China May Issue A Billion RFID-Based ID Cards
At RFID World last month, a speaker representing China's radio frequency identification (RFID) initiative said he expected China to issue over a billion identification cards - one to every citizen. An example ID badge from Intermec Technologies, currently used for expedited border crossings between the U.S. and Candada, is shown below.
(From Intellitag ID - Credit Card Format RFID Tag)
Rocky Shih, representing the government of China, also stated that three million handheld RFID scanners would be issued, one for every police officer in China. When Mr. Shih was asked if perhaps this might bring up concerns about RFID and privacy, he said that the government does not need to respond to such concerns.
An example of a concern that might be raised about such devices: suppose all citizens were required to produce an identification card on demand (as is the case when you are driving a car, for instance, in the U.S.). If you carried an active RFID tag with you at all times, you could be monitored by any organization or business with an appropriate detector. Every time you entered a mall, or passed through a turnstile, or drove past a toll booth your presence could be monitored and recorded.
Apparently, Walmart's plan to have an RFID device in most consumer items within the next year or two was of less concern to the Chinese government, despite the fact that many of the goods sold by Walmart are produced there.
SF writer John Brunner explored the issues surrounding the privacy of the individual in an age of universal computer access and cradle-to-grave monitoring in his classic 1975 novel Shockwave Rider. Brunner coined the term computer tapeworm in this novel.
See RFID in Colorado and China; thanks to
Future Now for the story.
Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 5/4/2004)
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