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February 10, 2009

RFID freaks me right out

Posted: 12:46 PM ET

U.S. passports issued since August 2007 contain an RFID chip.

So last week I saw this post on Gizmodo about this dude who rigged up an RFID reader and an antenna and drove around looking to clone the chip in people’s passports.

The scary part? It worked, and quite easily.

Using radio waves, a RFID reader collects electronic data encoded in tags attached to products or people, such as the chips that marathon runners wear to record their race times.

Of course, what a thief could actually do with other people's passport information will be open for debate.

But it still begs the question: Why do I need this chip in my passport? Supposedly it’s to help make the process of checking for terrorists quicker. But if the number is so easily cloned, doesn’t that defeat the purpose?

You can read the State Departments FAQ on the RFID-equipped passports here.

Can’t wait to hear what you guys think about this.

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Filed under: RFID • technology

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Mike   February 10th, 2009 1:01 pm ET

You can block people from being to do this by carrying the passport in sleeve that blocks RFID readers. These don't cost very much.

Revo   February 10th, 2009 1:01 pm ET

I am glad that someone else is thinking about RFID technology and its purpose. Unfortunately, every new passport will have an RFID chip. That will be the beginning. There has already been a family (I believe in Georgia) that has agreed to "chip" their children. Eventually, all your information will be stored on one of these chips and implanted somewhere in your body. You will not be able to participate in commerce without having an active chip. This is our future, of slavery. People please open your eyes and stop paying attention to things that matter not.

Rich   February 10th, 2009 1:08 pm ET

Working with RFID technology myself, I checked out the US Dept of State's FAQ page on Electronic Passports. While reading the "Cloning" section, I realized a funny misspelling, for the word "threat" shows up as "treat", unless you consider a substitute chip as a treat. Jay Leno could have a field day with this one.

You'd think the US Dept of State would do a spellcheck before publishing: "Cloning.” It is possible to substitute the chip of an e-passport with a fake chip storing the data copied from the chip of another e-passport. However, the simplest way to mitigate this treat is to verify that the chip data belongs to the presented e-passport."

Bill   February 10th, 2009 1:18 pm ET

I agree with Mike that you can use a special sleeve to block the RFID signals, even aluminum foil will work. Also I have read that people have used a hammer to smash the chip inside the passport but the passport itself still looks good – I believe it is against the law to mutilate the passport.

Ultima ratio regum   February 10th, 2009 1:31 pm ET

Hmmm....two things occur to me, although I am not an RFID expert, I have an avocational interest in the technology. One, the RFID chips used are passive, and are unreadable at any real distance, which i one of the big hurdles in RFID. Range is increased when they are battery powered, which these chips are not. So I don't see how this guy could read cheap passive chips at such a distance. I would love to know, if an expert cares to educate me (us). Secondly, as others have pinted out, this information in and of itself is realtively useless. It needs to be coupled with other information to pose a problem, a key safety element in this design. RFID is like any other technology – along with huge benefits comes risk.

Bubba   February 10th, 2009 1:43 pm ET

My favorite new tech? RFID killer, pronounced 'arfid killer.' It blanks the data on an arfid. When you put arfids in every piece of merchandise in your store instead of price tags, and someone buys your merchandise, you have them walk past an arfid killer on the way out so they don't get charged again every time they pass your store. These will be common unless someone outlaws them like cell phone suppressors.

Marc   February 10th, 2009 2:12 pm ET

From what I gather from the FAQ website, the passport itself already has an RF blocker built in to the cover to prevent skimming of the information on the chip. Therefore, as the FAQ states, the passport must be opened in order for the skimming to take place. I cannot speak for others, but mine in closed all the time when I'm not using it for travel. Also, the information on the chip is encrypted, so it cannot be changed. THis is important because the information on the chip includes your digital image, so an imposter would need to look exactly like you to actually create their own passport from your chip. As far as social security number and things pertaining to identity theft, I'm not sure if this would be readable by the person who clones the information or not.

