Tuesday, February 3, 2009

RFID Tracking

Our brief discussion of RFID may have seemed a bit futuristic, but it is important to understand the potential privacy implications of this technology. As we discussed in class a widespread deployment of this technology could bring incredible efficiencies and convenience to everyday life, but RFIDs could also be abused in frightening ways to harm privacy.

An example of one way that RFID tags can be abused can be found at the RFTracker.com website. According to its website,

RFtracker maintains two databases: a "match" database, which matches RFID tag numbers with the people who possess goods bearing those tag numbers; and a "sightings" database, which holds records of RFID tag sightings by RFID readers located around the world (with time, place, and tag number). If you already have a tag number, you can use the "sightings" database to see where that tag has been sighted. (This service is free, although you'll have to pay if you want "real-time" data, which includes sightings within the past 24 hours; you can choose to have real-time data sent to you via e-mail, pager, or text message.) If all you have is the name of the person that you want to track, you'll want to start with our "match" database, to see if it includes any RFID tags associated with that person.

Check out the demos on the site to get a feel of how RFID can be used to track people's movements.

1 comment:

Jessie D said...

Although, RFID tags may appeal to the consumer for he can enter a store and immediately encounter an employee who is familiar with his sense of style and to an employee who no longer has to speculate as to what he should focus his marketing skills on, these tags are accumulating even more uses that do not seem so trivial. As I visited RFtracker.com it became apparent to me that this company is anxious to expand the uses of RFID tags so that tracking down individuals rather than just individual interests is easy and also possible in today’s day and age. As fascinating as this new technology may be, it is also strikes me as a tad eerie for someone can simply drive through the streets of a neighborhood and track down others, as easy as the man who did so in the youtube video we watched in class. I can see this new development lead to significant advances in say our nation’s security where people that essentially need to be tracked down will be. However, it is a shame that as the need for societal protection increases our personal privacy continues to decrease, which is something I think we as individuals will just need to come to terms with. Once again, I just think that people should become more aware of new advances like these RFID tags so that they are not fooled when they think they have achieved complete “solitude”, which does not seem to be something that is quite attainable anymore.