Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Errant E-Mail Shames RFID Backer

Hemos posted more than 10 years ago | from the the-joys-of-digging-up-dirt dept.

Privacy 60

An anonymous reader writes "An article appearing in Wired today describes how the The Grocery Manufacturers of America inadvertently sent an embarrassing internal email to anti-RFID consumer group CASPIAN"

cancel ×

60 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Don't overreact. (4, Insightful)

Raven42rac (448205) | more than 10 years ago | (#7953465)

Don't overreact. These are not the Diebold memos, it is just some woman who sent a non-funny joke back to the victim of the joke by accident. I don't see what the hubub is about. Granted, getting RFID awareness is good, but this story was a waste of time save for some of the info about RFID technology.

Re:Don't overreact. (4, Insightful)

fuzzybunny (112938) | more than 10 years ago | (#7953586)

Well, kind of depends.

If it's just a lame attempt at a joke, that's one thing. On the other hand, if the GMA guy's boss told him "find personal information on this Albrecht chick, she's being difficult", and the mail was a response to that, I'd be very concerned.

If the latter is the case, the Wired article was very very tame considering how much of an embarrassment this would be for GMA. Digging up personal dirt on your business opponents, although it's done all the time, is simply not kosher tactics, and if an industry lobby and interest group is publicly admitting that it engages in this sort of unsavory activity to get its points across, then the average slob should know about it.

Re:Don't overreact. (3, Insightful)

Raven42rac (448205) | more than 10 years ago | (#7953651)

I can see both sides of the equation. It is very difficult to convey emotion and literal meanings of the written word. We just plain do not know if there was any malicious intent, or if the intern was just kidding around. I would lean heavily toward the latter as well. I just can't see where there would be blackmail in the RFID field. That would be kind of lame. That would be like trying to blackmail a polka dancer IMHO.

But it's okay for Bill & Hill? (-1)

mosel-saar-ruwer (732341) | more than 10 years ago | (#7954388)


Digging up personal dirt on your business opponents, although it's done all the time, is simply not kosher tactics, and if an industry lobby and interest group is publicly admitting that it engages in this sort of unsavory activity to get its points across, then the average slob should know about it.

Okay, so it's wrong for a private enterprise to be snooping through somebody's trash.

Let me ask you this: Is it okay for Bill, Hill, Betsy Wright, and the rest of the Bimbo Eruption squad to hire a small army of goons [Terry Lenzner, Anthony Pellicano, Anthony Marceca, and friends] to intimidate and harrass Elizabeth Ward Gracen, Gennifer Flowers, Dolly Kyle Browning, Kathleen Willey, Paula Corbin Jones, and countless other women who's names we'll never learn?

There's a point in the Starr transcripts where Monica Lewinsky is seriously worried that she's gonna be offed Arkancide-style.

Re:But it's okay for Bill & Hill? (1)

CmdrNullo (717391) | more than 10 years ago | (#7984983)

No kidding. Of course, had there been any justice, Clinton would have been impeached successfully, and Bush would be on trial for war crimes right now.

Re:But it's okay for Bill & Hill? (1)

pyros (61399) | more than 10 years ago | (#8000008)

Of course, had there been any justice, Clinton would have been impeached successfully

He was. Impeached [reference.com] doesn't mean removed from office, it means brought to trial.

Re:But it's okay for Bill & Hill? (1)

CmdrNullo (717391) | more than 10 years ago | (#8002522)

That was nicely pedantic. But not quite correct--the adverb "successfully" makes all the difference. Unless you'd say that O.J. Simpson was successfully tried for murder, in which case there's no way we can agree on this :).

Re:But it's okay for Bill & Hill? (1)

pyros (61399) | more than 10 years ago | (#8003297)

To be pedantic would have been to say that impeached just means formally accused in front of a tribunal (court). Clinton was brought to court and tried, as such he was successfully impeached. He was not successfully removed from office as a result of his impeachment. OJ was not successfully tried for murder. To quote the usage section of dictionary.com's entry for impeached:

This popular use of impeach as a synonym of "throw out" (even if by due process) does not accord with the legal meaning of the word. As recent history has shown, when a public official is impeached, that is, formally accused of wrongdoing, this is only the start of what can be a lengthy process that may or may not lead to the official's removal from office.

Re:But it's okay for Bill & Hill? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8079101)

Ah--but SUCCESSFULLY impeached still implies a guilty verdict. Nothing in the dictionary.com definition (hardly authoritative to begin with) contradicts that. And even that entry acknowledges the general usage of the word, which is in reality what defines its meaning.

Re: Don't overreact... Don't overreact (0, Offtopic)

SuperguyA1 (90398) | more than 10 years ago | (#7953858)

It's just funny, if you don't like it move on to the next story! SHEESH why do people who don't find a particular story interesting always think everyone else shouldn't either!

Re: Don't overreact... Don't overreact (1, Offtopic)

NanoGator (522640) | more than 10 years ago | (#7954041)

"SHEESH why do people who don't find a particular story interesting always think everyone else shouldn't either!"

It's resistance to Slashdot's sensationalism.

this is a first post (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7953474)

and it is in honor of Lysol's inductment into the GNAA.