KnightMB   February 10th, 2009 2:13 pm ET

For those less technical here in the comments.The RFID chips are not powered internally, they are powered by radio waves. Basically, (over simplifying of course), shot a radio wave at the chip, the chip takes that power and produces a "response" that can be picked up. The more power you shot at it, the stronger the response will be. People need to think outside the box here though, those readers at the airport are low powered with little antenna so that it only works when the card is literally on top of it. What the guy did is use a giant antenna and a lot of power. There was no magic, just brute force.What does it mean to clone it? A lot really, if you clone the card, you can take it to the same airport and it will think you are someone else. You may not be able to clone all the information contained, but just cloning the ID is enough of a problem.Just like your drivers license has a number and that's all is needed to gather the information connected to it, same as the RFID cards, so yeah this is a big problem for those that don't "Faraday cage" their cards in special sleeves. The only way to counter this would be to make the cards a little more complex to limit their "response" power so that if you shot a ton of power at it with a large antenna, it won't be enough for it to be cloned. The problem of course, it probably will have a lot of problems with the "official" readers this way.There is nothing wrong with the technology, it's just a bad implementation of a good idea. The companies that produce the technology are the lowest bidders, so you kind of get what you pay for.

Brian   February 10th, 2009 2:19 pm ET

@ Ultima ratio regum:

These chips are already being touted as "when you drive up the border, the agent already knows who is in the vehicle as you approach and your picture and information pops up on the screen"

do a google search for it yourself.

SamL   February 10th, 2009 2:44 pm ET

the problem with RFID is that security research and understanding have really lag behind the actual implementation of this technology.

For example, do you know MANY RFID chips out there are not write protected? That means someone could actually use the same antenna trick and actually send a signal to rewrite your chip, how's that for scary?

Of course, I would assume the chips in our passport to be a bit more sophisticated than that. But data encryption and limiting respond signal are some ways to help mitigate this.

But ultimately, real identity security requires the individual to be vigilent and requires new institutional thinking. Many private companies as well as government agencies have begin to adopt 2 or even 3 level authentication for identity managment (ex. requires password & and a smartcard), as well as full data encryption. This is being implemented with remarkable haste today in computers, the use of RFID willl just need to catch up a little.

Chip   February 10th, 2009 2:53 pm ET

I like the use of this technology. It sounds like just a convenience for the workers who have to check passports. It might speed things up a bit at the airport, and make passports a smidge harder to forge. I don't think the risk of identity theft is very high. I'd like to see this instead of scanners at the check out (ever waited for somebody to search and search for the upc code?). No big brother style threat here, just a little 'progress'. If being 'chipped' would get me out of having to deal with the airport security line, I'd do it in a second.

RFID Magician   February 10th, 2009 3:29 pm ET

Hmm... a lot of confusion out here. Instead of guessing at this, let's present some facts.

First of all, RFID comes in many forms. This is why a lot of what you say is true, but irrelevant to this case. Some RFID works at LF (200kHz), HF (13.56MHz) and UHF (900MHz). Each of these systems have their advantages and disadvantages, and also have different ranges.

Yes, it's true that some tags (i.e. ezPass toll collection) can be read at several meters, but other tags (like the ones in your company ID badges) can only be read at several inches, maybe a foot or so if you have a really powerful antenna. The reason for this is because the different RFID frequencies use different electromagnetic properties. LF uses an inductive field mechanism, and UHF is far-field. Without getting too technical, what you need to know is that different RFID systems are used for different applications.

Does your company ID badge need to be read from several feet away? This is obviously a BAD THING because it wouldn't control access to your building very securely. Now, this is the part where I'm going to guess, because I no NOTHING about the federal govt's implementation. I am GUESSING that they do not want a far-field type of RFID, thus they are using near-field (inductive coupling) and your passport cannot be read by a reader more than a foot away. I don't have a reader to test this with, but that's just my hunch.

I have worked on many readers in the past, and I can tell you that a lot of the RFID scare is unwarranted. And as for "killing" tags, you realize that this is done by writing a command to the tag? It's up to the chip manufacturer to decide how to implement a kill command. FYI – some chips can be "brought back to life". Something to chew on for your conspiracy theorists.

shane   February 10th, 2009 3:36 pm ET

The chip is just another way to keep track of people, and easier to find you if in when they want to! Not to say that we don’t want to find the bad people out there, but for the law abiding citizens we should not have to give up our privacy. For the whole terrorist thing "yes" it’s eminent, but last time it happened was 2001 and therefore not a whole lot has happened since then. When in the Middle East is everyday being bombarded, here in the states it’s not an everyday thing, and yes every day we do need to keep ours eye’s out on the look…

dotmafia   February 10th, 2009 3:45 pm ET

Big Brother Is Watching You.

Welcome to the beginning of Orwell's "1984" America.

Gary   February 10th, 2009 7:22 pm ET

A couple of facts. The guy can't read passports, he can only get a number off the new Passport Card. Reading the number is as useful as reading a car license plate; he can't get to the database record the number points to. The paranoia over this is so overblown, fueled by news reporters who don't do any checking. The picture accompanying the article is proof, it shows a regular book passport, not the Passport Card in question.

