Egyptian Government Plans To Track The Movement Of 10 Million Vehicles With Low-Cost RFID Stickers

from the just-for-traffic-management,-you-understand dept

Just under three years ago, Techdirt wrote about China's plan to install satnav tracking devices on vehicles in Xinjiang. That was just one of several early signs of the human rights abuses happening there. Today, people are finally waking up to the fact that the indigenous turkic-speaking Uyghur population is subject to some of the harshest oppression anywhere on the planet. Tracking huge numbers of vehicles might seem to be a typically over-the-top, money-no-object Chinese approach to total surveillance. Unfortunately, there are signs the idea is starting to spread, as this story in RFID Journal explains:

Egypt's Ministry of Interior (MOI) plans to identify millions of vehicles as they travel on the country's roads, using an RFID solution from Go+, with hardware and software provided by Kathrein Solutions in cooperation with Wireless Dynamics. The system, which will be implemented across approximately 10 million of the country's vehicles throughout the next five years, consists of passive UHF RFID stickers attached to each car's windshield, as well as tags on headlamps that respond to interrogation from readers installed above roadways, even at high speeds.

One justification for the move is to provide information on traffic flows. Another is to identify drivers who have been found guilty of traffic violations, and who should therefore not be on the roads. But plans to send all the data to a cloud-based data center will create a database that will eventually track every vehicle in the country. That will clearly be an invaluable resource for the country's police and security forces, which unfortunately seem to take China's approach to anyone who voices opposition to the authorities. Here's what Human Rights Watch wrote in its most recent report on the country:

Since President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi secured a second term in a largely unfree and unfair presidential election in March, his security forces have escalated a campaign of intimidation, violence, and arrests against political opponents, civil society activists, and many others who have simply voiced mild criticism of the government. The Egyptian government and state media have framed this repression under the guise of combating terrorism, and al-Sisi has increasingly invoked terrorism and the country’s state of emergency law to silence peaceful activists.

As well as the negative impact on human rights in Egypt, there is another troubling aspect to this move. According to the RFID Journal article, the company providing the new system, Go+, is "in discussions with four other countries about the possibility of implementing this solution once the Egyptian system is fully deployed." China's mass tracking of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang using satnav devices pioneered the idea of carrying out vehicle surveillance on a hitherto unseen scale, regardless of the cost. Egypt's use of the much cheaper RFID trackers represents a worrying evolution of the idea. If the roll-out is successful, it could encourage other governments to adopt a similar approach, to the detriment of civil liberties in those countries.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter, Diaspora, or Mastodon.

Filed Under: egypt, privacy, rfid, tracking


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  • identicon
    Pixelation, 2 Dec 2019 @ 9:32pm

    Great idea!

    What could possibly go wrong?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 3 Dec 2019 @ 6:35am

      Re: Great idea!

      "What could possibly go wrong?"

      I don't even know where to start...

      But it's pretty much given that any would-be criminal in egypt will have to familiarize themselves with standard skimming gear so they can make sure it will look like their own car (and presumably themselves) were observed to be on a family outing at the time whatever crime took place.

      Or learn to paste a bit of aluminium foil over the chip so they can move without being spotted by sensors.

      And the pranks egyptian teens will be able to pull on inner city traffic...oh, my.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      btr1701 (profile), 3 Dec 2019 @ 11:13am

      Re: Great idea!

      This isn't something unique to those 'repressive governments overseas'. We have the same thing evolving here in the U.S. as well.

      The state of California is running a pilot program in the Bay Area as we speak to charge drivers a per-mile-driven tax since the gas tax is no longer pulling its weight due to the widespread use of electric cars.

      But they're not satisfied with just checking your odometer once a year and charging you based on the difference. No, they want to be able to charge you more for miles driven in certain areas and at certain times (congestion pricing), and in order to do that, they'll have to attach a GPS device to your car that will compile a database of everywhere you go and when you go there and send that to the government.

