and invasive. Some advocates of the RFID tagging technology, notes the Times, “see broader possibilities, such as implanting RFID tags under the skin of children to avoid problems with lost or forgotten tags. More immediately, they said, they could see using the technology to track whether students attend individual classes.”
Cutting-edge technologies work as tattle-tales for a surveillance-minded state, Canadian privacy advocates warn
Many Canadians became aware that late-model cars are equipped with "black box" technology during a recent high-profile trial in which a motorist was jailed in the death of a university student in Montreal.
Black box data showed that Eric Gauthier was driving at 157 kilometres an hour just seconds before he struck and killed Yacine Zinet. The trial marked the first time that car data recorders have been accepted as evidence in a Canadian courtroom.
Some find it disturbing that the technology used to convict Gauthier is tame in terms of what is out there to help us, it's said, but available for use against us.
"There is a widening and yawning gap between the surveillance that is actually happening and people's understanding for the capacity for surveillance. People just have no clue, and I'm describing intelligent people," says Stephanie Perrin, president of Digital Discretion Inc. in Montreal.
"At the very broad level, we have a society that thinks it's democratic and absolutely has no concept of what the technology does."
Personal information often lies dormant in huge data banks that people contribute to constantly -- through use of everyday items such as credit cards and telephones. Increasingly, corporate, government and law enforcement entities sift through that material with sophisticated data-mining programs, looking for relationships between individuals and whatever interests them.
Calling it a vast violation of privacy, the U.S. Congress last year killed the Pentagon's post-9/11 Total Information Awareness project to create a supercomputer that could plow through merged databanks containing the private information of U.S. citizens.
Examples of data-mining of privileged information surface with alarming regularity. Canadians this year learned that private companies have been mining confidential medical databanks, looking for "volunteers" for clinical trials.
Cellular telephones and vehicles can be tracked, too. The term telematics refers to any marriage of location-tracking technologies, such as global positioning systems, with wireless communications, such as cellphones. Applications include General Motors' OnStar program. The Telematics Research Group estimates that by 2008, more than 40 per cent of new vehicles in the United States will have some form of telematics.
There is no question that law enforcement agencies have used tracking technology to solve crimes, possibly save lives. It's all relative. Knowing exactly where employees are may be reasonable in a hazardous chemical plant but less reasonable in an insurance office.
"Even though I'm a screaming privacy advocate, there is an argument on the other side for this stuff. That's what makes it so difficult and so easy to give everything away," says Perrin, formerly the chief privacy officer at Montreal's Zero Knowledge tech firm.
The technology that helped convict Gauthier is designed to assess airbag efficiency by capturing and recording the vehicle's speed five seconds before the airbag is deployed. In terms of tattle-tale technology it's relatively limited and provides data after the fact. That's not the case with an array of other ventures already in play.
The e-Plate project underway in Britain uses a tiny device embedded in a licence plate to transmit a unique identification number. Vehicles can be tracked in real time or as they go past, over or through fixed points. Multiple licence plates can be "read simultaneously by a single reader at speeds of up to 320 km/h up to 100 metres away," according to the supplier of the device.
The scheme uses radio frequency identification (RFID), one controversial technology or software application that is trickling into North America, particularly in the marketplace. Simply put, RFID tags -- microchips as small as a grain of sand -- contain a unique 96-bit code chock full of information that can be read and stored by RFID readers.
The American who envisioned new uses for radio waves, Kevin Ashton, wanted to create "an Internet of things" where every thing has a unique number and can be linked to a network that can be connected to a computer.
Championed by corporations internationally, RFID technology has been red flagged as an "object of intense concern and attention" by government privacy officials around the world, says Canada's privacy commissioner, Jennifer Stoddart.
"They are far more potentially invasive than video-surveillance cameras because they can be literally embedded in your daily life, almost embedded in you, certainly in the clothes you are wearing," Stoddart says.
They can streamline the supply chain and thus slash labour costs, but they can also be used to track pets, livestock, employees, and philandering mates.
They just don't discriminate. They have been used in all kinds of situations, put into the ID tags of VIPs at high-level conferences and employed to track prisoners. In Asia, quarantined SARS patients were tracked using such chips.
One of the people tracking RFIDs most closely is Katherine Albrecht, founder of the New Hampshire-based Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering.
RFID technology "creates the possibility for everything to be essentially monitored all the time," says Albrecht, who bought an RFID reader on the Internet, proving that they already can be easily acquired by anyone, including criminals or paid snoops amassing information contained in live RFID tags.
Perrin shares Albrecht's concern on this front.
"It's (also about) security and industrial espionage. (RFIDs) are a stupid technology and not usually encrypted. Most people don't run around with scanners, trying to read people's RFID tags but there is nothing to prevent them.
"If I can scan an airport waiting lounge and find out who the people are by scanning their (employer-issued RFID-embedded) ID cards, that is interesting information."
And, Albrecht adds, there are plenty of folks interested in knowing exactly where in your house your new plasma TV is located.
"It has taken far more time and effort to wire the world with telephone and Internet cables than it will take to wire the world with RFID because RFID readers are simply plugged into the existing infrastructure," she says.
Even if RFIDs only tracked purchases, they'd generate huge databanks ripe for abuse, says Albrecht, who also objects to supermarket loyalty cards, in part because of the databanks they generate.
She cited the case of a Californian shopper who slipped on spilled yogurt, shattered a kneecap and tried to sue the supermarket.
"They threatened to use his alcohol purchases in court and paint him as a falling-down drunk because they had all his records," she says.
A grocer in New Mexico turned over -- under subpoena -- a customer's records to Drug Enforcement Agency investors who were interested in his purchases of small plastic bags, she says.
"Most folks who are looking at (RFIDs) hope to simplify the supply chain. That doesn't make it any less dangerous in the long run because there are other people who are going to use the fruits of their labour to do other things with the technology," Albrecht warns.
If she can't prevent retailers from using RFIDs, she wants them clearly labelled and disabled as they leave stores. One thing that has made Albrecht's battle against what she describes as deliberate misinformation about RFIDs easier is that some of its major proponents say one thing and do another.
A German supermarket chain said they didn't have RFID-embedded loyalty cards, which when combined with RFID tags on packages enabled them to track every item a shopper purchased at their stores plus items purchased at other chains using the same loyalty cards. But Albrecht proved they did.
In the United States, Wal-Mart has claimed that RFIDs are now being used only on cases or pallets in warehouses but Albrecht has found live RFID tags on individual items on store shelves. Last November, Wal-Mart and Procter & Gamble photographed unsuspecting consumers as they selected lipsticks. Each tube had an RFID tag.
Kevin Grohn, a spokesperson for Wal-Mart Canada, says that there is no "timeline" for the introduction of item-level RFID tags in the United States nor for their introduction to Canada.
About 140 Wal-Mart suppliers use or soon will use RFIDs on shipping cases, he says. Many of those also ship to Canada so RFID-tagged goods are entering the country, he says.
But even Canadian Wal-Mart stores aren't yet equipped with RFID readers, he says.
RFIDs, like other technology, can be misused, Stoddart says. If it is used to track people or if it transmits personal information, those practices would come under applicable provincial and federal legislation, she says.
People have to be notified that RFIDs are attached to products they may buy, allowing them to refuse them or disable them so they don't collect or transmit personal information.
"What concerns me most is the fact that if we don't act fairly soon to have a public debate, a public awareness and discussion of (RFIDs and other potential invasive technologies), they may soon become ubiquitous and then lower our general societal expectation of privacy at a time when, due to the international situation, we already have great pressures on privacy," Stoddart says.
Her office is in the process of designing a public education program on privacy issues that may be launched this winter.
