Zombie RFID Tags Arise To Face Privacy Advocates

Zombie RFID tags may find their way into your pockets - causing some privacy advocates to breath a sigh of relief.

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags are used in place of barcodes to provide information about individual items in stores. They can be activated by scanners at distances of several yards; when activated, the tiny chip in the tag "spills the beans" - broadcasting information about the product. Many people are uncomfortable with the idea that their bag of purchases could be made to broadcast the contents if a thief (or even another store) had an appropriate scanner.

Enter the zombie RFID tag. This is a tag that has been manufactured and programmed to respond to an order to deactivate itself - and, under very special circumstances, to come back to life.

But why not just issue a permanent deactivation command? Some tags have been made to respond to a "kill command" and become inert. The question comes up when you bring an item back to the store for an exchange. If it is possible to "kill" the tag on the way out of the store (satisfying your need for privacy) but then re-animate it if you bring it back (thus letting it reenter the supply chain), everyone would be happy.

Except for the real dyed-in-the-wool privacy advocates, who say that a chip that you think has been deactivated is the worse possible case, since you will not take elementary precautions with it. And who knows when that zombie RFID tag might receive a command to awaken and live again?

For more information, see RFID: The tags that would not die. Additional aspects of RFID technology are covered in these recent SF in the News articles: China May Issue One Billion RFID-Based ID Cards and Baja Beach Club Implants VeriChip In Customers.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 5/21/2004)

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Index of related articles:

What is RFID?
How RFID Works
How is RFID used inside a living body?
What can RFID be used for?
Is RFID Technology Secure and Private?
Are There Concerns About How RFID Will Be Used? (Update)
Next-Generation Uses of RFID?
What Are Zombie RFID Tags?
Problems With RFID
RFID Information Technology Articles
Advantages of RFID Versus Barcodes
RFID Glossary
Contactless Credit Card Advantages
Contactless Credit Card Disadvantages

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