RFID Magician   February 10th, 2009 7:39 pm ET

btw- I just watched the video. He is not detecting passports with that Matrics reader (it's a UHF reader, btw). The govt has a different sort of study going on for ID cards, and that's what he's talking about. You'll notice he doesn't show you his passport, and mentions that only a few people have these tags (his supervisor). This particular video is really misleading, because this person doesn't show the viewer what kind of tags he's reading. He mentions a lot of things callously, but it's really nonsense if you know what he's talking about.

True, it's trivial to clone tags. You can think of these particular UHF tags to be similar to blank floppies. You just write a 64 or 96-bit piece of data on there, and that's it. There's no way this will be used for any sort of ID until encryption is added to the tag protocol. Security is obviously a major issue with this type of system. More development is being done to integrate security features, but you won't see them for a while.

Brett   February 10th, 2009 7:53 pm ET

I will never be tracked like cattle. That is what the elitists want to do to us and this is just where it starts. Soon they will attempt to put chips in all of us. They are taking this stage by stage and are meeting minimal resistance, so this will continue to progress. FIGHT RFID and the NWO.

Brian P   February 10th, 2009 11:34 pm ET

The RFID claim that it will speed up processing is bull****. All current passports have a barcode that is swiped through a reader. Your info is displayed instantaneously on a screen. They compare the picture on your passport with the picture on the screen, so they need to physically hold your passport to confirm your identity, plus they need it to stamp your passport. There is nothing to be gained by having a RFID embedded in your passport except to make it easier for someone to steal your information. Of course more millions will be needed to counter that threat.

eagle2sky1   February 10th, 2009 11:39 pm ET

Couldn't a lead lined passport holder or aluminum foil block the signal from accessing the code? sounds worth a try to me:)

Joe   February 11th, 2009 12:51 am ET

Below is part of a press release from the Smart Card Alliance regarding this video. The entire press release can be found at

"PRINCETON JUNCTION, NJ–(Marketwire – February 6, 2009) – Recent headlines have confused U.S. electronic passports - the passport books with the blue cover and the small gold e-passport icon - with the new U.S. Passport Cards and Enhanced Driver's Licenses (EDL) already being issued as border crossing credentials by some states.

The confusion came in media reporting about security researcher Chris Paget, who demonstrated the ease of scanning, cloning and tracking RFID-based U.S. Passport Cards and Enhanced Driver's Licenses (EDL) in a YouTube video.

"The Smart Card Alliance wants to make it clear that this demonstration did not involve the blue U.S. electronic passport books," said Randy Vanderhoof, executive director of the Smart Card Alliance. "Headlines stating that passports can be scanned and tracked are wrong. The widely reported demonstration involved U.S. Passport Cards and Enhanced Driver's Licenses, which use EPC Gen 2 RFID technology. These are different travel documents and use completely different technologies from U.S. electronic passports, which use contactless smart card technology and are very privacy secure."

Call for Review

With the coming of the new administration, the Smart Card Alliance recommends an immediate review of the decision to use EPC Gen 2 RFID technology in U.S. travel documents. The Alliance is prepared to endorse the correct use of any technology that provides adequate protection of privacy and identity information. However, as the U.S. Passport Card and EDL programs were being defined, the Smart Card Alliance went on record advising against using an insecure EPC Gen 2 RFID solution that put the privacy and security of U.S. citizens' personal information at risk.

The Alliance Identity Council, whose members include technology providers of both RFID and RF-enabled contactless smart card solutions, stands ready to assist any government agency or department that undertakes such a review. The Alliance provides a cross-industry forum that can offer expert advice on how to best meet the needs of high security and throughput at border crossings without compromising the privacy of citizens' personal information or their safety."

Paul   February 11th, 2009 1:45 am ET

Oh, Big Brother ( the powerful wealthy elite), wants to keep track of you all righty. They eventually want a police state and, of course, this is the first step in its implementation. Makes sense does it not? Oh, we have it real easy right now, but not for very much longer.
Bush's little fiasco was an experiment to see how far they could go at this point in time. There's still a lot of work to be done. Not properly funding education is a good starting point because Big Brother is terrified of educated slaves. The Repugs have already started by attempting to limit funding for education in the new stimulus bill. The dirty bastards! We need a revolution to get rid of the pricks. The French had a great one and now it's time for America. Bring back the guillotine!