- - -
Privacy Timeline: The Data Trail
It's hard to travel incognito these days. As you go about your business, you leave a trail of data for others to collect, merge, mine, analyse and even sell, often without our knowledge or consent. And we are increasingly subject to electronic or visual surveillance, often without our knowledge or express consent.
7 a.m. An e-mail arrives from your favourite travel site suggesting your two children would like you to take advantage of low airfares to Disneyland. You book your flight with Credit Card A.
7:30 a.m. You call the toll-free number of a hotel chain, using your a loyalty card for a discount rate. The telephone operator -- in Georgia -- asks whether you'd like the usual adjoining suite for your children. You get a further discount with your air miles card. You pay with Credit Card A.
8 a.m. You telephone your sister, who is teaching English in Turkey. Your call is electronically monitored and scanned for words of interest by one or more agencies.
8:30 a.m. Like many vehicles, your car is equipped with an event-data recorder or "black box." The expressway you drive along to work is monitored by Transport Quebec. In zoom mode, the cameras are capable of reading your licence plates. (Toll highways such as Toronto's 407 use devices that identify you and your payment pass.)
8:45 a.m. Caught in a traffic jam, you call your boss. Cellular phone calls can be easily intercepted. Newer models can also signal your exact whereabouts in urban settings. The duration and destination of your calls are recorded.
9:15 a.m. Enter office parking lot. An entry/payment card records time, cameras monitor garage.
9.20 a.m. Enter office with "swipe" card that identifies you and records entry time; some active ID cards enable others to locate you anywhere in the building.
9:30 a.m. Log onto computer. You leave "cookies" at the Internet sites you visit. Your employer can determine where you have been and what you have written in any e-mails or on the company Intranet. Computer software can also record and store keyboard-stroke speed, length of use, etc.
9:45 a.m. Your incoming call from your former boyfriend may be monitored, an offshoot of "quality control" concerns. The phone also displays numbers of callers and keeps track of its use.
11 a.m. You take the company car to visit a supplier. Many company cars are equipped with some form of telematics or geo-positioning devices that can detail vehicle location.
Noon Stop at an automated banking machine to pay bills, get cash with ABM card. Surveillance cameras record your visit.
12:35 p.m. Doctor's appointment. Health cards will soon contain small computer chips recording complete medical history. Doctor's diagnosis may need to be disclosed to insurance company with details sent to centralized registry run by insurance companies.
1 p.m. Pick up prescription. Pay with Credit Card A. Some provinces have online drug networks that share your drug history across the province and may be disclosed to police tracking drug abuse. Some national pharmacy chains have their own in-house drug networks.
1:30 p.m. You have your second interview for a job with a U.S. firm during which you are asked to provide a urine sample. It reveals use of targeted drugs but not impairment; sample may also reveal use of legal drugs such as antidepressants.
2 p.m. Your health club has officially banned the use of photo cellphones on the premises but you notice the teenager next to you in the weight room answering hers.
3 p.m. Spend the rest of your free afternoon shopping. At the Big Box store, you use your membership card, which has been recording your weekly purchases for five years. You pay with credit card.
4 p.m. At the department store, where your purchases have been tracked for 10 years, you use your store credit card and your air miles card.
4:30 p.m. Stop to pick up video at a store, which has been compiling your viewing preferences for five years. Pay with ABM card. Some video stores/magazine publishers/specialty stores may sell subscription lists to database-list marketers.
8 p.m. Visit your public library, taking out books on your children's cards.
8:30 p.m. You and your spouse attend a political fundraiser. You have your cellphones on as you drive to the hotel in your spouse's company car and park in a garage monitored by surveillance cameras.
In addition to the television news crew, political organizers film most of the event. You make a contribution to the candidate. Political contributions of more than are listed in public records. You pay by a cheque, which is processed and recorded by your bank.
1 a.m. You and your mate tune into the light-porn channel available via your satellite dish provider, which has been tracking your viewing preferences for three years.
(Sources: Published news reports, Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada)
Federal Reserve Electronic Payment Findings Support USA Technologies' Investment In Developing Next Generation, Wireless Cashless Payment Technology
PRNewswire-FirstCall | December 7, 2004
MALVERN, Pa. -- USA Technologies, Inc. (BULLETIN BOARD: USTT) , announced today that it has invested in an extensive product line of cashless technology that can capitalize on the Federal Reserve finding that electronic transactions had outpaced check payments for the first time.
"The Federal Reserve's findings support our vision of a wireless networked, cashless global marketplace, especially targeting the vending and emerging kiosk industries, and our 'next gen' e-Port(TM) cashless payment technology is expected to be in demand," said Mr. Jensen. "We began our cashless journey 10 years ago, and already we're managing more than one- million electronic transactions a month through our cashless product line and have 55 patents to protect this opportunity."
In response to today's announcement that electronic payment transactions last year totaled 44.5 billion, exceeding 36.7 billion check transactions, Mr. Jensen said USA Technologies' own studies indicated there were 1.7 billion credit cards in circulation worldwide, with one-billion in the United States alone.
"We are delighted with the findings, and we're exceptionally well positioned to take advantage of the rapidly emerging trend to cashless payments with credit/debit cards, or any other wireless device," said Mr. Jensen. "Our customers are among some of the biggest businesses in the world, and they share our vision of a cashless society, linked to the Internet by wireless, using just about any kind of cashless payment system."
USA Technologies specializes in cashless transactions for the all-day, every-day unattended shopping market, targeting everything from vending machines, retail kiosks, and business centers, to college laundries, all connected to the Internet.
Anticipating the trend to cashless, USA Technologies worked with global partners such as IBM to develop a scalable platform of products and network services that can be easily mass produced for the next generation of wireless, network connected consumer. IBM also hosts the company's USALive wireless payments network
The company has been granted 55 patents, and according to a Nilson Report, USA Technologies had captured 90 percent of all wireless cashless transactions in vending.
"We predicted that the consumer in the networked, global marketplace would want the convenience, ease of use, and instant gratification that comes with cashless transactions, and there is nothing more convenient, accessible or instant than vending machines and retail kiosks," said Mr. Jensen. "The Fed's findings strengthen recent predictions from the Kiplinger Report that the emergence of wireless, cashless technology will double vending industry sales to billion by 2010, and the Nilson Report's prediction that one-half of the eight million vending machines in the US will be credit card enabled by 2009."
A white paper on cashless vending tends, recently released by NAMA, the vending industry's national body, predicted that credit card transactions at vending machines will reach two million transactions, valued at million, within three years. The full text of the white paper is available on the company's web site.
Industry analysts predict the biggest untapped opportunity exists in cashless micro-payments through vending machines and kiosks, beginning at $1.00. Analysts estimate that micro-payments could grow to a billion business by end of year 2005. The amount is forecast to increase dramatically by 2010 when an estimated 1.5 billion "everyday devices" such as PDAs are expected to be connected to the Worldwide Web.
"We're seeing the emergence of the cashless, networked economy where a vast number of different types of machines will be connected to the Web, allowing consumers to make payments when they please, with just about whatever payment device they please -- credit/debit card, keycard, ID card, payroll deduct, cellular phone, PDA, RFID, or something as simple as keying a pin number on a pop up screen," said Mr. Jensen.
Mr. Jensen said his company has responded to what the American consumer wants -- a more convenient, simple, all-day/every-day, cashless shopping experience. As a result, his company, based in Malvern, near Philadelphia, PA, is already considered a leader in the unattended cashless marketplace. Among USA Technologies key customers and business partners sharing the cashless experience are IBM, Sony, Marriott, Mars M&M, Honeywell, Unilever and FedEx/Kinko's.
USA Technologies, with IBM support, is also the company behind the e-Suds program which is linking college laundries to the Internet, allowing students to both do their laundry and pay for it online. Students go online to book the washing machine, pay for it by swiping their ID card, and are alerted by an e-mail message on their Laptop or cellular phone when the washing is done. More than 90 percent of students we polled say they love the convenience.