He received the holy gay nigger seed, and became gay ambassador of the Freenode GNAA branch.

Congratulations lysol, you nigger.

I don't get it. (-1, Offtopic)

JeffMagnus (133746) | more than 10 years ago | (#7953494)

Where's the news?

Other coverage (4, Informative)

Malfourmed (633699) | more than 10 years ago | (#7954114)

This story was covered in the Australian press [theage.com.au] a few days ago. Other sources [silicon.com] report that the GMA has apologised, describing the acction as a "youthful indescretion".

Re:Other coverage (3, Insightful)

allism (457899) | more than 10 years ago | (#7957667)

Funny, though - the article doesn't make it clear as to which action was the indiscretion - the comment about digging up Albrecht's juicy past, or the mistake of replying instead of forwarding...

Not to mention, nothing that Molpus was quoted as saying in the article actually indicated that they weren't trying to dig up dirt...for instance:

"Her request for a copy of your bio was simply a part of a normal effort to obtain information about those who lead organisations with an interest in industry issues"

This could mean that they were only trying to get a bio, or it could mean that their normal effort is to find some ammunition in their target's current life. It's not terribly clear, to me, anyway, but I tend to wear a tinfoil hat...

Juicy Past (1)

MinorHeadWound (710187) | more than 10 years ago | (#7954154)

If someone would remove the gray bars then we'd have a juice past to use against that dolt!

It... (1, Interesting)

OneFix at Work (684397) | more than 10 years ago | (#7954313)

I still don't get it...Why all the concern about RFID?

These aren't much useful after you purchase the product...

You can be certain that if anyone has something to hide they will either find a way to disable the chip or simply buy products that don't contain an RFID chip...

The batteries don't last forever either...

So, I have to ask, why the concern? A specific person can be tracked much easier by the location of their cell phone, on-star equiped car, bank/credit card purchases, etc than by tracking the location of a pair of shoes they bought.

Not only that, most of the products with RFID tags will only have them in the packaging...once you take it out and throw away the packing material, it no longer provides any useful information.

I'm sorry, but I just don't see the need for concern...

Re:It... (4, Insightful)

reinard (105934) | more than 10 years ago | (#7954428)

Batteries? Have you ever even read anything about RFID technology? They don't have batteries, which is the only reason for their limited range. They get power directly from the radio waves.

RFID tags in the packaging? They are now weaving them into of clothing, they are inside your tires, and in the handle of your razor.

Disable them? Try microwaving your tire...

The concern is that they don't deactivate themselves. And almost any RFID tag can be read by almost any RFID reader. So your boss can start checking how often you change your underwear, and indirectly can track you around the building by the tags in your clothing. Your car could be tracked at every intersection.

It's not that there is an inherent problem, it's just ripe for abuse, and big step towards slipping into a police state.

Most of us just don't want to get anywhere near there. There is most definitely a need for concern.

Re:It... (3, Interesting)

OneFix at Work (684397) | more than 10 years ago | (#7954616)

Yes, that's true...I know a good bit of RFID tags use radio waves to operate, but if I remember correctly some of these actually power themselves...

Anyhow exactly does my boss know it's MY underware? For instance, if you use a badge reader, what keeps me from going in behind a co-worker? What about the tire thing...it would be much easier to simply track you with a <gasp> license plate...

The truth is, you can already be tracked, it's just that most of us are so boring it isn't worth the effort.

Re:It... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7954794)

For instance, if you use a badge reader, what keeps me from going in behind a co-worker?

  • Your policy manual's prohibition against bypassing a security device?
  • A sign?
  • Your conscience?
  • Your co-worker might stop you.

Re:It... (1)

Col. Klink (retired) (11632) | more than 10 years ago | (#7955182)

At my work, they have sensors by the doors that can tell if two people try and pass with one card (and automatically lock the inner door, trapping you until security unlocks it).

It will also get triggered if you carry a brief case or bag too low (where the sensor is). I guess it thinks the bag is a third leg.

Re:It... (1)

OneFix at Work (684397) | more than 10 years ago | (#7955361)

But that's the problem. It makes enforcement a PITA. For instance, I wonder how many employees have gotten locked inside of that "airlock" because their badge was damaged and didn't read properly...or what about bad badge readers...most places don't enforce the badge policy that much...they simply use it like a replacement for a bunch of keys and not a method of controlling employees...

Re:It... (3, Insightful)

reinard (105934) | more than 10 years ago | (#7954905)

The connection between what is yours and what belongs to others is easily made when you pay for it with your credit card, or use your club card and pay cash. Sure some items like ties and underwear may be presents, but how often do you buy tires for someone else? Or conversely, this enables the interested parties, without effort to establish connections between people. Customer A bougth item I1 that is now being worn by Customer B. And suddenly people you have no relation to whatsoever know who bought you a tie as a present around Valentine's day.

Granted, your boss may not easily get access to this data if you are some small company, but the bigger that company is, the farther they can reach. And if you don't already know - you'd be surprised how willing large companies are to sell access to their customer databases.