CraigT   February 11th, 2009 1:49 am ET

The feds never should have used RFIDs, they should have used smart card technology. Because RFID is passive and must be powered by an antenna, the parts have very limited speed and computing power. This means that the data, communications and authentication are not encrypted because it would take too long and require too much power.

If they had used smart cards with encryption then they could only be read when physical contact was made and only talk with a computer with proper security keys and protocol. All communications would have been encrypted much like the Internet when talking with a secure website. Of course, this would have added about $2 to the cost of the passport. Much better to expose our personal information. Also, smart cards can hold a great deal more information.

Aluminum Foil   February 11th, 2009 6:24 am ET

Dude, put aluminum foil around your passport while it's not in use. Do this on your credit cards and anything else that has the magnetic information strip. This will block RFID. Be prepared for laughs though. Nothing's as goofy as seeing someone pull out an aluminum foil wallet.

Max   February 11th, 2009 7:06 am ET

It's a brave new world. Here, take some soma. Trip out. You're safe and warm. Your government is watching over you.

wolfger   February 11th, 2009 8:03 am ET

I'm glad to see this issue finally being raised someplace as prominent as CNN. RFID doesn't make things safer, it makes them more convenient. While a passport is very difficult to clone, an RFID is relatively simple to duplicate. When our lust for convenience makes us sloppy (and it always does), a good phony RFID inside a lousy phony passport will fly right through security.

Franko   February 11th, 2009 8:12 am ET

 The 915 mhz version, you could really push the distance
 Some battery powered units claim 100 meters
 Get an antenna with 18 db gain and range to 800 meters

 Secure Socket Layer, verifying unique cpu ident, coming next ?
 Add GPS upload capability, microphone, camera
 Track, watch, listen to everyone, everywhere
 Everyone tagged, inventoried, the whole world, a People Farm

 And if the Donkey is not motivated, lacks confidence to max his credit
 Unpatriotic, does not buy, when walking past a store
 An electric shock, from his RFID collar

DSinFL   February 11th, 2009 8:13 am ET

Of ID theft would be a major concern with the RFID passport. But also personal security. If your bus gets hijacked, criminals may wish to isolate the Americans. That might be a bad time to have a little chip identifying you as a target.

Ray   February 11th, 2009 8:24 am ET

Check out Alien Technology. Interesting choice of words here.

"Resistance is futile, you WILL be assimilated."

Quick quick, someone chip Chip. Sadly he's already volunteered as a proto-Borg. Isn't the future cheery? Super computers (government and private) monitoring your every move, association/thought, calorie, driving speed and location, vacination staus, perfered brand of toothpaste, tire life, buying habits with interpolated budget, lovers fill in the details.

5Stat   February 11th, 2009 9:03 am ET

The trouble with this post is that nobody tested his claim. Its bogus and contrived. His smoke and mirror tactics sucks people into a fear vacuum. RFID Magician has it right but I would add that the reader he used in the video operates at 915MHz and the tags being used in Passports are ISO 14443 13.56MHz.
The claims are nonsense.

Kay Bee   February 11th, 2009 9:19 am ET

The Real ID Act of 2005 requires all states to implement RFID technology into driver's licenses. Without the chip, a person would be unable to board commercial planes, travel outside the U.S., or to open a bank account here.

Fiction? No.

While there's no doubt that it can bring some convenience, the chip is capable of holding a great deal of data. The Real ID Act will hold basic information (name, address, etc.) but some people (myself included) believe that it's a short step to storing driving history, criminal history, medical history, and perhaps ultimately, credit history on a single chip. We like convenience, so it wouldn't be that hard to sell the American public on the idea.

Currently, many states have requested extensions for the date by which they must comply, and there is a question of whether the law may be repealed. If this is important to you, look up "Real ID Act" and then contact your lawmakers.

Will   February 11th, 2009 9:32 am ET

RFID chips are encrypted? Encrypted by the same government whose computers are getting hacked by the Chinese 24/7? A few decades ago simple metal detectors were installed in airports; today they have scanners to see right through your clothes. I don't want to see what the world will be like after a few decades of RFID development. The technology raised alarm bells from the first time I heard of it. Limit its use or ban it outright, that's my opinion.

Marc   February 11th, 2009 9:39 am ET

Marc W. McCord
February 11th, 2009 9:37 am ET

There have been some good and bad comments made here about RFID technology. It is a fact that passports CAN be read from some distance away. By the time you reach a border checkpoint they will already know that you are coming and have all your information in front of them.

