Letting Technology Solve RFID Privacy Problems

from the it's-something dept

For years, a rather vocal group of people have been protesting RFID technology, talking about the potential for privacy violations. While it’s good to discuss those issues, it seems that many who are against RFIDs don’t seem to offer up any alternative other than to simply not use the technology at all — something that won’t happen as long as the technology proves useful. Instead, the better solution is to focus on new technologies that help to deal with the privacy issues and protect users, rather than trying to destroy the technology completely. In the past, we’ve seen some attempts at privacy protecting RFID technology, but much more can be done. Now IBM is demonstrating some new technologies to protect consumers who buy RFID-tagged products, but who want to avoid some of the privacy risks. In this case, the technology would let consumers easily decrease the range that an RFID chip broadcasts, so that they can still benefit from the RFID technology, without worrying about people reading the tags from a great distance. This isn’t a perfect solution by any means, but it does highlight the point that companies are working on technological means to fix the problems with RFIDs, and rather than looking to stop the technology, it would be much more productive to work on improved solutions like this one.


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Comments on “Letting Technology Solve RFID Privacy Problems”

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3 Comments
whoami says:

Transparent Argument

All that IBM link you published shows is that the privacy issue is both important and unresolved. Tech solutions have tech problems. More sensitive detectors will be able to find even “quieted” RFIDs. Which means that better funded snoopers, like law enforcement, organized crime and hungry corporations will still be able to snoop. While people operate under a false sense of security.

The “rather vocal” protestors have a point: stopping privacy invasion at its source, the actions and deployments of risky tech. Your attitude is that the tech is deficient, and can be fixed with more tech, in a neverending arms race. And it’s disingenuous, too. Many people have been quite vocal about the need of supercheap RFID readers for anyone who wants one, so we can all see those that are deployed. Instead of making some of us dangerous with the advantage of private knowledge of others, with the rest oblivious. IBM’s work is a useful tool in the inevitable deployment of a tech cat that’s out of the bag. But unless RFID becomes truly manageable in exposing our privacy, the protests will become truly many and loud, once even 1% of the public has even heard of the consequences.

someone247356 says:

Watch out for laws protecting business methods

Let tech protect us from tech sounds like a nice idea, but just like DVD
players, and self crippled CD-ROMish discs, don’t forget the ability of
corporate dollars to make any such technological self-help illegal.

Sony can install a root-kit in your PC and it’s all good, but try to
back up your kids Disney DVD and you just might find yourself in prison.

You have to agree to the EULA before you can use the game, but if you
disagree good luck getting your money back.

Rest assured, if it isn’t simply illegal to defective the RFID tags in
your retail merchandise, it will void your warranty, and render it
nonreturnables, even if defective.

Think about it, the US feds have suggested adding an optically scanned
key to read the RFID data in your new improved passport. Umm, if they
need to optically scan it anyway, why does it need to be RFID? (Make
sure your tinfoil hat is properly fastened with the shinny side out
before contemplating that one. )

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