The problem is that tracking license plates, cell phones etc, is - as you say - a huge effort that isn't worth it, not even for the government, unless you are a suspected murdere etc.

RFID tags make this much much easier - so much, that tracking the general public as a side effect is technically and financially plausible.

Re:It... (1)

IthnkImParanoid (410494) | more than 10 years ago | (#7955046)

it would be much easier to simply track you with a license plate
How? It would require a human observer, or at least a camera with humans looking at the recordings/photos, as opposed to automatic entries in a database when your tires pass an intersection. It's actually much much more difficult with a license plate, which brings me to your next point:
The truth is, you can already be tracked, it's just that most of us are so boring it isn't worth the effort.
That is true, but the question is whether RFIDs (or something similar) will lower the amount of effort required to track individuals enough that it *is* worth it.

Re:It... (1)

OneFix at Work (684397) | more than 10 years ago | (#7955515)

Not really. Some license plates have bar codes on them already...and it's farily trivial to incorporate optical character recognition software to automatically read the numbers from the plate...

Then again, what makes you think that they couldn't recognize your vehicle by your inspection sticker (bar codes on some of those)...

If RFID were really useful in this fashion, I'ld expect for states/localities to require RFID chips in the inspection stickers...these are installed by certified personel and could be tested after installation...

Re:It... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7955560)

You, sir, have done a beautiful job of trying to defend a poorly considered but untenable position. Please report to your supervisor to have your head pulled from your ass so you can go research some of these idiotic statements you have made..

OCR acquisition of a moving target, in a wide range of lighting conditions, in an outdoor environment? Hard.

Battery powered RFID tags? Nonexistant. Expensive. Unnecessary.

RFID chips in inspection stickers? Give it time..

Re:It... (1)

IthnkImParanoid (410494) | more than 10 years ago | (#7955813)

Optical scanning of quickly moving barcodes is hard. Also, I'm honestly less worried about the government implementing and requiring RFIDs (though still worried) than I am about corporations implementing them for their own purposes, and then "developing relationships" [wikipedia.org] with the government under the pretense of helping to enforce the law.

It also wouldn't be states/localities collecting the information, since they almost never have the budget for that large an undertaking.

Re:It... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7955070)

Yes, that's true...I know a good bit of RFID tags use radio waves to operate, but if I remember correctly some of these actually power themselves...
That may be true, but practical cost and size considerations lead to the vast majority (I would guess well over 99.9%) of these things being passive. That is, they do nothing until they get lit up with an RF pulse, then use the small amount of energy received from such a pulse to transmit a reply back.

Anyhow exactly does my boss know it's MY underware?
It is trivial to enclude enough bits in the RFID tag of an object to uniquely identify that specific object, not just its product code. This is along the lines of the ideas discussed in the IPv6 article on Slashdot yesterday [slashdot.org] . Essentially, an RFID tag with enough bits amounts to a unique serial number for every individual item sold -- which means that your underwear (sorry, pet peeve) could be distinguished from the ones your co-workers are wearing, even if they happened to be the same brand and size.

Of course, the obvious solution in that case is simply not to wear underwear... :)

-FP

Re:It... (4, Interesting)

Alsee (515537) | more than 10 years ago | (#7956248)

Anyhow exactly does my boss know it's MY underware?

Assuming your company set up an RFID reader at the entrance for any of a number of reasons, every RFID tag on your body would activate and broadcast it's serial number. That code would most likely contain a manufacturer code, a product code, and potentially a unique serial number.

At the end of teh day you walk back up through the scanner. Maybe they are checking to make sure you aren't trying to sneek out with tagged company property. Rountine proceedure would be to subtract the list of ID's you entered with from the list of ID's you are trying to leave with.

So, one day the computer alerts the security guard that you are trying to leave with an ID code taht you didn't have when you came in. The code number pops up and an automatic search is done on it. The computer comes back with two hits on the search. The first hit is a match on it's internal database - that ID came in this morning whith Sue from accounting. The external database hit reveals that manufacturer code code is for Victoria's Secret, product code Lowrise V-string panties, black, size 5.

Security Guard shouts out in front of everyone: "Hey Bob! Whatchya doing with Sue's panties? Are they in your pocket or are you wearing them?"

He could quite easily pull up your history of ID tags for the year and see what brand(s) of under wear you wear, how many different pair you have worn, and yes, he could easily see how often you wear the exact same pair two or more days in a row.

RFID tags are already being embetted in the fabric of some peices of clothing. As RFID becomes common situations like I described above can become quite common. That daily RFID scan can be analized for any number of reasons, and the data can be extensive and invasive.

Every single store you walk into could preform such a scan. Obviously the "intended" purpose is to make sure that you don't walk out with unpaid merchandise, but once they've done that done that then all of the data is already in the computer it can trivially be used for any purpose at all.

-

Yer where? (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 10 years ago | (#7956900)

Underwear is optional; underware can be enforcably mandatory.

Re:It... (1)

cymen (8178) | more than 10 years ago | (#7957594)

The ones with a mini-nuclear plant onboard are a real bitch.

Re:It... (1)

unitron (5733) | more than 10 years ago | (#7959214)

"Anyhow exactly does my boss know it's MY underware?"