You can thwart this process by carrying your passport in a lead-lined film bag that costs a few bucks, but prevents reading the RFID chip until you are ready for them to read it.

People who claim that passport chips cannot be read except from a very close proximity are blowing smoke. Depending upon where the reader is placed in relation to a highway, the RFID can be read from a distance of several yards while you are driving at high speeds toward a border checkpoint.

Like it or not, 1984 IS here, and it is here because we citizens have been lazy, apathetic and illiterate.

Welcome to the future!

Rich   February 11th, 2009 9:41 am ET

I saw a demonstration in which someone rigged a fake "demonstration" bomb to go off only when a U.S. citizen walked by. Because the passport indicates citizenship, the U.S. government has basically painted a big red "X" on those carrying passports. Stupid.

Chris   February 11th, 2009 9:57 am ET

Can you read the license plate off a car? YES. Guess what, license plates tell you the state and sometimes other information about the car's owner. On the other hand, you can't access ANY personal information from RFID chips. It's simply an electronic license plate, except it doesn't even tell you the state the person is from.

If you're still paranoid, you can block signals to the RFID chip by putting your passport/card in the protective metallic sleeve they come with.

And guess what, license plates can easily be stolen, cloned, etc. RFID can't be. It's much more secure.

Franko   February 11th, 2009 11:42 am ET

    Brought to you by the Bankers - watch Aaron Russo Interview
    Aaron Russo claims bankers financed womens' movement
    in order to get women into the work force

    You can run, only a short while, cornered, the Bankers get you
    God is on the Bankers' side, would not even deficit finance the
    wages of a couple of Guardian angels,to save Jeses Christ
    Which group is Obama donating the economy to ?

ux4all   February 11th, 2009 12:00 pm ET

Holy paranoia!

1. The RFID does not carry any personally identifiable information.
2. Yes, you can read the value from a passport RFID but it is UNUSABLE unless you have the database to link to.
3. Yes, you can clone the values that are on the chip. So? Verification of your passport goes against a picture on file. Border guards will notice that the picture they have is different than the one in your passport.

As someone else said, you can see other people's license plates but that doesn't stop people from displaying them.

Jamie   February 11th, 2009 12:03 pm ET

Here's the REAL SCARY thing in the works. RFIDs in your money!! Not only could someone know that you are carrying money, but how much and what bills and the number. RFIDs could wind up in medicines and thus your body, for who how long they would stay active. Big Brother could be EVERYWHERE!!

Think on it,


Yes to Big Brother   February 11th, 2009 12:30 pm ET

I noticed that there are a lot of luddites on here that are against RFID technology. I on the other hand feel that RFID should be embraced. A couple of comments mentioned how dangerous RFID can be. It's true that this technology can be abused, but think of potential good that it could accomplish. For example, if hospitals started using this tech to track treatments and patients, a lot of mistakes would be avoided. Besides, if anyone wanted to steal my information, they could just use the internet. IMO the risks presented by RFID is substantially smaller the risks brought about by the internet.
Have fun Hippys!

nick   February 11th, 2009 12:36 pm ET

scanning a tag without the accompanying software to give the number meaning is pointless. imagine you're the thief with a reader standing still as scores of people pass you by, all shouting out inane number combinations. At the end of the day you will have a lot of data, all of it useless.

On the other hand, give that same thief a stolen RFID ( whos purpose is KNOWN ) and enough time, they can make a fully functional clone so far as a reader is concerned. Other safeguards are in place for RFID tags with security value to ensure they are genuine and in use by the proper owner.

People must accept we now live in a technical and high speed data world. The old paper and file cabinet way of doing things is dead. If you think that's Orwellian, you will consider the next 20 years of innovation to be 100 times worse.

Sam   February 11th, 2009 12:37 pm ET

There are a lot of things here that are incorrectly stated.

Someone suggested just applying more power to the tag which would let them read it from a longer distance, while this is true the passport would have to be open. The metal lining in the passport reflects the RF. Also, the reason the tag has to be read at a close distance is because the antenna is tiny. Even if you had your passport open and someone had a reader, the power needed to read this from a distance would be rediculous. If you don't pay attention enough to notice a guy with a giant battery that's your own fault.

Second, if you keep the passport close to your body (like in a pocket) any RF sent will be absorbed by your body because we're mostly made of water (one of the two things that interferes with RF).