Economists interpreted the Federal Reserve's findings of more electronic payments than checks as reflecting the expanding role of technology in the retail, financial and banking business, as well as the industry's efforts to make electronic payments more convenient for customers.
The Federal Reserve's findings were published and announced today on all major news networks and I major media publications, and have attracted enormous industry interest.
About USA Technologies:
USA Technologies is a leader in the networking of distributed assets, wireless non-cash transactions, associated financial/network services and energy management. USA Technologies provides networked credit card and other non-cash systems in the vending, commercial laundry, hospitality and digital imaging industries. USA Technologies is an IBM Business Partner. The Company has marketing agreements with AT&T, Honeywell, MEI, Unilever and the ZiLOG Corporation.
Statement under the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act:
With the exception of the historical information contained in this release, the matters described herein contain forward-looking statements that involve risk and uncertainties that may individually or mutually impact the matters herein described, including but not limited to the ability of the Company to increase revenues in the future due to the developing and unpredictable markets for its products, the ability to achieve a positive cash flow, the ability to obtain orders for or install its products including the G-5 e-Port, the ability to obtain new customers and the ability to commercialize its products, which could cause actual results or revenues to differ materially from those contemplated by these statements.
USA Technologies Contact: Investor Relations Contact:
George R. Jensen, Jr., Chairman & CEO Ken Sgro
Stephen P. Herbert, President & COO CEOcast, Inc.
Phone: (800) 633-0340 Phone: (212) 732-4300
USA Technologies, Inc.
PFABF CALLS FOR A BOYCOTT OF THE NFL
Super Bowl: Mass Conditioning Exercise
Super Bowl security tight by land, water and air
NFL Newswire | January 23, 2005
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- New fences surround Alltel Stadium. Traffic is being rerouted through downtown. Coast Guard crews patrol where cruise ships serving as floating hotels will dock, and manhole covers and water meters are being locked. Security will be tight on land, along the St. Johns River and in the air for the Super Bowl, which comes to Jacksonville on Feb. 6. More than three dozen local, state and federal agencies are taking thousands of precautions to ensure the safety of the expected 100,000 visitors coming for the game. When the city won the bid to host football's biggest game in 2000, local officials expected to spend ,000 on security. Then came the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, resulting in a need for enhanced security measures -- and increasing the budget to secure this game, according to some estimates, to more than 10 times the original figure. Residents know the added security will at times be inconvenient, but they say the money is well spent. "This is the hot spot in the United States," said Michael Scarola, 26, a University of North Florida student majoring in international studies. "It's a concern, but we're still happy the game is happening here." During game week, jet skis will be banned in the St. Johns River -- largely because of the cruise ships that will hold thousands of visitors. Coast Guard divers will regularly inspect the bottom of the ships, plus keep other boats a safe distance away. "We are going to have a substantial force," Coast Guard Petty Officer Dana Warr said."We'll be ready. We'll have ample resources, whatever challenges come up." A 30-mile circular no-fly zone around the area will be enforced on Super Sunday. Background checks have been performed on an estimated 9,000 volunteers, trains hauling chemicals through the city will run on a limited schedule, and added security levels are planned at Jacksonville International Airport. While the hubbub is new to Jacksonville -- a first-time Super Bowl host- - the NFL is now well-versed in tight security. This is the fourth Super Bowl since Sept. 11. "The security effort will be comparable to what it has been the past several years," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said. Security plans began about 18 months ago, said Jacksonville Undersheriff Frank Mackesy, who heads the game's security detail. He'll be relieved when the game finally kicks off. "It's not the game itself that creates the challenges for us," Mackesy said. "It's all the stuff leading up to the game -- all the festivals, running backgrounds ... making sure all the vendors are who they say they are, bomb sweeps, securing perimeters, making sure cruise ships are secure." Five cruise ships are being docked in the St. Johns River during game week, adding some 3,500 hotel rooms. The ships were pressed into service because of the lack of first-class hotel rooms in Jacksonville. At the game, fans will be searched and scanned with X-ray machines before being allowed into the stadium -- methods unheard of years ago, but now fairly common for high-profile events. The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office also has a new ,000 mobile command center, which can use its cameras to zoom in on activity from blocks away or receive feeds from one of the department's helicopters. The new unit also has a high-tech communication system. While some measures will be visible, many of the security plans will stay under wraps. The North American Air Defense Command, based in Colorado Springs, Colo., will not discuss how it will protect the skies over Jacksonville, other than acknowledging it'll work closely with the Florida Air National Guard. "NORAD has an interest in any large gathering," said Canadian Army Maj. Douglas Martin, a NORAD spokesman. "What we do or where we do it, we are pretty guarded." While the security plans may be comforting to fans attending Super Bowl events, some business owners are concerned. They want to make sure traffic isn't routed away from their storefronts. "Merchants are concerned about how they will get merchandise and employees into work," said Rachel Kaltenbach, a spokeswoman for The Jacksonville Landing, a downtown riverfront shopping area. Security even extends to Jacksonville's water lines. To keep terrorists from contaminating the city's water supply, the JEA -- which runs Jacksonville's power and water system -- is locking 200 water meters on abandoned properties downtown, another unprecedented measure. Jacksonville resident Joe Hart, 51, a roofing contractor and Army veteran, said he's concerned about something happening -- but also believes security will be adequate. "Anything can happen," Hart said, between cigarette puffs, "but it's not likely."
Passports Go Electronic with New Microchip
Christian Science Monitor | December 9, 2004
By Susan Llewelyn Leach
The RFID (radio frequency identification) chip in each passport will contain the same personal data as now appear on the inside pages - name, date of birth, place of birth, issuing office - and a digitized version of the photo. But the 64K chip will be read remotely. And there's the rub.
The scenario, privacy advocates say, could be as simple as you standing in line with your passport as someone walks by innocuously carrying a briefcase. Inside that case, a microchip reader could be skimming data from your passport to be used for identity theft. Or maybe authorities or terrorists want to see who's gathered in a crowd and surreptitiously survey your ID and track you. Suddenly, "The Matrix" looks less futuristic.
The State Department maintains that such scenarios are outright fiction.
"A person can't be tracked," says Kelly Shannon, spokeswoman for the Bureau of Consular Affairs at the State Department. "It's not as if the information is going to broadcast and anyone with a receiver can be picking up that signal. There isn't a signal."
The passport, issued to officials and diplomats in early 2005 and to the public by the end of the year, is accessed using a reader that "pings" the microchip in order to release the data, much like proximity cards used for workplace ID badges. What prevents surveillance is that "the passport can only be read at a distance of 10 centimeters or less," explains Randy Vanderhoof, executive director of the Smart Card Alliance, an industry association that represents the four companies that produced prototype chips for the State Department.
Concerns of privacy advocates have "no validity," he says. "The purpose of the passport is to create a more secure travel document. The introduction of contactless chip technology has accomplished that."
The response of technology experts and privacy advocates is simply: "Rubbish."
"It's perfectly reasonable that the government wants a machine-readable photograph," says Bruce Schneier, a security guru and author of "Beyond Fear." "I just worry that they are building a technology that the bad guys can surreptitiously access."
The idea that the chips cannot be read beyond 10 centimeters (four inches) doesn't fly with him. "There is no impossible," Mr. Schneier says. "So they [the manufacturers] guarantee that there will be no technological advances in the next 10 years that will change that? It's absurd."