Maybe he's worried that you're wearing someone else's underwear.

Re:It... (1)

chthon (580889) | more than 10 years ago | (#7961423)

Can electromagnetic pulses be used to destroy RFID's ?

Jurgen

Holy bullshit batman (1)

Merk (25521) | more than 10 years ago | (#7964087)

"Almost any RFID tag can be read by almost any RFID reader????" You sir, have no clue what you're talking about. As a general rule, tags and readers are made by the same company. The RF protocols used are generally not published, and so it is very rare that a reader from Company A can read a tag from company B.

If you're going to freak out about RFID tags, at least get some of your facts straight.

Re:Holy bullshit batman (2, Informative)

reinard (105934) | more than 10 years ago | (#7964452)

Granted the statement was an exaggeration, but so is yours. "The protocols used are generally not published"... there are several ISO standards (ISO 14443 A/B, ISO 15693, ISO 18000, EPC) that just about everybody uses, same with the frequencies. (125KHz (new), 148KHz (old), 13.56 MHz (probably most common for short range, the one I was referring to), 315 MHz (long range, expensive))

Check these [skyetek.com] out. They read just about any standard on 13.56MHz (and really, almost everybody uses that frequency).

If I had some more time I'd google around a bit, but I'd bet most of what you'll find (95%+) will be a variation of one of the above.

I bet you, if they don't already exist, it will be a short time until someone makes a universal RFID tag reader. It's not hard to scan a few frequencies and try a few different protocols. Especially for ReadOnly tags (again, the large majority) because the protocol will be a simple ping-pong.

Re:Holy bullshit batman (1)

Merk (25521) | more than 10 years ago | (#7965027)

What I meant to say is that the protocols are generally not published. Sure, there are many standards that are published, but your average "Mobil Speedpass", keyless entry pass, garage entry pass, etc. are generally using unpublished, custom protocols with custom readers. Very few people currently use the various ISO standard protocols. (And BTW, EPC isn't a standard, it's a set of standards including Class 0, 1 and 2 among others). The frequencies aren't the issues. Sure, you need radio hardware that does all the frequencies you need to do in a multi-frequency reader, but the vast majority of readers use very simple, protocol-specific analog circuits.

What makes you so sure "it's not so hard to scan a few frequencies and try a few protocols"? Have you ever implemented an anti-collision search for any of those standards you mention? Do you have any idea what the hardware and software requirements of doing a multi-protocol reader are? The protocol is nothing like a simple 'ping-pong', whatever that is. The tough part is the "anti-collision" part. What happens when there are two tags in the field? How do you ensure that only one tag responds so you can read it without RF interference?

You're talking out of your ass. Admit it and either accept that you're scared of technology you don't understand, or learn about it then comment. Until then stop talking about things you don't know about.

Re:Holy bullshit batman (2, Interesting)

reinard (105934) | more than 10 years ago | (#7966495)

You obviously know a lot about this issue. I never did or even tried to dispute that.

I never claimed I knew all the ins and outs of this technology either. And as far as the technical aspects go, I don't have a problem admitting that I'm in a little over my head.

I've done my share of reading on it however, more so the social implications than the technical implementations. I'm not an electrical engineer, and didn't claim to be one. The statement I made seemed plausible conclusions to me, given what I see is available right now - from what I've read.

Now to your questions:

"""What makes you so sure "it's not so hard to scan a few frequencies and try a few protocols"?"""
If there are individual readers for each one, build a device that incorporates all of them try one at a time until you get an expected result. I'm not saying that's quickly done, or with little resources, but I bet you'd agree it's likely possible, and a large entitity (corporation/government etc) could bring up the resources. I'm saying it's not hard because it doesn't require inventing anything or depends on unproven technology. It's just a matter of combining existing technology.

"""Have you ever implemented an anti-collision search for any of those standards you mention?"""
No (although you already knew that). But what makes you think anti-collision is even necessary for my argument? Your examples ("Mobil Speedpass", keyless entry pass, garage entry pass) are probably all systems that would not function under collision situations, nor do they need to. There is a collision and you get bad data? Ignore it. Fully acceptable for those situations. The same would be true for RFID tags in tires. You get two in the reader area? - Ignore it, you'll get a good read at the next intersection.

"""Do you have any idea what the hardware and software requirements of doing a multi-protocol reader are?"""
No. Neither does anybody that doesn't have the resources to seriously consider and spec out such a project. And it's not really relevant to this discussion anyway. However, I doubt that they would be much larger than the combined requirements for each individual device - since at least some software and hardware parts will be usable for several of the individual readers.

"""The protocol is nothing like a simple 'ping-pong', whatever that is."""
With ping-pong i only meant transmit request (ping) and receive response (pong). I've never actually looked at the protocols in detail.

"""The tough part is the "anti-collision" part. What happens when there are two tags in the field? How do you ensure that only one tag responds so you can read it without RF interference?"""
Again, I'm no electrical engineer, but I would imagine something like a signal that causes random short delays in sending the response, and then repeat until you get a clear response from each tag. Or maybe each tag can be on one of X number of channels, that get scanned sequentially, greatly reducing the potential of collisions etc... Anyways, I know several devices on the market can do this, so this problem has already been solved, ie is technically feasible, so the argument about it is mute - it can be (and has been) done.