Someone also mentioned most tags aren't write protected, which isn't true. Most being sold now are Write Once Read Many (WORM) tags as the ability to change the tag id isn't really needed in most industries. Could someone read your tag and then clone it, sure, but when they go through the airport and the tag is read it pulls up your picture. As far as doing anything else with it, you have to have access to the database that links those numbers to people, and if someone has that access already they don't need to read the number off the tag.

Kate   February 11th, 2009 12:37 pm ET

Even though you can buy the sleeve to protect your passport, it seems as if the technology will end up doing more harm than good because it is so easily cloned. It's also unsettling that you have to keep an eye out for these people trying to read the chip while you're in the customs line at the airport or sight-seeing in a foreign country. This is just another example of how the government's attempt to protect the public is really more trouble than it's worth.

Sam   February 11th, 2009 12:39 pm ET

Jamie- where are you getting this false information? They may be using rfid to manage materials in the mints or pallets, but there are not RFID chips inside bills. You really have no idea what you're talking about.

Jim   February 11th, 2009 12:54 pm ET

Does RFID mean Real F***** Intrusive Device?

Franko   February 11th, 2009 4:40 pm ET

Count the Cows, chicks, and the sheep, Census the Humans
Fingerprint, Palmprint, retinascan, take DNA samples
RFID dogs, cats, all inventory, including Humans

  Your patriotic duty, to help the Bankers, plan the perfect Economy

RFID Magician   February 11th, 2009 5:32 pm ET

Holy moly! This is just totally insane. From reading the posts, I doubt that very many people understand how RFID actually works... let me try and explain some of it.

First off, we should really separate the TECHNOLOGY from the POLICY. How a particular technology is USED is very different from the technology itself.

At this point (circa 2009) RFID is analogous to a UPC code or serial number. As another poster pointed out, if you don't have access to the database, it doesn't matter that you collected someone's serial number. For instance, try reading the bar code from a UPS package at your local grocery store. It doesn't work. The bar code may identify the contents of the package, the person who shipped it, etc but you can't read any of that without the database (i.e. UPS). And that tracking information isn't embedded into the barcode; the barcode is simply a number that tells you which entry in a database to look at.

Current technology RFID doesn't store more than a few kiloBITS of information. Not a whole lot of info. I'm sure that will improve with technology, and it's up to the people to determine how to use that information.

I would say RFID is akin to a thumb drive. Do people want to ban thumb drives because we could put all our biometrics onto there and carry it around? Of course not. RFID is no different; a tag is simply a medium for carrying small amounts of information. The only reason why RFID poses a "threat" is because of the PERCEPTION that it can be read by anyone, anywhere, at any distance. This simply isn't true.

The long range (UHF) RFID tags really can't hold much information due to power and size constraints. And, the way that they currently work, the tags need a fairly large antenna, about the size of a ball point pen. Have any of you even seen a real tag? If you saw one, you'd know immediately that this can't be used to implant into people. Yes, you can use smaller antennas, but your read range will be shortened as well because the amount of power coming to the tag depends upon the gain of the antenna, which is determined by geometry. As far as implanting a UHF tag into a person, this is going to be difficult. As soon as you put the tag into a solution of water and electrolytes, it really decreases the read range because there's so much stuff in the way. Skin is pretty good at shielding tags. Put a tag in your fist, and it's hard to read it. Now, remember, what I've discussed above is UHF tags.

The types of tags being used on pets and people are the LF and HF ones I spoke of in an earlier post. Both of these tags cannot be used more than a few inches (maybe up to a foot) away. Most people on this forum probably already use RFID, and have no idea that they are doing so. Ever buy a CD at the music store, that comes with an anti-theft device? That is a primitive form of RFID. How about a badge that you use at a company to get in/out of the building? That's LF RFID. Think you can read that badge from a meter away? Good luck with that.

So, let's keep it simple here:

UHF tags – lots of read range, large antennas, hard to read in salt water (people).

LF/HF tags – very little read range (few inches), small antennas, can be read in people at extremely close range.

as you can see, there isn't a tag technology that allows you to read at far range in people. And you want to discuss active tags? Good luck implanting that and maintaining it!

The bottom line is, a lot of people are partaking in a discussion about the technology without knowing its capabilities, limitations. etc. If you want to talk about public policies mandating the chipping of people and tracking them, that's cool, but don't link it to RFID. Seriously. RFID, at this stage, cannot do the things you guys are dreaming up. It will be a very long time before we can implant a passive RFID chip into a person and read it from more than 2 meters away.