      Orwell and Alynsky could only dream of level of state surveillance and control that will result from this, and all in the name of dragging even more money out of our pockets all in the name of taxes for roads that never get built or repaired.

      But hey, go back to worrying about your neighbor's doorbell camera. That's where the real danger lies...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 3 Dec 2019 @ 12:27pm

        Re: Re: Great idea!

        The only people who toss around the name Alynsky are right wing nut job, who are shit terrified that the world will start treating them the same as they’ve treated minority’s for their entire lives.

        But hey go back to being a copsucker. There’s never a shortage of jobs for a brown-nosing Brownshirt.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 4 Dec 2019 @ 2:42am

        Re: Re: Great idea!

        "This isn't something unique to those 'repressive governments overseas'. We have the same thing evolving here in the U.S. as well."

        There's something similar in the works in Stockholm as well - although notably that's mainly to keep the inner city traffic free. Pay a surcharge you get a transponder and now you are legally allowed to drive within the inner city limits.
        It's one of many reasons I won't buy a car, settling for rentals when the desperate need arises.

        "Orwell and Alynsky could only dream of level of state surveillance and control that will result from this, and all in the name of dragging even more money out of our pockets all in the name of taxes for roads that never get built or repaired."

        Hear, hear.
        That said chipping cars is the least of it. If your city has decent public transportation, a car is a redundancy.

        "But hey, go back to worrying about your neighbor's doorbell camera. That's where the real danger lies..."

        Far more worried about the cell phone in my pocket becoming, in essence, a government tracking device, given recent legislation...

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Dec 2019 @ 10:04pm

    If they ever do that here in the USA, I can see jammer companies making a fortune on RFID jammers to prevent their cars from being scannned.

    Jamming of RFID frequencies is not currently illegal in the United States.

    RFID jammers are not currently illegal to own or use in the United States.

    It is just like 20 years ago when California was going to try and tell people how warm they could make their house in winter or warm in summer with programmable communicating thermostats where they could transmit instructions via radio signal, to, say, now allow you to warm your house about 68 in the winter.

    Low power jamming of those frequencies to prevent the PCT from getting the signal would not have been an FCC violatin, since the jammers some were getting ready to put on the market would not have transmitted beyond your house, so that FCC would have had no jurisdiction on that.

    Some jammers are illegal in the United States and some are not and RFID jammers are not illegal at the FCC level, although I would expect some of the states to enact bans on RFID jammers if this RFID scheme is ever implemented in the United States.

    Radar jamming is am example of this. Radar or Lidar jamming does not break FCC rules but is against state laws in California, Oklahoma, Texas, and several other states.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 2 Dec 2019 @ 11:41pm

      Re:

      "Jamming of RFID frequencies is not currently illegal in the United States."

      "RFID jammers are not currently illegal to own or use in the United States."

      If/When this gets imported to the US I fully expect that to change. When there's money to be made, rights of citizens are often the first thing to be thrown into the woodchipper.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 3 Dec 2019 @ 1:36am

        Re: Re:

        A hammer, woodchipper, or microwave is also a great way of getting rid of rfid chips.

        If you must have one that is not smashed or burnt putting shielding cloth over it when you don't want it read is also great.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 3 Dec 2019 @ 9:27am

        Re: Re:

        No, radio frequency jamming period is illegal in the US, see 47 USC 333 for details.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 3 Dec 2019 @ 12:17pm

        Re: Re:

        How are they going to know that RFID wa jammed, it will look like a malfunction

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    steell (profile), 2 Dec 2019 @ 11:12pm

    jamming is against FCC regs

    Federal law prohibits the operation, marketing, or sale of any type of jamming equipment, including devices that interfere with cellular and Personal Communication Services (PCS), police radar, Global Positioning Systems (GPS), and wireless networking services (Wi-Fi).

    https://www.fcc.gov/general/jammer-enforcement

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Annonymouse, 3 Dec 2019 @ 4:27am