"""You're talking out of your ass. Admit it and either accept that you're scared of technology you don't understand, or learn about it then comment."""
Well I'll respond to that with a quote "Obscenity is the last refuge of the inarticulate motherfucker."

You're trying to say that I can't argue/discuss these things unless I'm an expert in the field and know every little technical implementation detail. If you don't see a flaw in that, please don't respond. I know you read this anyway.

This discussion was origianlly about the social effects of RFID tags, and whether concern about widespread implementation was justified. You picked up on a line that may have been technically a bit of a stretch (or even plain incorrect), but really when it comes down to it, that line was irrelevant to the larger discussion.

And now you stand there telling me I can't discuss the issue because I don't understand the RF protocols used that the devices use in environments where collisions may happen. I tried to show that I actually have done some reading, but as you guessed, I don't design and implement RFID technology.

I'm also not afraid of this technology. Not sure where you picked that up. However, if you wake up for a moment and look around and see whats happening around you, liberties are eroding, "the land of the free" can now detain it's own citizens secretly without charge and put them in jail for undetermined amounts of time without oversight and accountability. If you honestly thing that a widespread implementation of something like RFID tags is not going to be abused, your dreaming. Concern and public discussion is warranted and justified.

Re:Holy bullshit batman (1)

Merk (25521) | more than 10 years ago | (#7968084)

"If there are individual readers for each one, build a device that incorporates all of them try one at a time until you get an expected result." Sorry, it doesn't work like that. You can't just tape them all together. See, the problem is that they're all emitting and reading RF, and if you have more than one active at a time, you'll get nasty interference. The fact is, it is hard to build a device that does multiple frequencies and protocols.

"But what makes you think anti-collision is even necessary for my argument?" Anti-collision is necessary for any reader on any of the of the protocols you mentioned. Otherwise if you have two tags in the field and your reader tries to read the tags in the field, they'll both try to answer at the same time and interfere with eachother (collide). AC is one of the hard parts of any shared medium communication, be it aloha-net, ethernet or RFID.

Anyhow, you don't have to be an RF engineer to participate in RFID discussions. But if you're completely misinformed about the subject, then you're just spreading FUD, and that's what I object to.

Let's go back to your original post.

"They don't have batteries, which is the only reason for their limited range. They get power directly from the radio waves." Half-true. Some RFID tags are powered or active, some are unpowered or passive.

"They are now weaving them into of clothing, they are inside your tires, and in the handle of your razor." They are not weaving them into clothing. I challenge you to find me one quote where they say they're doing that. I think that rumour may have started when a Wired article [wired.com] claimed that "Prada already embeds RFID inventory tags into its clothing". But a little research shows that is simply a tag that they put on in one particular store, which is probably removed when it is sold, and it is very visible to the customer [rfidjournal.com] : "Pick up any pair of shoes or handbag or dress and you'll find a clear RFID tag, with the antenna and chip clearly visible." See, it's the antenna that's difficult. Sure, the RFID chip is tiny, but the antennas are pretty big, normally on the order of 10cm by 3cm or so, so weaving it into clothing just wouldn't work. As for tires and rasors, I sincerely doubt that that's the case either -- see, both of those have huge amounts of metal in them which would interfere with RFID reading. But find me a link that proves that's being done and maybe I'll believe you.

"And almost any RFID tag can be read by almost any RFID reader". I hope I've disabused you of this notion. Most RFID tags can only be read with the associated reader. A small subset of RFID tags follow one of the EPC specs, and can be read by different readers, but very few readers are multi-protocol ones.

Now do you see why I was upset? There's really nothing to your original post other than FUD, and I just attacked the most obvious and egregious instance.

There's no problem discussing RFID, but there is with spreading FUD. If you worry about your boss knowing whether you changed your underwear you can certainly say "I worry that in a few years if manufacturers start embedding RFID tags in clothing and not disabling it at checkout, it might be possible for someone like my boss to know if I changed my underwear". See how that's different from:

The concern is that they don't deactivate themselves. And almost any RFID tag can be read by almost any RFID reader. So your boss can start checking how often you change your underwear, and indirectly can track you around the building by the tags in your clothing.

I agree that there is a potential for abuse of RFID technology. If RFID tags ever start being put on or inside consumer goods, it would be good to make sure that they're either removed or deactivated at checkout. There will probably be a market for home RFID readers for people who either want to keep track of what's in their fridge, or who want to make sure they're not being tracked. On the other hand, it's not like the potential for privacy violations due to RFID technology is much different from barcodes or credit cards.

I hope now that I've clarified a few points you can go on to discuss your concerns about RFID without spreading FUD, and instead discussing real concerns.

Re:Holy bullshit batman (1)

reinard (105934) | more than 10 years ago | (#7968857)

First, thanks for the reply. I wasn't sure you'd write back.