In fact, data skimming is already common in other arenas, says Richard Doherty, research director for the Envisioneering Group, a technology-assessment company out of Seaford, N.Y. "Bluejacking," where someone with the right equipment can hijack your phone, grab your directory, history of calls, and electronic serial number just by walking past you while you're on the phone, and "war-driving," where an individual drives down the street with a computer that maps all the networks that are free along with their IDs - these are already significant security issues, he says.
"This whole world of wireless is one that, yes, it has tremendous convenience, but it's increasingly threatened by a cloud of easy-to-exploit criminal means," Mr. Doherty says.
But why not choose a contact chip, where there would be no possibility of skimming, asks Barry Steinhardt, director of the ACLU's Technology and Liberty Project. "You don't have to have a 'contactless' integrated circuit," he says. "There was another way to go, which was to put an electronic strip in the passport that would require contact. It would make theft far less likely."
The State Department says it's just following international standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), under the umbrella of the United Nations. In May 2003, the ICAO specified the RFID and facial biometric or digitized head shot now being adopted by other countries at the behest of the United States. All countries that are part of the US visa-waiver program must use the new passports by Oct. 26, 2005.
Mr. Steinhardt calls the State Department's approach "policy laundering," and says the US pushed through the standards against the reservations of the Europeans. "Bush says at the G8 meeting, 'We have to adhere to the global standard,' as though we had nothing to do with it. It was masterful from a political perspective," he says in exasperation.
But even the ICAO, in the small print of a document published last May titled, "Use of Contactless ICs in Machine Readable Travel Documents," acknowledges the new RFID chips won't be foolproof: "... it is unlikely that unauthorized reading will occur. However, this cannot be completely ruled out."
Although the data on the chip will not be encrypted, for the sake of easing "interoperability" across international borders, Ms. Shannon says, the government does plan to incorporate a security feature that will largely prevent skimming. Embedded fibers in the front and back covers will shield the passport from electronic probing, at least while it is closed. Other security features in the new passports include a digital or electronic seal that will ensure the document is authentic and smart-card technology that renders the chip inoperable if it is tampered with using energy waves or radio waves.
30 million cars now record drivers' behavior
The Christian Science Monitor | December 28, 2004
By Eric C. Evarts
It was only a matter of time. For several years, electronic devices in cars have monitored acceleration and braking to save fuel and improve safety. Now, they're saving some of that data to give automakers and police a better idea of how you drive.
So far most of the devices record the last five seconds of readings before a crash, for example, a little like flight-data recorders in airplanes. The information has proven extremely useful to auto designers and accident investigators. It's also being used to prosecute drivers.
"The problem is most people don't realize these devices are in their vehicle," says Eric Skrum, spokesman for the National Motorists Association in Madison, Wis. "That information can be used against you, and there's no sort of regulation about who owns that information."
Already, drivers have had data from their own cars used to convict them. Last month, Danny Hopkins of New York was sentenced to 5 to 15 years in prison for killing Lindsay Kyle after the black box in his Cadillac CTS indicated the car was going 106 miles per hour five seconds before the crash. Investigators originally thought the car was going only 65 to 70 miles per hour. In St. Louis, Clifton McIntire of Phippsburg, Me., pleaded guilty to manslaughter last month after the black box in his GMC pickup revealed that he was going 85 miles an hour before he slammed into the back of a Toyota.
Today an estimated 30 million cars contain these "black boxes" ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Â they're actually silver ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Â known as event data recorders (EDRs). Most record simple data such as whether airbags deployed or if passengers wore seatbelts. But most cars from General Motors and Ford, as well as some Toyotas and Hondas, track even more information, including vehicle and engine speed, and whether the driver was accelerating or braking.
Automakers say they want this information to help improve safety equipment. "The main purpose of the EDR is to get data after a crash to help us understand how the airbags worked," says Alan Adler, manager of product-safety communications at General Motors in Warren, Mich. "The privacy of our customers is very important to us, but [the device] doesn't record anything that isn't true."
Without EDRs, investigators frequently don't have enough data to pinpoint the cause of an accident, says Joe Osterman, director of the Office of Highway Safety at the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in Washington. That was the case when an elderly man killed 20 people when his Buick plowed into a farmers market in Santa Monica, Calif. in 2000. The driver said he was braking. Witnesses and investigators said he was accelerating.
While what exactly happened in the moments before the tragedy remains a mystery, the NTSB went on record afterward saying EDRs should be mandatory in all cars sold in the United States.
The NTSB, however, doesn't have the authority to mandate black boxes. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration does. It proposes that the recorders become standard equipment starting in 2009 models, retain the last eight seconds of data before a crash, and include added data from electronic stability control and antilock braking systems.
Civil libertarians worry that such data will be used more broadly in the future.
"This is another example of where technology has outstripped the law and certain assumptions of how the world works," says Jay Stanley, director of communications for the Technology and Liberty Project at the American Civil Liberties Union in New York.
Some safety experts also worry about the wrong people using the data. While Mr. Osterman of the NTSB favors police investigators using black-box data in criminal investigations, he worries that private experts hired in civil litigation may have biases and could take the data at face value instead of cross-checking it.
"The data can be misleading if you're not a seasoned accident reconstructionist," adds Bob Kreeb, an engineer at Booz Allen Hamilton in Washington who chaired a committee of the Society of Automotive Engineers to set standards for the data gathered from black boxes. "So it needs to be interpreted and validated."
Installing black boxes with five seconds worth of memory was as simple as adding a memory chip to existing computer systems in cars. Increasing the memory to several months' worth of data would not be difficult at all, Mr. Stanley says. "If GM decided tomorrow to track three months of data instead of five seconds, there's nothing that would make them have to tell anybody," he adds.
Tracking the teens
In fact, Davis Instruments of Hayward, Calif., sells a black box called CarChip that will record throttle position and engine parameters for up to 300 hours of driving. Parents can use it to monitor their teenagers' driving habits, for example.
Progressive, an auto-insurance company, is running a pilot program with 5,000 drivers in Minnesota using a device similar to CarChip. It records up to six months of driving data, including vehicle mileage, time of day, and speed. The program, called TripSense, lets drivers choose whether to hand over data from their recorders to the insurer. Based on their habits behind the wheel, they can get discounts on their premiums of 5 to 25%.
But once any data is collected, some worry that it might be subpoenaed. If a police officer pulls you over while you're not speeding, "will your EDR tell him that five miles or five days earlier you were?" asked AutoWeek magazine's Bob Gritzinger in a November article.
Recorder data may also present problems for drivers with automobile warranties. Some wonder if vehicle manufacturers are using safety data to void warranties. Some people in Internet chat rooms have alleged Mitsubishi is doing just that to those who drive its racy Evolution VIII in amateur weekend races.
Even if not true, the existence of such stories shows people's concerns about this kind of technology, says Stanley. "If it's not controlled, it allows powerful institutions to increase their control over ordinary individuals," he says.
For example: When AutoWeek conducted handling tests on a mundane Chevy Malibu Maxx hatchback earlier this year, the recorder automatically alerted GM OnStar officials, who called the car to make sure the driver was OK after a particularly severe cornering maneuver. The driver was, but later said he resented the intrusion.
95.2% Opposed to California DMV Plan to Tax by the Mile
Infowars.com | November 17, 2004
Alex has been reporting on the national plan to put satellite trackers in all or cars or transponders in all cars for seven years. The Federal plan has been public that long.
Now, Oregon, California and New York are moving forward with it. The Feds' own documents say you will be taxed over 25 cents a mile. Here in Austin, Texas where infowars.com is based, the City has announced the transponder system and admits that is will cost the average driver, on top of all other taxes, $1,800 a year to start.
We've seen national polls where upwards of 98 percent of respondents are against taxation by the mile, especially when it's connected to a tracking system.
Look at the non-scientific poll done by a local TV station in California where 95 percent are against it. But, of course, Schwarzenegger doesn't care. He's for it.