      Re: jamming is against FCC regs

      Wifi? Oh really?
      And how often is this enforced?
      I know for a fact certain hotels and every goddam convention center mucks over local open wifi so that only their outrageously overpriced "service" is available.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        JoeCool (profile), 3 Dec 2019 @ 4:41am

        Re: Re: jamming is against FCC regs

        There are a few articles here where Hotels/Convention Centers got in trouble over jamming wifi to force people to use their service. So it does happen, just not too often.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Dec 2019 @ 6:42am

      Re: jamming is against FCC regs

      Well, that will certainly stop it then.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 3 Dec 2019 @ 1:05pm

        Re: Re: jamming is against FCC regs

        RFID is in the 13 Mhz band.

        Jamming 13Mhz is not illegal, and the folks monitoring the RFID scanners will have no idea they are being jammed

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Dec 2019 @ 12:08pm

      Re: jamming is against FCC regs

      Not if is a part 15 device, which rfid would be.

      Jamming part 15 device us not illegal bevause part 15 devices have to accept whatever interference comes along, so jamming part 15 devices is not illegal under FCC rules

      That is why, for example, jamming wireless cameras is not illegal. They are part 15 devices, and are therefore not illegal.to jam.

      ERAD devices like those used in Oklahoma where cops can scan your debit cards to seize what is in.your bank account are also not against FCC to jam, because it is a pary 15 wifi device, not against FCC rules to jam, though I would surprised if oklahoma makes jamming ERAD a criminal offence under state law someday if jamming of ERAD should ever be a problem.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Dec 2019 @ 11:58pm

    Fake it

    The low cost may also make it possible for the oppressed to create fake chips. It's not particularly hard programming the chips, the knowledge is out there publicly available.

    The interesting bit is what to write on the chip. A random jumble is easily spotted, you'll have to read existing chips and figure out the algorithm. If it's badly done, one could just scan random vehicles and sell chips with the IDs copied. That should be possible if it's just a static key. The attempt could be foiled by adding an active component, which regularly reprograms the chip on a time based token. In that case, the servers should be assaulted, be it by software or hardware (and the latter maybe also with that president).

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 3 Dec 2019 @ 1:48am

    One could tell if there was a skimmer on gas pumps/atms by scanning for bluetooth in the immediate area.

    While this is just rolling out in Egypt... why do people think its not been deployed here?
    We "accidentally" broke the law and recorded all of your calls is it that large a leap to we dispatched someone to attach a sticker in a wheel well & then tracked them all over.

    How does one scan for these without expensive toys?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Dec 2019 @ 2:09am

      Re:

      The toys aren't very expensive if it's just a tag without something more complicated hooked up to it. Anyone with a little electronic or electrical engineering training should be able to sniff one out if they are at all motivated.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Dec 2019 @ 2:41am

    Future headlines

    Egyptian national database of all car movements for years has been hacked. The hackers note that no police cars of vehicles of the political leadership are amongst the data.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Dec 2019 @ 2:52am

    Another is to identify drivers who have been found guilty of traffic violations,

    Another government making the assumption that identifying the car also identifies the driver.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    dorengba, 3 Dec 2019 @ 4:47am

    Notwithstanding the above news concernig Egypt, I'd ask, as writing from inside a notoriously belligerent country aged some few hundreds of years , to be more, say, careful, about what is reported, concerning a state which counts its existance in many thousands of years, throughout peacefully most of the time.

    But please check for yourself, if HRW is to be considered a serious source of information at all, when held against the thoroughly worked-out documentation given on that topic you made up above, in the report given by Andre Vltchek in http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/52640.htm (March of the Uyghurs - Again, The West Tries to Destroy China, Using Religion and Terror).