"If there are individual readers for each one, build a device that incorporates all of them try one at a time until you get an expected result." Sorry, it doesn't work like that. You can't just tape them all together. See, the problem is that they're all emitting and reading RF, and if you have more than one active at a time, you'll get nasty interference. The fact is, it is hard to build a device that does multiple frequencies and protocols.
I really meant, run one reader on one frequency - then if you get no good response, turn its transmitter off. Then try the next one and so on, in other words avoid interference by trying one at a time. (But again.. I'm no RF engineer, this is just how I imagined it and am just clarifying what I ment)

"But what makes you think anti-collision is even necessary for my argument?" Anti-collision is necessary for any reader on any of the of the protocols you mentioned. Otherwise if you have two tags in the field and your reader tries to read the tags in the field, they'll both try to answer at the same time and interfere with eachother (collide). AC is one of the hard parts of any shared medium communication, be it aloha-net, ethernet or RFID.
While anti-collision may be required by those protocols, many uses of RFID tags (as I imagine them) do not need to deal with this. A "key" reader for example - if there are two tags in the reading range, it shouldn't unlock the door. Only if there is one key, and it has a valid authorized code should the door be unlocked. Same goes for Speed Passes and many similar applications. In these situations it would almost be a "feature" that they don't work when there are two keys present. Of course anti-collision mechanisms will definitely be needed in, say a retail environment, or with long range tags.

Anyhow, you don't have to be an RF engineer to participate in RFID discussions. But if you're completely misinformed about the subject, then you're just spreading FUD, and that's what I object to.
You're absolutely right, and I stand corrected on several issues you've pointed out.

"They don't have batteries, which is the only reason for their limited range. They get power directly from the radio waves." Half-true. Some RFID tags are powered or active, some are unpowered or passive.
I actually didn't know this when I wrote this, I only found out when I did some more research today. For me, when thinking of RFID tags I just didn't think of a powered device which to me seems more like an integrated wireless device. Again, I stand corrected.

"They are now weaving them into of clothing, they are inside your tires, and in the handle of your razor." They are not weaving them into clothing. I challenge you to find me one quote where they say they're doing that. I think that rumour may have started when a Wired article claimed that "Prada already embeds RFID inventory tags into its clothing". But a little research shows that is simply a tag that they put on in one particular store, which is probably removed when it is sold, and it is very visible to the customer: "Pick up any pair of shoes or handbag or dress and you'll find a clear RFID tag, with the antenna and chip clearly visible." See, it's the antenna that's difficult. Sure, the RFID chip is tiny, but the antennas are pretty big, normally on the order of 10cm by 3cm or so, so weaving it into clothing just wouldn't work.
Here are three examples: Benetton [slashdot.org] , Marks & Spencer [rfidprivacy.org] , and KSW-Microtec [com.com] - they make wearable/washable tags specifically to be embedded in clothing. (These may not be the best links, but further reasearch on each of them can easily be found by googling.)

As for tires and rasors, I sincerely doubt that that's the case either -- see, both of those have huge amounts of metal in them which would interfere with RFID reading. But find me a link that proves that's being done and maybe I'll believe you.
For Tires:
Michelin [rfidjournal.com] , Bridgestone/Crosslink [telematica.com] , and the Automotive Industry Action Group's (AIAG) already has standards for them [aiag.org] .
For Razors:
What do you think Gilette needs 500 Million RFID tags for? [mobileinfo.com] . There was also a related story [mobileinfo.com] here on /.

"And almost any RFID tag can be read by almost any RFID reader". I hope I've disabused you of this notion. Most RFID tags can only be read with the associated reader. A small subset of RFID tags follow one of the EPC specs, and can be read by different readers, but very few readers are multi-protocol ones
Yep, I was wrong. However, if for example, the DMV started requiring them in tires/cars, I'm sure there will be some standard, and sooner or later associated readers will be available, even if only on the black market.

Now do you see why I was upset? There's really nothing to your original post other than FUD, and I just attacked the most obvious and egregious instance.
Well... I don't agree that it was all FUD, but my interpretations were definitely lacking merit on the technical side. I should have been more careful about my wording and not made my interpretations seem like facts.

There will probably be a market for home RFID readers for people who either want to keep track of what's in their fridge, or who want to make sure they're not being tracked.
Ironically I would actually LOVE this. Maybe there would even be a way to find things by tracking the source of the RFID response. That would be way cool. (I have a bad habit of misplacing expensive tools.)

On the other hand, it's not like the potential for privacy violations due to RFID technology is much different from barcodes or credit cards.
Actually, I disagree here, because it is so much easier to read RFID tags automatically, and even without knowledge of the owner, sometimes over significant distances.

Re:Holy bullshit batman (2, Insightful)

Merk (25521) | more than 10 years ago | (#7969129)

Thanks for the links, but I still disagree on them. First of all, they're not exactly impartial sources -- hell, you even referenced the mothership of RFID fearmongers [slashdot.org] . The clothing tags they talk about in all the articles are attached to the clothing, but not inconspicuously weaved into them: "an antenna-bearing chip smaller than a grain of rice that's attached to the clothes' labels". It's pretty easy to rip off a label, I do it for comfort pretty often. That's a longshot from one hidden by being weaved into the cloth.