DMV Chief Backs Tax by Mile
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Monday appointed a new Department of Motor Vehicles director who has advocated taxing motorists for every mile they drive ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Â by placing tracking devices in their cars.
The idea would mean a significant overhaul of how California collects taxes to maintain its often-crumbling roads. Under the plan, the state gas tax ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Â now 18 cents a gallon ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Â would be replaced with a tax on every mile traveled by each car and truck.
The notion has not been endorsed by Schwarzenegger but is gaining acceptance among transportation and budget experts. As Californians drive increasingly more fuel-efficient cars, state officials are alarmed that the gasoline tax will not raise enough money to keep up with road needs.
Charging people for the miles they drive also worries some owners of hybrid cars, because it could wipe out any gas-tax savings they now enjoy.
Dan Beal, managing director of public policy for the Automobile Club of Southern California, said altering the system would remove one incentive to buying new-technology hybrid cars like the Toyota Prius, because its owner would pay the same fuel tax as a Hummer owner.
"You are arguing against people taking risks on technology development," said Beal, warning that some mile-tracking systems could invite fraud more than the reliable tax meters at the pump.
Any change in the state's gasoline tax would have to be approved by the Legislature.
Privacy advocates worry about the government tracking the whereabouts of every car in California. In one scenario ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Â currently being tested in Oregon ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Â tracking devices send a signal to a GPS satellite following the car, and that information would be used to calculate the tax bill. Other devices send a signal directly from the car to the pump, which calculates the tax based on the odometer reading.
Annalee Newitz, a policy analyst for the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco, which monitors privacy issues, said if the device "can communicate with a satellite and then communicate back with another device on the ground, it could be used for something else. That would be my concern: How are limits placed on how this device could be used?"
Yet some transportation experts say the technology has wider implications. Officials are intrigued by the idea because California could begin taxing people for using specific roads at specific times. To keep people off freeways at peak hours, for example, per-mile fees for city streets could be pegged at a lower rate than the highway. That could prompt people to use alternative routes.
The governor and other top aides are exploring ways to alter our gasoline-driven society: Schwarzenegger wants more hybrid and hydrogen-fueled cars, and his new EPA secretary, Terry Tamminen, is writing a book about ending the use of oil entirely, calling it a "dinosaur."
For the state budget, the trend looks grim. Revenue from the gas and diesel fuel tax ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Â about .3 billion ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Â will have declined 8% between 1998 and 2005, adjusted for inflation, but the amount of miles traveled by cars and trucks on California roads has increased 16%, according to a February report by the legislative analyst. The California Transportation Commission has said the state needs about billion in road and freeway repairs.
The appointment of Joan Borucki, a Democrat and longtime Caltrans official, has placed an advocate for a per-mile transportation tax within the top ranks of the Schwarzenegger administration.
She included the notion in the California Performance Review, a top-to-bottom audit ordered by Schwarzenegger last year. Borucki was the leader on the transportation section and pushed the idea of an odometer-based fee at an August public meeting in Riverside.
The idea has been circulating because more Californians are driving fuel-efficient cars, the review warned. Less gasoline consumed means less money for the state's coffers from the gas tax ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Â even though people are driving and damaging roads just as much. "Electric vehicles, fuel-cell vehicles or other future fuels would not be taxed under" the existing per-gallon system, the report said.
The administration said Borucki was not available Monday, but she said in a statement that she wants to transform the DMV "into a customer-friendly, service-oriented unit of our government." Borucki, who was on the California Transportation Commission for two years, still needs state Senate confirmation for the ,255-a-year job. She started at Caltrans in 1980 and worked her way up to manager of new technology and deputy district director for planning.
"She's devoted, and she's knowledgeable about the state's situation," said Elizabeth Deakin, a policy expert with the UC Transportation Center who has known her for 15 years. "She understands the state's concerns about wanting good service, and she understands technology."
In Orange and San Diego counties, some freeways are using what is called "congestion pricing" ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Â vehicles pay to use certain lanes at peak hours. And two similar systems are being tested in Oregon.
Around Seattle, the Puget Sound Regional Council is placing global positioning devices in 500 cars to monitor where they drive ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Â and then calculating a usage fee based on the roads they use and the times they drive. In Eugene, Ore., test cars are being outfitted with tracking devices that link up with special gas pumps around the area.
Currently, cars with high fuel efficiency and large trucks don't generate enough revenue from fuel taxes to pay for the burden they place on roads, said Randall Pozdena, managing director of ECONorthwest, an economic consulting firm. A large truck, he said, can do as much damage on a city street as 10,000 cars, but it still pays the same amount of per-gallon gasoline tax, assuming the gas was purchased in California in the first place.
Drivers "can start allocating how much time they spend on each type of street," said Andrew Poat, a former Caltrans official who works for the city of San Diego. It could get even more detailed: Large trucks could be charged higher fees for using residential streets rather than more fortified freeways.
"It's just like water. We're trying to get water and energy meters to tell you what time of day you use energy. You use energy at peak hours on a really hot day, you pay more for thatÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦. We need to start sending those price signals to users."
Still, privacy advocates worry about "usage creep" ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Â like how the driver's license has evolved into official identification for nearly everyone. The information collected about mileage potentially could be subpoenaed in a court case or used to track someone without their knowledge, they fear.
But Pozdena and Deakin, the transportation experts, said most people don't care about this issue as much as privacy advocates, especially when presented with the possibility that as much as 25% of the road could be used by hybrids in the future. Drivers of non-hybrid cars have said it's unfair to pay the larger burden of gasoline taxes, they said.
"While some people are concerned about civil liberties, most people are not," Deakin said. "One of the things we found from focus groups and surveys is that most people said if the government wanted to track you, they have other ways to do it."
Tax California Drivers by the Mile?
ABC30 | November 17, 2004
A controversial proposal to tax California drivers by the mile could be gaining support at the top of the governor's administration. Find out how the plan would work.
The good news is that the high gas prices would be 18 cents lower. That's the amount of the state gas tax that would be eliminated.
But, there is a catch ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Â you'd be charged for every mile you drive, and that could end up costing some people more.
Imagine that the next time you stop at the pump, instead of paying the state's gas tax of 18 cents a gallon, a little computer inside your car tells the pump how much you've driven since your last fill-up and you pay "tax by the mile."
The new director of the DMV, Joan Borucki, and others are worried the current gas tax isn't generating enough money to repair California's crumbling roads.
Fuel efficient cars are using less gas to drive more miles, but the governor isn't ready to speak for or against a per-mile transportation tax, "I know the idea he's talking about ... so, I need to think it through before I make a commitment to that."
Oregon is already putting GPS tracking devices in some cars, which send information to a satellite to calculate the tax.
But, consumer advocates worry the change could slow innovation and remove the incentive to buy hybrids or other environmentally friendly cars.
The new way of collecting tax money could still be a long way down the road. The legislature has to approve any changes to the state's gas tax.
Some transportation experts say there are some potential benefits with this plan. They could tax people for using certain roads at certain times.
That could encourage drivers to use alternative routes if it cost less than using the freeways.
MORE INFO ABOVE
Help Stop RFID item-level tagging of consumer products!
US clothes firm comes clean on RFID plans
US clothing manufacturer Abercrombie & Fitch has finally admitted it is using RFID.
Last year, clothing labels belonging to the preppy clothing favourite - with the shop name blacked out but the company's logo still visible - were found at an RFID trade show.
At the time, representatives from the company displaying the tags, Checkpoint, said they were for display purposes only and Abercrombie & Fitch representatives said they could neither confirm or deny the clothing company's involvement with the technology.
Today at the RFID ROI Summit, Neco Can, senior director of application development at Abercrombie & Fitch, said the retailer is trialling the technology.