    Thank you for not just repeating imperialist propaganda in such a case. But anyway liking to read your critical views on integration of technical stuff, no question.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 3 Dec 2019 @ 6:44am

      Re:

      "...concerning a state which counts its existance in many thousands of years, throughout peacefully most of the time. "

      China, you mean. Which even according to chinese history itself has a spotty record when dealing with internal dissent.

      As for the de facto genocide of the Uighurs, including the footaged concentration camps documented by numerous countries by satellite, there comes a time when you either have to admit that what your government is doing is horribly inhuman, monstrous, and should be stopped...or you have to adopt a fortress mentality where you assume that absolutely everyone else is in on a conspiracy.

      "Thank you for not just repeating imperialist propaganda in such a case."

      If it was only the US pushing those views you might have a case. But it isn't. China has torn off and trampled its own face too heavily for ANYONE to pretend it's still there.

      There comes a point where you just fuck up so badly the only thing you can do is to gracefully admit your faults and fix them.

      Unless you are making the case that ethnic cleansing is a righteous and moral thing to do in which case that too is an answer.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Dec 2019 @ 6:49am

      Re:

      Given the wide spread propensity of humans to lie cheat and steal, you want others to believe the stories are complete and utter bullock? There is absolutely no real data coming out of that area that corroborates any of it?
      And then, you try to disparage "the west" whatever that means while accusing others of promoting propaganda - lol.
      You're funny

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Dec 2019 @ 12:29pm

      Re:

      So what do we call you Chinese internet trolls?

      I vote for Wangs

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 4 Dec 2019 @ 2:44am

        Re: Re:

        "So what do we call you Chinese internet trolls?"

        We already know what to call them.
        The 50-cent army.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        R/O/G/S, 4 Dec 2019 @ 3:56am

        Re: Re:

        Thats so racist....

        And, interesting how racism directed at the Chinese never gets flagged here at TD.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 5 Dec 2019 @ 4:57am

          Re: Re: Re:

          "And, interesting how racism directed at the Chinese never gets flagged here at TD."

          The bigotry is not directed against the Chinese.
          It's directed at paid internet trolls who, I believe, are NOT covered by ethnicity clauses as a group.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Dec 2019 @ 5:02am

    Nothing to hide, nothing to fear.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    SirWired, 3 Dec 2019 @ 7:04am

    It's not much different from what we use here

    I'm not sure how RFID tags are fundamentally different from widespread ANPR, or, for that matter, EZ-Pass transponders, which, unsurprisingly, often get pinged from installations besides tollbooths. (And some toll installations in the US already use RFID stickers instead of active transponders.)

    And if you Google "RFID License Plate", you'll find that this has been kicked around for years, apparently already deployed in a couple other countries. It's certainly the logical successor to ANPR.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Dec 2019 @ 8:29am

      Re: It's not much different from what we use here

      Well - that makes it ok then

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 3 Dec 2019 @ 9:38am

        Re: Re: It's not much different from what we use here

        If done correctly, electronic license-plate replacements could increase privacy by denying non-government actors a persistent identifier.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 3 Dec 2019 @ 10:19am

          Re: Re: Re: It's not much different from what we use here

          I'm sure that is their intent .. to increase privacy.
          /s

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 3 Dec 2019 @ 1:32pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: It's not much different from what we use here

            It's not Egypt's intent, because they're only talking about "standard" RFID devices with fixed identifiers. The article was from "RFID Journal"; if novel cryptographic code rotation were involved, they'd have mentioned that.

            The American trials of electronic license plates have no such intent either, sadly. They show the same static number/letter combination you'd see on normal plates. With the ongoing discussions of DMVs selling private data, and new federal/state privacy laws, it seems a reasonable time to mention that we could do better. People need to know it's possible before they can demand it.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Norahc (profile), 3 Dec 2019 @ 1:16pm

          Re: Re: Re: It's not much different from what we use here

          If done correctly, electronic license-plate replacements could increase privacy by denying non-government actors a persistent identifier.

