2006/07/17

RFID Passports Are A Bad Idea

How would you like being forced to wear a sign around your neck that says, "I'm an American," whenever you travel abroad? Well if the State Department gets it's way and arms US passports with RFID transmitters, as they're planning to do, that is exactly what's going to happen.

RFID technology is designed to speed your passage through customs and immigration by allowing radio receivers to grab information directly from your passport's transmitter. It's also supposed to cut down on counterfeiting. The problem is that anybody can read that information using fairly simple technology. So without protection, identity theft will be a problem. But an even bigger problem is that the RFID technology itself, it's frequencies, and non-identifying but unprotected pieces of information will certainly tag you AS AN AMERICAN, and that can be a huge liability in some areas of the world.

13 Comments:

I'm kinda dumb about this technology, but is it possible to track people's movements with one of the tags remotely?
Kathy...no, the RFID tags only transmit at a short range--typically a few inches to a few feet. Technology can be used to receive at longer distances, but that's not necessary for...say...a terrorist to determine that you are a high value target.

Imagine a scenario where someone has got the "reader" gear on their person and is walking around a popular overseas tourist destination. The moment his/her gear picks up your passport's RFID signal and determines that you're "valuable", he/she signals his/her confederates, and they sweep in to cart you off.

Maybe the technology could be placed in the back of a foreign taxi. As soon as the driver figures out you're an American, the taxi takes you someplace you didn't intend, you're robbed, kidnapped, worse...

Bruce Schneier of Counterpane Security, a respected researcher and cryptographer has stated that there is almost a zero probability that these devices won't be hacked from the outside.
and, kvatch, as of 12/31/06 you'll need a passport even to travel to Canada & Mexico & the Caribbean! i'd been thinking i should get mine before then & now wonder if they would seriously try to retofit it with RFID. D.K.
Come on froggy, we foreigners can smell an American at one hundred paces.
I've even proved that an average Australian (sounds like an oxymoron)can tell the difference between an American and a Canadian.
Americans can't tell the difference between an Australian and a Kiwi, or a Pom for that matter.
So you see, electonic or not you are marked.
D.K., even if they could retrofit 'em, they wouldn't because that would defeat the use of RFIDs as an "anti-counterfeiting" measure. As to getting your passport now or later, if you don't have to travel out of the US in the next...say...18 months. I'd wait, and here's why: Sometime in the first 12 months after implementation someone is going to be kidnapped, ransomed, and maybe killed due to this technology. The day that happens this technology will go the way of the dodo.
Americans can't tell the difference between an Australian and a Kiwi, or a Pom for that matter.

Cartledge, my Australian compadre...you are so wrong. Aussies v. New Zealanders is easy. You just go up and say, "So, you're from New Zealand, then." If the man (woman) smacks you you know they're from Austrailia. If not...

You see, saying "So you're a Kiwi, then?" doesn't work, because you get smacked either way. As for "Poms,"...what the hell is a Pom?
Cartledge is so right (and funny). When I lived in San Diego I was constantly running into Ozzies. So much so, I thought I had the accent thing down. Hoping to show off, one day I smugly asked a guy I'd just met, what part of Australia are you from. When he answered "Johannesburg", I knew it was hopeless (and scary). D.K.
So, will it be harder to pretend you're Canadian out of the country? Because everybody I know does that....
D.K., well...at least you didn't ask what Australian state Johannesburg is in.

JuBlu, yup that line will be pretty much done.
Jesus, I don't like this one bit. Was the person who thought this up as talented as "heck of a job, Brownie"? Sounds like it because they sure as hell didn't think it through.
We just lurve those Seth Effricans
PoP, I'm sure that when some poor schmuck goes missing, the person responsible, or a reasonable facsimile thereof, will get hung out to dry.

Cartledge, y'all sound the same to us down here in the States.
I agree- the first time a ransom occurs, that will throw a curve ball in that program and cause changes to be made.

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