He told silicon.com: "We're testing it. We've got a couple of plans, we're looking carefully at it."
"We're seeing whether it's doable or not," he added. "Everybody is [looking at RFID]."
When questioned on whether Abercrombie & Fitch is looking at case- and pallet-level tagging, Can said: "I don't believe the case model is the right one," and added Abercrombie & Fitch's supply chain would be best suited to item-level tagging.
Can also offered advice to would-be RFID users to woo privacy advocates yet added that consumers' privacy is very much an ephemeral thing.
"If you [do a pilot], you should talk with people... go and talk to Caspian so you don't become the target," he said. Privacy group Caspian has been campaigning against RFID and has been vocal in its opposition to item-level tagging in particular.
Can added: "Did you know you that the government can track you down within 20 feet" if your mobile phone is on, he said. "We already gave our privacy away."
However, Can said that Big Brother fears were entirely unfounded, and that technology that would theoretically permit burglars to scan houses for expensive goods just doesn't exist.
"We can't even get the stupid thing to work, now we're going to scan a whole street... I wish we could track our customers that way. We can't even find their email address to send them anything," he joked.
Can also revealed that another, more unlikely company, had once tinkered with RFID tagging its products - Coca-Cola.
There were "two chips on every can - it never worked", he said.
Social Security Administration utilizes RFID
Retirees are unlikely to see radio frequency identification tags on their Social Security checks anytime soon. But Social Security Administration officials will begin tracking orders for SSA forms and pamphlets early this year using RFID technology.
SSA officials have discovered advantages in using RFID technology to supplement and, in some areas, replace handheld bar code scanners for entering data into warehouse management systems. Unlike bar codes, which typically are scanned with handheld readers, RFID tags store information in a microchip that transmits its information automatically to an RFID reader.
Using RFID tags and readers, SSA officials expect to eliminate costly, time-consuming errors in maintaining inventory and fulfilling orders for hundreds of different SSA pamphlets and forms. "Certainly accuracy saves money," said John Spencer, director of SSA's Office of Supply and Warehouse Management. "If we don't process the order correctly, that results in another order to be placed, packed and shipped."
Along with Wal-Mart and the Defense Department, SSA's supply and warehouse office is on the cutting edge in using RFID for tracking assets and inventory, said Gary Orem, an information technology specialist at the warehouse office. Agency officials have built a portable RFID tunnel lined with antennas for reading RFID tags on containers at the shipping and receiving docks of the office's headquarters in Woodlawn, Md.
Early this year, SSA officials will expand their use of RFID by creating shipping container tags and sending them to one of the agency's largest printing vendors. "We want them to include our tag on the product," Orem said. When palettes of printed materials are read on the receiving dock, the process would automatically update SSA's warehouse information system.
The same will be true when palettes of printed materials are labeled with RFID tags for shipment to SSA offices. "As soon as the palette gets sent out to the truck, the RFID portal will read the information and automatically update that order within our warehouse system," Orem said.
Being early users of RFID has been a learning experience for SSA officials, who have had to adapt to the idiosyncrasies of the technology, including its inability to scan tags placed on the backsides of metal containers or containers holding fluids.
"It's a little like Chinese cooking," meaning all the ingredients must be properly prepared beforehand, said L. Allen Bennett, president and chief executive officer of System Concepts, a company that SSA officials hired to integrate their warehouse system with the RFID technology.
Current RFID technology reads tags with a fairly high degree of accuracy. When RFID tags are read at a rate of 20 to 30 each second, SSA officials are finding that typically 36 out of 40 reads are accurate, Orem said.
RFID technology also is becoming more affordable. For example, the price of RFID tags has dropped from each to about $1, and antennas are inexpensive ÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¢ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…Â¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¬ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â between and apiece. The main drawback, Orem said, is the absence of a finished international standard for RFID technology. But that, he said, is coming.
Redrawing crime graph with RFID
TIMES NEWS NETWORK | JANUARY 09, 2005
SIDDHARTHA D. KASHYAP
Imagine embedding a radio frequency identification (RFID) chip on to your child's skin or your vehicle, which, in turn, will help you constantly monitor their movements in case of a kidnapping or theft. Sounds like something out of Steven Spielberg's Minority Report? Wrong.
Welcome to the brave new world of 'preventive forensics'. A world where crimes are attempted to be stopped before they happen. And it's not just the US or a few other developed countries where investigating agencies have started developing preventive forensics tools. India, too, has joined the bandwagon.
Says M.S. Rao, the chief forensic scientist in the directorate of forensic science under the ministry of home affairs, "Although preventive forensics is still at a nascent stage in India, efforts are being undertaken to use modern tools and gadgets to anticipate and devise appropriate strategies to defeat the modus operandi of criminal activities and negate those efforts."
Rao, who was in the city to participate in a day-long national seminar of forensic science and medical jurisprudence, said the US and some other countries in Europe have increasingly started relying on this science. "It's like shifting the focus from post-facto solutions to pre-incident detection and prevention techniques," he explains. In fact, he is so enthusiastic about the possibilities that he wants the government to take pre-crime testing in mission mode.
"The scale of potential harm inflicted by the acts of present-day crimes is so great that it is impossible to handle it using traditional methods," says Rao.
Retired director of the Central Bureau of Investigation D.R. Kaarthikeyan, the man who investigated the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, is equally gungho on the greater need to use forensic psychological tools like brain mapping, polygraph test and narco-analysis, to negate increased security risks.
"It is possible to shift the base of forensic science from a post-incident analytical tool to the crime hatchers' corners," he says, adding that these techniques can be effectively used to guard vital installations, secret documents, and even antique artefacts at museums.
Total Surveillance Behind the Wheel
So are you in the mood for a drive?
"MELBOURNE, Australia -- At the Melbourne Motor Show last week, Toyota unveiled a controversial concept car that would very closely monitor, and in some cases restrict, the actions of its driver -- including refusing to turn on. "
MACHINES which respond to their owners’ emotions may seem like science fiction fantasy.
But, while the ‘living’ androids portrayed in the blockbuster film I, Robot may never be built, one Lothians firm has developed an "emotion sensor" which could help cars of the future make better drivers out of us.
The computer software - which could soon be used in Toyota cars - can take steps to tackle potential road rage and drowsiness. The system works by monitoring the driver’s speech for signs of certain types of behaviour and taking appropriate action.
If it detects drowsiness, for instance, through signs such as quiet, flat speech, it can trigger an alarm or bring up another suitable prompt to rouse the driver. Alternatively, if the voice shows signs of stress, it can take steps to calm the driver down, by over-riding the car’s air-conditioning or playing soothing music.
The company behind the technology, Affective Media, has created a system it believes is as good as humans at detecting emotion. Staff at the Broxburn-based firm are now working with Edinburgh University, Heriot-Watt University and Toyota to create an emotionally-sensitive car.
The technology would be added to a car which already has voice-activated controls, such as a navigation system or CD player.
Vehicles using it could hit the road within two years. Affective Media chief executive Christian Jones said prototypes were being fitted to trial vehicles and claimed the system could be a life-saver.
"Studies show unhappy or angry drivers are more prone to accidents than drivers who are relaxed," he said.
"Our technology will work with any voice recognition software. In the future, more cars will have voice-activated controls. This technology will sample the voice to tell if a person is angry or frustrated and will then act accordingly.
"Creating emotionally responsive machines is an area a lot of different companies have their eye on. As well as Toyota, a number of other car makers have expressed an interest and I would expect to see it introduced in cars within a couple of years."
The in-car system is just one of the applications the company is exploring. Call-centre operators are also working with Affective Media on a system to monitor the emotions of callers and Mr Jones says a system that is 100 per cent accuratecould be used to help emergency services screen bogus callers. At the moment, however, the most practical development of the software is with the car companies.
