California Senate OKs Bill To Limit RFID Use

RFID Dude writes Information Week has this article about RFID.
"The bill would limit use of the technology in stores and libraries, but it faces much tougher sledding in the state Assembly.

California's state Senate gave its stamp of approval Thursday to a bill that would place limits on the use of radio-frequency identification technology in stores and libraries. However, the bill faces what's expected to be more-heated debate before the state Assembly's Business and Professions Committee."

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Thank goodness....

If RFID use is allowed it could be the end of civilization as we know it.


Anyone (well anyone with a portable RFID reader) could come up to me and read any RFID tags I may have with me. They could find out the numbers of the RFID tags.


What chaos that would bring. They would know numbers. That is so terrible. If they were able to break into the master RFID number computer, wait that does not exist, but if it did, and if they could break into it, and if they could read the numbers I have, and if they stole my wallet to get my identification to find out who I was, they could find out where I bought my sweater and what library book I checked out.

Man you can't let that information get into the wrong hands!

Oh, by the way the sweater is from JC Penney and the library book is Sub Rosa by Ralph McInerney.

Radio detection

I like how mdoneil thinks. Sure there's supposed to be this grand conspiracy that some nefarious organization could use RFID tags to track you, your purchases, what kinds of things you buy, where you buy them, how many of them you buy, etc etc etc. I hate to inform people of this, but we've had such an item for years now. It allows the government access to the above information and more. It's called a credit card. Yeah, same info. All they have to do is ask for it. And do you really think the government is going have trouble getting hold of your credit card information? C'mon.

Second, I love these people who say that RFID tags are the "mark of the beast" as revealed in the Book of Revelation. Folks, I'm not Christian, which may be why I don't buy into that theory so much. But I do remember several years ago that people claimed much the same thing with UPC barcodes. And now UPC barcodes are everywhere, yes even on Bibles. People who believe RFID tags to be the mark of satan are a bit off, but we should probably keep them around for the entertainment value.

Then there's the idea that, with modification, an RFID tag could be used to find someone and invade their privacy. First off, I think it's become readily apparent from the 9/11 Commission, the Woodward book, and just plain history in general that US Gubment Organizations have a real problem passing intelligence around, if they can even get it to begin with. So I'm not too worried there. Secondly, last I checked, RFID tags aren't made from some kind of super alien technology that's totally indestructable. Worried about tracking? Then destroy it. Duh. Seems kind of simple to me.

But then again, there's ways of tracking you with or without RFID tags. Most cell phones these days can track your location. Sure they say it's for 911 emergencies, but who runs 911? That's right! The government! You can turn off this feature, but it's almost always on by default. Got OnStar on any of you cars? Yeah, same thing. They can unlock your locks, call for help when you're in an accident, and help you find a way to the nearest steakhouse. Case in point there, how can they help you with directions without first knowing where you are? Heck, they can tell you where your stolen car went to.

You can be tracked in so many different ways than some stupid radio chip. We've got spy satellites that could tell you the price of a postage stamp sitting on a runway in Vladivostok, do you really think such a thing couldn't pick you out of a crowd?

Conspiracy theories drive me nuts for the most part, especially those which break down under the slightest application of logic.

only numbers...

Just numbers, eh? Ever here of a database?If you get a chance to look at the article, you’ll see it does not prohibit the use of RFID tags for lending books or buying sweaters. It prohibits using RFIDs to collect non-transactional data.So you walk into the store. The RFID reader at the entrance picks up the RFID number (yes, just a number) on your customer card and, perhaps, and your name appears on the greeter’s screen. “Hello Mr. Smith!� You can’t lose that personal touch in this technology age.You begin to walk the aisles. Each aisle has an RFID reader. Soon, the store knows if you are the kind of shopper who goes up and down each ailse, or who darts all around the store. How long do you spend in an aisle? Do you shop by brand? If so, the RFID indication that you took an item off the shelf should soon be followed by an RFID indication that it was in the cart. These tags are cheap. Put them everywhere. If there is a delay before it gets to the cart, you probably were reading the labels. Does the delay match the average delay time associated with label reading?Maybe the item goes back on the shelf. How long were you looking at it? Do you then look at other brands of a similar product? Which brands did you consider and reject before selecting one to purchase? Are your decisions based on price? Ingredients? Product placement?You can imagine how valuable this would be to marketers, yes? So, I will start a company, called say, brickstream, that puts this technology into every store at no cost to the store, and then sells them the data about their customers. Does Mr. Smith leave your store and go to another one to purchase a product you carry?For other marketers the fact that you picked up and put down a candy bar four times before not buying it is very interesting. Expect mailings from Jenny Craig and mail order chocolates.Far fetched? Take a look at the cookie file on your computer. Of course, those too are just numbers.Hey, actually, I could combine your online shopping habits with your bricks and mortar habits, and have a pretty impressive profile…You can make an argument that this information is insignificant and not private. But to say it is just numbers is being willfully naïve.

Er.. the FBI has already used OnStar to listen

Court to FBI: No spying on in-car computershttp://zdnet.com.com/2100-1103_2-5109435.html.According to the article, the FBI and other law enforcement agencies could use the location and listening features of OnStar and similar services if they can do so w/o interfering with the service's antitheft features.I concur with the rest of your comment.

Re:only numbers...

Well of course the RFID serial numbers can be contained in some database, but it really is not cost effective to have that many monitors, nor that many RFID transponders. For the monitoring you suggest in which they can tell how long I had a packet off the shelf, the monitors would have to be so low power and so ubiquitous as to be impractical outrageously expensive.


The databases must be networked with the monitors for the data to be useful. I suppose that they could make all the carts wifi carts but why would they go to the expense when most shoppers in the grocery will use 'frequent shopper' cards that track shopping habits through inexpensive proven ways.


The sky is not falling and the ubiquity of the RFID monitors that you warn of is simply not technically nor economically feasible.

Re:only numbers...

Actually, one of the benefits that retailers see in RFIDs is that they would be able to tell when someone has removed an unusual number of the same items off the shelf. 20 Packages of razor blades, for example. This is very valuable for theft detection.Another RFID benefit I've seen is that shopping carts could display your totapurchase price, including tax, as you add items into the cart.That means RFID readers on the shelf and in the cart.You certainly could do everything that I mentioned, except the greeting, withouht wifi or any other network. The carts and shelves gather the data, and once a day, week, month, someone downloads the data from each reader.But why bother? WiFi is cheap. The local Jiffy Lube already uses it.Technologically unfeasible? No way.Economically? Let's see, the new SkyeRead M1-mini RFID reader, slightly larger than a quarter and wifi-enabled, will sell for about $70 each. Toppan has promised a $20 reader. Lets say 40 buck a reader today, (and I bet prices will fall.) The range for a passive tag is up to 20 feet (but normally less), for an active tag (which is a lot more expensive) up to a hundred feet.So, your supermarket has 20 aisles, 50 feet long each. You want to place a reader every four feet on each side of the aisle, so about 500 readers, or $20,000 and maybe another hundred in shopping carts. total price: $24,000. Expensive?Think about it. What does a self-check out stand cost? $20,000 or so, right? How many fewer of those, and fewer cashiers, will you need?And all of that rich marketing data! Those numbers are worth their values in gold! The mega-chains try to calculate the profitability by square foot.This gives them the tool to do that at a level never before imagined. Spending an extra $20,000 a store (at today's prices) to have access to this information is a no-brainer.I agree with the sentiment that uninformed panic at every innovation is stupid. But so is the reverse.

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