As for the tires -- GREAT! Being able to track tires like that should do wonders for safety. I have doubts that the tags will be readable at any great distance though. Besides, tracking cars is already pretty easy due to things called license plates. All kinds of red light cameras all over the world currently snap pictures of people running red lights, and use the license plate to ID them.

Now Gillette -- they ordered a few hundred million tags -- what makes you think they actually want to put them on the handle, as you claimed? Wouldn't it make more sense to put them on the packaging, so they're easier to track? Besides, Gillette doesn't care about rasors -- they sell rasor blades. In my informed opinion, there's no way they'll fit an RFID tag on the individual blades, the read range would be tiny, and it would be impractical. On the other hand, they might put one on the blade package -- is that really so bad?

Finally, there's the "significant distances" part. Under ideal conditions, you'll be lucky to get a read at more than 8 metres. With a wall in the way, or anything metal, or even metal too nearby, you'll get interference. I'm not saying it's impossible -- heck, there are devices that can see what's on your computer screen through a wall. On the other hand, the ability to do that is a long way off.

Year by year, privacy is changing. In the 1500s most people lived in small towns, where everybody knew everybody's business. On the other hand, you could be pretty sure that if you were inside your house with the doors closed, nobody could see inside. These days, most people enjoy relative anonymity inside their cities, and can buy things over the Internet without anybody knowing what they're doing. But, at the same time, credit cards can track purchases, and lots of electronic surveilance is now possible.

Sometimes when you gain convenience, you lose privacy. If I could get RFID-enabled tires, I'd love it. I could use an RFID reader to make sure that the tires were new from the factory, not refurbished ones from a car that had been in a wreck. Sure, there's some chance that someone might then track my car, but these days it's pretty remote. If it ever became a concern, I'd either change tires often, or buy RFID-tagless tires. When something threatens your privacy, you generally have an alternative. Phone taps? Get encrypted phones. Email snooping? Use PGP/GPG. People reading your computer screen over your shoulder? Get a privacy screen. HTTP cookies bother you? Use Privoxy. I'm sure the same will be true for RFID.

The fight shouldn't be about the availability of RFID tags, and RFID-tagged products, it should be about keeping your options open. It shouldn't be illegal to remove your underwear tags -- if they ever show up. It shouldn't be illegal to get non-RFID-tagged tires.

Anyhow, this is the type of debate I think is useful, where both people are informed, and backing up what they say. (Btw, if you doubt any of the engineering stuff I'm saying I can try to find a way to back it up, but it's out of first-hand knowledge, so I don't have references on hand). I just hate it when people say "RFID is eeeevil because it lets the Government track your Cornflakes!!!"

Re:Holy bullshit batman (1)

Godstalk (710665) | more than 10 years ago | (#7980107)

Edible RFID tags! BRILLIANT, man, brilliant!

Re:It... (2, Insightful)

pbox (146337) | more than 10 years ago | (#7954454)

Your sentence:

These aren't much useful after you purchase the product...

Should correctly read as:

Currently these aren't much useful after you purchase the product...

If all your garnments have built in RFID tags, it is just a question of installing RFID sensor all over the place, and have an uber-company evaluate all of the data, and your location can be tracked to a minitue detail. Would that worry you? (Than again almost everyone is toting a cellphone around - but at least that can be switched off)

See what happened to tolltags, remember that lawyer murdered about a month ago? His movements were track post-mortem through the tolltag...

Re:It... (0)

johnny_4_president (635478) | more than 10 years ago | (#7954914)

actually, i haven't seen the post-mortem tolltag tracking story. where can i find it? thanks in advance.

Re:It... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7971524)

You can find it in your mom's twat you stupd bitch! SHUT THE FUCK UP!

Investigators (2, Insightful)

schmaltz (70977) | more than 10 years ago | (#7955181)

A previously anonymous item of clothing, with a sewn-in RFID tag, has a potentially traceable history- where it was made, where shipped, warehoused at, retailed, who it was sold to, when, how much.

I imagine this would delight both law enforcement and attorneys [slashdot.org] alike. DEA too [slashdot.org] .

You almost have to wonder if, despite our best efforts, in twenty years time when RFID is presumably more prevalent, that there will be developed a system which generates a snapshot profile of a person based on what the RFIDs in their possession. Perhaps not as accurate as a fingerprint, but enough variability that it could assist law enforcement in finding a person better than facial recognition, for example.

Watch out racial profiling, here comes consumer profiling!

Re:It... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7954902)

Imagine this scenario.

You buy a gift for someone from a store. The RFID scanner at the register identifies you by your previous purchases (that you're wearing/are on you/etc) while you slide your debit card in the reader. Then you give that gift to someone else.

That person goes shopping anywhere (because RFID data would surely be shared through some clearinghouse) and they use their debit card to make a purchase. If they're wearing your gift, the clearinghouse has now identified a relationship between you two.

They could develop a very comprehensive database of who is associated with who. Then the government gets their hands on the database, and finds out that you bought something for the future wife of some terrorist, and now you're in jail indefinitely without charges.

Re:It... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7955931)

Here's why I don't like seeing Walmart and the other giant retailers pushing this tech so hard: they're going to ramp this stuff down a very steep cost curve very quickly.