A spokesman for the AA said that, while the organisation had some reservations, any technology which improved safety on the road was to be welcomed.
"I think the important question will be how it works, and if it does work then it will be a tremendous benefit," he said.
"One concern would be that drivers become so relaxed with this technology that they feel they can push themselves beyond their limits. Would they drive for ten hours because they had this technology watching over them, where before they would have split the journey into two five-hour trips?"
Alun Parry, spokesman for Toyota, said the company planned to test emotion-detecting technology in its experimental "Pod" cars.
"We want a car to respond to the emotion of the driver and, as well as the voice technology, the Pod will monitor the driver’s pulse and could act to slow the car if it senses that the driver is being erratic or going too fast," he said.
Ergonomics Today | January 5, 2005
How big of a problem is driver distraction? The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTS) estimates that between 4,000 and 8,000 car accidents result each day in the United States because of a distracted driver. And everything from talking on a cell phone to eating, reading, turning up the radio or even putting on makeup are believed to contribute to the problem.
But one car manufacturer is looking at a way to help curb the distraction problem by helping drivers stay focused through a safety system that monitors the driver’s eye and head movements. According to ergonomists at Saab, it’s a safety enhancement that looks at what drivers are actually doing behind the wheel rather than what the drivers should be doing.
"There's no doubt increasing traffic densities and the growth of in-car 'infotainment' systems are putting an increasing workload on the driver," says Saab’s chief of ergonomics Arne Nabo, head of the project that will put a theoretical “Big Brother” behind the wheel to monitor driver distraction. "We at Saab, in common with other car manufacturers, have so far focused on managing information inputs for the driver in the safest possible way. Now we think it is time to take a rather less passive approach.”
Saab’s answer is a system which will monitor drivers via two miniature cameras fitted with infra-red lenses, looking for eye and head movement. If the driver’s gaze strays too far away from what Saab has deemed the “primary attention zone” ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ the central part of the windshield in front of the driver ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ a timer begins. If the driver’s focus doesn’t return to the primary attention zone within two seconds, a buzzer sounds. Still no response from the driver? A brake pulse is applied through the car’s ESP system.
It’s not just the driver that the new system will be paying attention to, either. In order to fit the task, environment and driver, the driving speed and traffic conditions will also be monitored. City driving has a wider attention zone, says Saab but lower speeds and a shorter time-buffer before the buzzer is triggered. Highway driving requires a narrower attention zone but accommodates higher rates of speed and a longer time-buffer before the buzzer is activated.
Additionally, says Saab, its monitoring system could also eventually be linked to a satellite navigation system to allow for zero-tolerance of inattentiveness in places like school zones.
Nabo notes that it’s common for people to take their eyes off the road while driving, but hopes that the new system will help prevent “cognitive tunneling,” where a driver gets too absorbed in a process unrelated to driving like following a map or finding a new CD. Currently no date has been released regarding when the system, which is still in development, will be available in vehicles.
RFID: Tracking everything, everywhere
[The following is an excerpt from: Albrecht, Katherine. "Supermarket Cards: The Tip of the Retail Surveillance Iceberg."
Denver University Law Review, Summer 2002, Volume 79, Issue 4, pp. 534-539 and 558-565.]
Click here for a PDF of the original article (2.4 MB)
Expect big changes." 1
Supermarket cards and retail surveillance devices are merely the opening volley of the marketers' war against consumers. If consumers fail to oppose these practices now, our long-term prospects may look like something from a dystopian science fiction novel.
A new consumer goods tracking system called Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is poised to enter all of our lives, with profound implications for consumer privacy. RFID couples radio frequency (RF) identification technology with highly miniaturized computers that enable products to be identified and tracked at any point along the supply chain. 2
The system could be applied to almost any physical item, from ballpoint pens to toothpaste, which would carry their own unique information in the form of an embedded chip. 3 The chip sends out an identification signal allowing it to communicate with reader devices and other products embedded with similar chips. 4
Analysts envision a time when the system will be used to identify and track every item produced on the planet. 5
A number for every item on the planet
RFID employs a numbering scheme called EPC (for "electronic product code") which can provide a unique ID for any physical object in the world. 6 The EPC is intended to replace the UPC bar code used on products today. 7
Unlike the bar code, however, the EPC goes beyond identifying product categories--it actually assigns a unique number to every single item that rolls off a manufacturing line. 8 For example, each pack of cigarettes, individual can of soda, light bulb or package of razor blades produced would be uniquely identifiable through its own EPC number. 9
Once assigned, this number is transmitted by a radio frequency ID tag (RFID) in or on the product. 10 These tiny tags, predicted by some to cost less than 1 cent each by 2004 11 [Note: the one cent tag has proved unattainable as of late 2004. The cost of a passive RFID tag is currently between /home/free/cgi-bin/util/sitebuilder.20 and /home/free/cgi-bin/util/sitebuilder.80. -K.A. 9/04] are "somewhere between the size of a grain of sand and a speck of dust." 12 They are to be built directly into food, clothes, drugs, or auto-parts during the manufacturing process. 13
Receiver or reader devices are used to pick up the signal transmitted by the RFID tag. Proponents envision a pervasive global network of millions of receivers along the entire supply chain -- in airports, seaports, highways, distribution centers, warehouses, retail stores, and in the home. 14 This would allow for seamless, continuous identification and tracking of physical items as they move from one place to another, 15 enabling companies to determine the whereabouts of all their products at all times. 16
Steven Van Fleet, an executive at International Paper, looks forward to the prospect. "We'll put a radio frequency ID tag on everything that moves in the North American supply chain," he enthused recently. 17
The ultimate goal is for RFID to create a "physically linked world" 18 in which every item on the planet is numbered, identified, catalogued, and tracked. And the technology exists to make this a reality. Described as "a political rather than a technological problem," creating a global system "would . . . involve negotiation between, and consensus among, different countries." 19 Supporters are aiming for worldwide acceptance of the technologies needed to build the infrastructure within the next few years. 20
The implications of RFID
"Theft will be drastically reduced because items will report when they are stolen, their smart tags also serving as a homing device toward their exact location." 21
Since the Auto-ID Center's founding at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1999, it has moved forward at remarkable speed. The center has attracted funding from some of the largest consumer goods manufacturers in the world, and even counts the Department of Defense among its sponsors. 22 In a mid-2001 pilot test with Gillette, Philip Morris, Procter & Gamble, and Wal-Mart, the center wired the entire city of Tulsa, Oklahoma with radio-frequency equipment to verify its ability to track RFID equipped packages. 23
Though many RFID proponents appear focused on inventory and supply chain efficiency, others are developing financial and consumer applications that, if adopted, will have chilling effects on consumers' ability to escape the oppressive surveillance of manufacturers, retailers, and marketers. Of course, government and law enforcement will be quick to use the technology to keep tabs on citizens, as well.
The European Central Bank is quietly working to embed RFID tags in the fibers of Euro banknotes by 2005. 24 The tag would allow money to carry its own history by recording information about where it has been, thus giving governments and law enforcement agencies a means to literally "follow the money" in every transaction. 25 If and when RFID devices are embedded in banknotes, the anonymity that cash affords in consumer transactions will be eliminated.
Hitachi Europe wants to supply the tags. The company has developed a smart tag chip that--at just 0.3mm square and as thin as a human hair -- can easily fit inside of a banknote. 26 Mass-production of the new chip will start within a year. 27
Consumer marketing applications will decimate privacy
"Radio frequency is another technology that supermarkets are already using in a number of places throughout the store. We now envision a day where consumers will walk into a store, select products whose packages are embedded with small radio frequency UPC codes, and exit the store without ever going through a checkout line or signing their name on a dotted line." 28
RFID would expand marketers' ability to monitor individuals' behavior to undreamt of extremes. With corporate sponsors like Wal-Mart, Target, the Food Marketing Institute, Home Depot, and British supermarket chain Tesco, as well as some of the world's largest consumer goods manufacturers including Procter and Gamble, Phillip Morris, and Coca Cola 29 it may not be long before RFID-based surveillance tags begin appearing in every store-bought item in a consumer's home.