As for this guy's video, I wish I knew what his agenda was. He seems to know enough about RFID to scare people, but not enough to realize how ridiculous his demonstration was. Anyone ever use a Matrics reader? You will get "phantom" tags every now and then, even when there are no RFIDs around. Driving around SF for 20 min, I'm not surprised that he found something. Heck, I carry a few tags around with me when I go to/from work, so he might have seen me too!

Franko   February 11th, 2009 7:29 pm ET

Heart pacemakers are powered, for a long time, by batteries
"Alcohol-monitoring bracelet .. sex offender GPS-monitoring bracelet"
"Tampering with a prisoner monitoring device is a Class D felony"

You are the prisioner of the Evil Devil Bankers
They will, remotely, turn off your vital signs, to reduce unemployment
Fine tune the economy, and, when you are needed, turn you back on

sylvie chen   February 11th, 2009 8:35 pm ET

First of all, I am a privacy advocate and RFID falls into this area. Its use for managing inventory in cases of products shipped to distribution centers is a wonderful idea (efficiency). As for tracking the product in a shopping cart at the store, well....not so sure.

The idea of smart identity methods such as passport RFID is a murky area. It works well at airports and custom entry points. It works well on shipping containers coming into ports. It even works well on badges worn by people in a building.

Given all the above, RFID enabled devices are easily protected. For passports, put them into bag that is wrapped in aluminum foil (there are already products for this on the market). The difficulty is that people are lazy, uninformed and generally unaware of wireless snooping.

We tend to guard our wallets so credit cards are not stolen (although easily skimmed by nefarious waiters in a restaurant). So, maybe its a matter of education: get an electronic condom for anything that has an RFID chip attached if you think that someone else wants to know what DVD you just bought for stimulation.

sylvie chen   February 11th, 2009 8:49 pm ET

One other comment on RFID use. The EZ-Pass device in your car is primarily used to control payments across bridges and Toll lanes.

Now, states are looking into forcing all registered vehicles to carry this RFID enabled device. Why? So they can go from fixed vehicle registration pricing to tracking miles you drive. Granted, that not all roads would be equipped with readers.

The major highways and probably on/off ramps definitely will. In fact, if costs go down on the readers, every traffic light could perform a double duty: (1) track vehicles by time of day and, (2) provide court proof when you run a red light.

It's coming... just Google the above.

SJ   February 11th, 2009 10:06 pm ET

All the people posting conspiracy theory about how this is to track us need to consider they are already trackable. Have a cell phone? Car with onstar or similar tech? You're movements can be tracked already. Use credit cards? All your purchases are tracked. Then there are all the cams everyplace....

S Callahan   February 11th, 2009 11:15 pm ET

This sounds like a Rockerfeller , or is that fellow, project.
Beginning experiment began with animals..soon to be mandated for all animals. Now the test is through passports, then your license , then your foreheads and or hands (sorta happening now with eyes and fingerprints).......Sounds pretty Bibical to me....

Franko   February 11th, 2009 11:17 pm ET

Panopticon, designed by Jeremy Bentham, technologically extended ?
Or - Democracy, Principle of Universalty,
Equality of opportunity - Equality before the law

Look at all the electronic records of the controllers ?
Then, how would they control ? Totalitarian Corporations exposed ?
No way, baiting, switching, keep the Donkeys, motivated, confused
The glue factory is, soon, their end. (Bulldozers replaced Horses)

Mike in WI   February 12th, 2009 1:14 am ET

Welcome to the 21st Century: "Big Brother" merges with the Gestapo, creating a brave new world of opportunity for high-tech crooks.

Looks like we face two choices: (1) Live in fear, or (2) buy a mule and some traps, and head for the mountains. With option 2, you won't need your BlackBerry and "social networking may take on a new meaning . . .

K. Brummet   February 12th, 2009 3:38 am ET

I don't get too excited about "some dude" that did something. Those are the markings of an urban legend. According to the State Department website, the information is encrypted and some information exchanged between passport reader and passport before info is released. Also they mention shielding in the cover of the passport preventing it to be read unless its open. I have many other worries in line before someone reading my passport info. How about credit card companies dumping my SSAN in the dumpster or sloppy handling of it elsewhere. Thats what keeps me awake at night.

Simplicity   February 12th, 2009 8:53 am ET

It may be the case that someone can read some of your passport data. But it's naive, at best, to think that someone could clone a passport based on unsecured read data. While it may show the same unsecured data, it would be unlikely to match with any secured data stored in the passport, credit card, or other "value" device.
For the passport, it's quite reasonable to expect that there are security mechanisms in place which are specifically *not* spelled out in an online FAQ – obscurity is a further security mechanism.