Right now, it's pretty expensive and not a great tool. In five years, it may be cheap enough to start implanting RFID tags into currency. In 7 years, the RFID tags may have evolved to the point where they're compact and flexible enough to put into currency.

There are a lot of applications for RFID that may be very negative once it's cheap enough to be ubiquitous. And we're pushing it down our own throats by scurrying into WalMart to save pennies a gross on worthless plastic crap.

Wooo! Way to go, USA!

Re:It... (1)

gral (697468) | more than 10 years ago | (#7956096)

RFID tags don't use batteries. They are powered by the Reader while they are being read.

The idea is that someone could look at what you have purchased just by "Reading" you.

Re:It... (2, Interesting)

jc42 (318812) | more than 10 years ago | (#7956489)

These aren't much useful after you purchase the product.

Oh, I dunno about that. I'm imagining that I'm in charge of the software that collects the RFID data. What I do is have the software note not only the articles that are placed on the counter at checkout, but also the tag number in the clothing that you're wearing as you leave the store. If any of those "extra" tags agree with articles that the store sells, with some low probability (1% or 5% maybe), the software adds it to your bill.

What I'm betting on is that you wouldn't even notice this. Even if you get a detailed statement that shows all your purchases, the fact is that you did buy that particular article. So it doesn't register, you skip over it, and I've just extracted a small amount of cash from your account. If you happen to notice it, our people are instructed to be very apologetic, and remove the charge without arguing.

Over a year, this could add a lot of money to the store's coffers.

It doesn't even matter if such charges are discovered an publicised. The news stories would just add to your image of the unreliability of all things computerish, while the store's cheerfully helpful staff would reassure you that all you have to do is bring it to their attention to get it fixed.

Unless you could get the source code subpoenaed, there's little chance you could ever fight this sort of larceny.

follow the headers (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7954487)

follow the headers, and there was no slip-up there. the message didn't end up in anyone's wrong hands. lol

why are slashdotters morons sometimes, when it comes to anything that involves things they don't like?

Yeah (1)

dtfinch (661405) | more than 10 years ago | (#7954633)

The reply and forward buttons are like right next to each other.

big deal (1)

lambent (234167) | more than 10 years ago | (#7954818)

There's nothing special about this. For anyone who has worked in an office, they already know that the chief source of entertainment is ridiculing the customers.

After all, they make it so easy ...

Not a customer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7955945)

They mailed this woman to request biographical infromation becuase she wrote critical articles about the company's products. I also don't see how it could be a joke, though I admit there is a remote possibility.

Probably the end of return scams (1)

Stubtify (610318) | more than 10 years ago | (#7956516)

The tags are great news for companies because they mean that each item can be tracked forever. No longer can you buy the same exact model of a video card and swap your old busted one in for an instant return/repair. Of course nothing is stopping a theif from blocking the RFID tag's radio waves and just stealing said item.

I'd rather just see more complicated Barcodes.

Re:Probably the end of return scams (1)

Lehk228 (705449) | more than 10 years ago | (#7958835)

serial numbers can do that just fine (such as on a PS2 where there is a hole in the box so they can scan your serial number barcode when they ring it up) RFID is not that big deal, in fact i believe that RFID will turn into a wonderful source of entertainment for slashdot crowd types, carry a tag marked 1337 or 31337 in your wallet

Re:Probably the end of return scams (1)

Stubtify (610318) | more than 10 years ago | (#7960902)

yes, serial numbers do work well for inventory control, however not everything has them, and to put a serial number on each and key it into the register would take forever.

WIAL? (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 10 years ago | (#7956926)

Who Is A Lawyer? How do we Americans document our expectations of privacy in cheaply-defensible precendents? We need something to build an eventual Supreme Court case on, after the current gang of robed liars is flushed from the system. That will take years - meanwhile, these privacy invasions are in their infancy, where they can be nipped in the bud.

If I understand it correctly... (1)

Jesrad (716567) | more than 10 years ago | (#7962267)

... the email exchange basically go like:

- intern:
Hey, Ms Anti-RFID-Advocate, I'm working for a major retailer of soon-to-be-RFID'ed goods. Could you send me your bio ?

- Ms.:
Err, yes, but why ?

- intern (to manager):
I don't know what to tell her ! "Well, actually we're trying to see if you have a juicy past we could use against you." ?

Re:If I understand it correctly... (1)

cgranade (702534) | more than 10 years ago | (#7965052)

Somehow the juxtaposition of your post and the ad (in your .sig) for Discordianism seems just and appropiate.

Dumb. (2, Interesting)

Fnkmaster (89084) | more than 10 years ago | (#7967803)

If you want to get your interns to collect dirt on somebody, you are supposed to have them conceal their identity. What the hell good is it to use an intern for this kind of sniffing around unless you tell them to send the email from their college email account and request information "for a paper they are righting on consumer rights organizations"? If they come out and say "Hi, I work for the industry association that you oppose, can you send me your biographical information?" it's not going to get you very far.


Which leads me to believe this (dumb) kid may have been acting on his own. Or his boss is REALLY fucking stupid.

Check for New Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?