Snippets #48, Friday, 31.Oct.2003 (ISSN 1530-9622)
_______________S N I P P e T S
_________________________from James S. Huggins' Refrigerator Door
___________________________________#48, Friday, 31.Oct.2003
_____1. Personal Notes
__________1. PeRSONAL NOTES
Thank you to everyone who has written about the "return" of Snippets. I'm having fun with it and am pleased you are as well.
Several wrote to ask if it was ok to forward Snippets. Absolutely. Feel free.
Today's Snippets focuses on only one item. It is only one because it is "so large". I want to give you enough time to really explore the links and to learn about this topic.
Till next time . . .
A recent article on the Wired News site tells how a K-9 charter school in Buffalo, New York may be the first school to use RFID to track students.
If you don't know what RFID stands for, you should. RFID will become a pervasive technology in the next few years. It will be able to do great things. It can also be used in troubling ways that threaten individual privacy.
RFID stands for Radio Frequency Identification. These are teeny tiny little chips, as small as a grain of rice. When you send a radio pulse to them they send back a little radio pulse. The pulse they send back has a unique code. Each chip is uniquely coded.
Merchants are beginning to explore how to use them to track inventory. These are kind of like bar codes, but much more powerful. Every box of Frosted Flakes on the shelf has the same bar code. But with RFID, each individual box could have a unique code. Unlike a bar code which just identifies the general product, an RFID tag uniquely identifies the particular box of product.
RFID can also be used, for example, to track library books and Michelin has announced using RFID tags in tires.
There are some interesting privacy issues here.
For example, suppose you buy a sweater at Target that has an RFID tag. Target could keep track of that purchase in their database. Now, if you wear that sweater back into the store, the sensor at the door would be able to "know" that it is you by scanning the RFID tag.
And, while the RFID tag in tires will make it easier to track tire defects, it would also let a shopping mall scan cars coming in and out and know every time you come back.
This is one of the reasons that privacy advocates want to (a) know which products use RFID and (b) have a way to turn them off.
For example, when Benetton announced it would be putting RFID tags into clothing, and that those RFID tags could not be disabled, a boycott Benetton movement showed up.
Anyway, this school is using the technology to track children.
On the plus side:
"In the next months, he plans to use RFID to track library loans, disciplinary records, cafeteria purchases and visits to the nurse's office. Eventually he'd like to expand the system to track students' punctuality (or lack thereof) for every class and to verify the time they get on and off school buses."
On the minus side:
"I think the Buffalo experiment is getting children ready for the brave new world, where people are watched 24/7 in the name of security," said Richard Smith, an Internet privacy and security consultant. "My main concern is that once we start carrying around RFID-tagged items on our person such as access cards, cell phones, loyalty cards, clothing, etc., we can be tracked without our knowledge or permission by a network of RFID readers attached to the Internet."
If you don't know about RFID already, you should spend a bit of time catching up.
The Wired News Article About the Buffalo School
An Anti-RFID Site Operated by CASPIAN
Article on Benetton Using RFID
The Boycott Benetton Site
Primary CASPIAN Site
Tagging Books to Prevent Theft (Using RFID in Libraries)
Plan for Library Book Tagging Generates Privacy Concerns
Implanting Children with RFID Tags
Michelin Using RFID in Tires
Defense Department wants RFID tags on everything but sand