          Until the government sells the info to anyone willing to pay for it.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      btr1701 (profile), 3 Dec 2019 @ 11:20am

      Re: It's not much different from what we use here

      I'm not sure how RFID tags are fundamentally different from widespread ANPR, or, for that matter, EZ-Pass transponders, which, unsurprisingly, often get pinged from installations besides tollbooths.

      No kidding. My Fastrack transponder beeps when it gets scanned on the freeway, but it also beeps in random other places, indicating they're scanning them, too. LAX Airport is one such place where my transponder always goes off as I drive around the loop. I've looked on my monthly charge sheet and I never see anything from LAX, so it's not docking me money, but something there is reading my transponder and presumably making a note of my presence there.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 4 Dec 2019 @ 2:46am

        Re: Re: It's not much different from what we use here

        "I've looked on my monthly charge sheet and I never see anything from LAX, so it's not docking me money, but something there is reading my transponder and presumably making a note of my presence there."

        ...or it could be regular skimmers trawling the crowd for chip signatures to use. Yet another reason as to why you really, REALLY need to make sure no one takes note of your pin at the ATM today.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Dec 2019 @ 12:14pm

      Re: It's not much different from what we use here

      Possibly

      NPR's can defeated now by putting one of these license plate frames with concealed infrared leds which can make your plate invisible to cameras.

      That is the one method of hiding your plate that 8s not yet illegal because there is no way to detect itbsonce the plate Is still visible to the human eye.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 3 Dec 2019 @ 1:12pm

        Re: Re: It's not much different from what we use here

        That doesn't work on all cameras. If they have a good filter built into the optical sensors it can detect only things in the visual wavelengths.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 3 Dec 2019 @ 2:45pm

          Re: Re: Re: It's not much different from what we use here

          Anothet way to defeat cameras is to put your plates inside the windows instead in the license plate frame.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 3 Dec 2019 @ 1:36pm

        Re: Re: It's not much different from what we use here

        That is the one method of hiding your plate that 8s not yet illegal because there is no way to detect itbsonce the plate Is still visible to the human eye.

        Are polarizing filters illegal? You could claim you're trying to cut down on glare from the sun.

        Neither method is undetectable. If nothing else, a good ALPR should log any car with no readable plate.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          btr1701 (profile), 3 Dec 2019 @ 2:20pm

          Re: Re: Re: It's not much different from what we use here

          If nothing else, a good ALPR should log any car with no readable plate.

          Log it how? "Plate not readable" is fine, but it's meaningless as a data point.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Norahc (profile), 3 Dec 2019 @ 9:28am

    Once again, for those governments in the cheap seats -

    1984 was a warning, not a how-to manual.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Dec 2019 @ 9:35am

    Weak justifications

    One justification for the move is to provide information on traffic flows.

    ...which doesn't require a permanent identifier, and arguably doesn't require any identifier.

    Another is to identify drivers who have been found guilty of traffic violations, and who should therefore not be on the roads.

    This system identifies cars, not drivers. If a certain car's not supposed to be on the road, it could be impounded or otherwise disabled.

    Are they planning RFID drivers' licenses as the next step? Then they could find cars with no licensed driver, or an unexpected driver. And as a bonus track the people everywhere they go, even if they leave the car.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 4 Dec 2019 @ 6:40pm

      Re: theoretical justifications

      soon, like next year when there are cars driving around without people in them this will help people find where they went when they don't go where they were supposed to

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 3 Dec 2019 @ 11:40am

    Please no..

    Dont give our Gov. agencies and corps any ideas..
    RFID in our License plate Stickers..

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    R/O/G/S, 4 Dec 2019 @ 3:46am

    the USA set the example

    re: there are signs the idea is starting to spread

    that idea spread because the USA, such a bastion of tracker-free freedumb set the worldwide trend.

    The Chinese only began such mass surveillance long after CIA/InQtel startups and big telcoms ceded our civil liberty and did it first here in the USA.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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