Tuesday, April 12, 2005

As Big Brother goes digital

Amplifying on a previous post of mine, the title links to an article from EE Times about RFID chips in passports. Briefly, the Administration saw that they couldn't get this past Congress, so instead they got the International Civil Aviation Organization to agree to it and used that agreement to get Congress to approve making US passports adhere to the new "international standard". The problem with these chips is twofold:

  1. The data is stored unencrypted, so anyone (not just governments) can read it.
  2. Because RFID is used (rather than a method requiring physical contact), the data can be retrieved remotely, without knowledge of the passport carrier.
This raises the possibility of such passports being a "dream" for identity thieves and terrorists: the ability to read large amounts of identity information (including nationality) remotely and discreetly. If such technology gets incorporated into daily-use IDs (such as driver's licenses, implicit in the "Real ID Act"), then it becomes feasible for governments and corporations to track the movements of individuals as they pass by RFID readers embedded in doorways, elevators, buses, light poles, whatever.

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