Monday, August 3, 2009

Privacy Concerns about RFID and Possible Solutions

It can't be denied that RFID is great for tracking items, but due to this attribute it is frequently debated that RFID creates one Orwellian society.

With these tags, some conspiracy theorists (which I always regard them as lunatics) say that manufacturers will have more access to consumers' information, such as shpping habits, usage patterns, and preferences.  They also suggest that government also use it to monitor the citizens.

Regardless of the presence of such conspiracy theorists and their fairy tales, the fact that abuse of this otherwise convenient technology can cause privacy invasion is too hard to ignore. Therefore, IBM came up with one possible solution: Clipped Tag. It behaves exactly like the conventional tags, except the consumers can tear up the antennas along a perforated line so its range can be dramatically reduced from several meters to just a few centimeters. It should be noted the RFID chip is still intact and still contains its data, as long as the reader is close enough to read it.

This is what I plan to implement on the boarding pass - since a portion of the pass is going to be separated, it might as well put antennas on that portion to automatically cut off the antennas when the pass is fed into a reader, leaving the stub with its chip intact to the passenger. This is a crude visualization of the RFID-enabled pass will be:

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