According to a video tour of the "Home of the Future" and "Store of the Future" sponsored by Procter and Gamble, applications could include shopping carts that automatically bill consumers' accounts (cards would no longer be needed to link purchases to individuals), refrigerators that report their contents to the supermarket for re-ordering, and interactive televisions that select commercials based on the contents of a home's refrigerator. 30
Now that shopper cards have whetted their appetite for data, marketers are no longer content to know who buys what, when, where, and how. As incredible as it may seem, they are now planning ways to monitor consumers' use of products within their very homes. RFID tags coupled with indoor receivers installed in shelves, floors, and doorways, 31 could provide a degree of omniscience about consumer behavior that staggers the imagination.
Consider the following statements by John Stermer, Senior Vice President of eBusiness Market Development at ACNielsen:
"[After bar codes] [t]he next 'big thing' [was] [f]requent shopper cards. While these did a better job of linking consumers and their purchases, loyalty cards were severely limited...consider the usage, consumer demographic, psychographic and economic blind spots of tracking data.... [S]omething more integrated and holistic was needed to provide a ubiquitous understanding of on- and off-line consumer purchase behavior, attitudes and product usage. The answer: RFID (radio frequency identification) technology.... In an industry first, RFID enables the linking of all this product information with a specific consumer identified by key demographic and psychographic markers....Where once we collected purchase information, now we can correlate multiple points of consumer product purchase with consumption specifics such as the how, when and who of product use." 32
Marketers aren't the only ones who want to watch what you do in your home. Enter again the health surveillance connection. Some have suggested that pill bottles in medicine cabinets be tagged with RFID devices to allow doctors to remotely monitor patient compliance with prescriptions. 33
While developers claim that RFID technology will create "order and balance" in a chaotic world, 34 even the center's executive director, Kevin Ashton, acknowledges there's a "Brave New World" feel to the technology. 35 He admits, for example, that people might balk at the thought of police using RFID to scan the contents of a car's trunk without needing to open it. 36 The Center's co-director, Sanjay E. Sarma, has already begun planning strategies to counter the public backlash he expects the system will encounter. 37
Note: This overview is an excerpt from the article, "Supermarket Cards: Tip of the Retail Surveillance Iceberg," published by the Denver University Law Review, 79(4), Summer 2002 edition. All associated footnotes and references found online were available May 2002 and original documentation is archived at the Denver University Law Review editorial office. A PDF of the entire article can be obtained by written request to Katherine Albrecht, "kma @/at nocards.org."
2 Greg Jacobson, "Technology revolution underway." Chain Drug Review, October 22, 2001. Available online at http://www.chaindrugreview.com/articles/tech_revolution.html
3 Auto Center Joins UK Group, MIT TECH TALK, (Jan. 24, 2001), available at http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/tt/2001/jan24/auto.html
6 Steve Traiman, Tag, You're It! The EPC Tag Could Revolutionize the Retail Supply Chain, Retail Systems Reseller (November 2001) available at http://www.retailsystemsreseller.com/archive/Nov01/Nov01_5.shtml
7 See EPC, supra note 5.
9 Steve Traiman, Tag, You're It! The EPC Tag Could Revolutionize the Retail Supply Chain, Retail Systems Reseller (November 2001) available at http://www.retailsystemsreseller.com/archive/Nov01/Nov01_5.shtml
10 Margie Semilof, Bar Codes in a Chip, InternetWeek.com (Nov. 19, 2001), available at http://www.internetweek.com/newslead01/lead111901.htm
12 Semilof, supra note 10
13 Robin Cover, Auto-ID Center Uses Physical Markup Language in Radio Frequency Identification (RF ID) Tag Technology, The XML Cover Pages (Nov. 21, 2001), available at http://xml.coverpages.org/ni2001-11-21-c.html
(RF ID) Tag Technology, The XML Cover Pages (Nov. 21, 2001), available at http://xml.coverpages.org/ni2001-11-21-c.html
14 Cheryl Rosen & Mathew G. Nelson, The Fast Track: Radio-frequency Devices Promise to Make it Easier to Monitor the Flow of Inventory Across the Supply Chain, INFORMATIONWEEK (June 18, 2001), available at http://www.informationweek.com/shared/printableArticle?doc_id=IWK20010618S0001; see also Charles W. Schmidt, The Networked Physical World, available at http://www.rand.org/scitech/stpi/ourfuture/Internet/sec4_networked.html (last visited Apr. 5, 2002); Indrani Rajkhowa, Shopping Gets Smarter, COMPUTERSTODAY (June 16-30, 2001), available at http://www.india-today.com/ctoday/20010616/marvels.html
15 Cover, supra note 13
16 Charles W. Schmidt, The Networked Physical World, available at http://www.rand.org/scitech/stpi/ourfuture/Internet/sec4_networked.html
17 Lori Valigra, Smart Tags: Shopping Will Never Be the Same, CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR (Mar. 29, 2001), available at http://www.csmonitor.com/durable/2001/03/29/fp13s1-csm.shtml
18 M.K. Shankar, Algorithm Ensures Unique Object ID, NIKKEI ELECTRONICS ASIA (Apr. 2001), available at http://www.nikkeibp.asiabiztech.com/nea/200104/inet_127161.html
21 Auto-ID Center, Applications, available at http://www.autoidcenter.org/technology_applications.asp
22 Auto-ID Center, Sponsor Companies, available at http://www.autoidcenter.org/sponsors_companies.asp
23 Cheryl Rosen & Mathew G. Nelson, The Fast Track: Radio-frequency Devices Promise to Make it Easier to Monitor the Flow of Inventory Across the Supply Chain, INFORMATIONWEEK (June 18, 2001), available at http://www.informationweek.com/shared/printableArticle?doc_id=IWK20010618S0001
26 George Cole, The Little Label with an Explosion of Applications, FIN. TIMES (Jan. 15, 2002), available at http://news.ft.com/ft/gx.cgi/ftc?pagename=View&c=Article&cid=FT30414MGWC
28 Testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives, Tuesday September 19th, 2000. Subcommittee on Domestic and International Monetary Policy, Committee on Banking and Financial Services, Washington, DC. Available online at: http://commdocs.house.gov/committees/bank/hba66988.000/hba66988_0.HTM#68
29 (SUPRA Note above) Auto-ID website Auto-ID Center, Sponsor Companies, available at http://www.autoidcenter.org/sponsors_companies.asp
30 Kayte VanScoy, Can the Internet Hot-Wire P&G?: They Know What You Eat, ZIFF DAVIS SMART BUSINESS (Jan. 1, 2001), available at http://www.smartbusinessmag.com/article/0,3668,a=13216,00.asp
31 Cover, supra note 13.
32 John Stermer, Radio Frequency ID: A New Era for Marketers? CONSUMER INSIGHT MAGAZINE (Winter 2001), available at http://acnielsen.com/pubs/ci/2001/q4/features/radio.htm
33 Schmidt, supra note 16
35 VanScoy, supra note 30
36 David Orenstein, Raising the Bar, BUSINESS 2.0 (Aug. 2000), available at http://www.business2.com/articles/mag/0,1640,13975|3,FF.html
37 Indrani Rajkhowa, Shopping Gets Smarter, COMPUTERSTODAY (June 16-30, 2001), available at http://www.india-today.com/ctoday/20010616/marvels.html
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