Wyatt Burp   February 12th, 2009 10:01 am ET

Pop it into the microwave for a few seconds. That'll fix any RFID 🙂

Ed   February 12th, 2009 11:51 am ET

Ok! RFID Magician, gives a fair explanation of the current status of the technology! Not a single one of you as opened your eyes to the cases of abuse by the government and business on innocent citizens information being obtained illegally! The point is; it is not the supposed security of the RFID system. The question is: What of the security of the database itself, which has been proven to be a failure! ANYONE WHO TRUSTS BIG BROTHER THAT MUCH IS A FOOL!

Mac   February 12th, 2009 12:29 pm ET

Some credit cards also have RFID (like my AMEX card) and info can be hacked just like these passports. Too much Big Brother. Write your congressman even though your not as an important a constituent as Fortune 500 companies.

MichaelB   February 12th, 2009 12:31 pm ET

You mean our government spent billions of dollars and came up with another useless "anti-terror" device which simultaneously doesn't work and takes away civil rights? I don't believe you.

Scott   February 12th, 2009 12:45 pm ET

Sometimes the detail of the information is not particularly important. Think of these 2 scenarios:
1) You are walking through a market in the middle east. Some terrorist in the crowd now can find out who all the Americans are by simply scanning for passports with a certain unique response. They don't care who you are or what your details are, just that you are American.
2) Similar to the above but now you are in Mexico and 'they' are looking for someone to kidnap. Guess who makes the short list?

Craig   February 12th, 2009 1:12 pm ET

Another ill-conceived, poorly though out, government screw up straight out of '1984" that favors the criminal over good common sense and the honest citizen.

Jim   February 12th, 2009 1:13 pm ET

My wife walked into Barnes and Noble the other day and the RFID reader at the door went off. We were immediately chased by a B&N employee asking who was wearing the Old Navy jeans!

I was like huh? Apparently Old Navy jeans have the RFID in the tag and many people forget to cut it off and it sets of the B&N readers.

Forget about someone stealing your passport information and assuming your identify – that's trivial. Now they know what brand of jeans your wear – the horror !

Michael Bender   February 12th, 2009 3:28 pm ET

Don't get a passport!
Gee, that was easy.

Absolutely HAVE to have a passport?
Put it in the microwave.

That should kill the little sucker.

I will not be getting one.

AND if I learn there will be one in my new drivers license I will have to consider not renewing it.

Eyes Wide Shut   February 12th, 2009 4:07 pm ET

Revolt!!! Dogs, it's your only hope!! Take to the streets before it's too late!!!

JC   February 12th, 2009 5:09 pm ET

There are no assurances that can be given that would make my "OK" with this 'technology'.

Franko   February 12th, 2009 9:18 pm ET

Branding Cows is necessary, - Animals, that are owned, are tagged
RFID Dog collar tag - People are just domesticated economy animals
Bankers feed US credit, as long as we do stupid people tricks

Inventory methods have to be improved,
Track every single animal (excluding Rats and Bankers)
This will improve economic prediction, and bailout rationing

Principle of Universality applied ?
Someone scans your information, logged, you are notified
With an automatic return scan of the scanner

Allen N Wollscheidt   February 13th, 2009 2:49 am ET

Mike –

Your individual identity is already uniquely encoded in the details of either of your irises.

So relax and smell some flowers (watch for bees) - or take your complaints upstairs to the Creator.

Do not expect much - He launches us without even a warranty or a Maintenance Contract !

Let us know how it comes out.

Hans Gruber   February 13th, 2009 3:41 am ET

Why don't they just tatoo a number on my arm? Infringing the rights of the free for the security of the state is a one way ticket to anarchy.

Scott   February 13th, 2009 8:00 am ET

The honest people of the world have nothing to hide.

All too often, those individuals who proclaim big brother is around every corner have with skeletons in their closets, hoping they are never found.

The fact is that RIFD technology is not the demon the scare tactics here have tried to make it out to be. It will help to make our country safer, raising the difficulty bar for those trying to enter our borders illegally. When the third generation of this technology comes out, personal information technology will be streamlined across the board.

The only people who have reason to worry about such advancements are those who have reason to hide.

Franko   February 13th, 2009 9:49 am ET

Scott: - "The only people who have reason to worry about such advancements are those who have reason to hide."

Trust the government and the Bankers - do not hide your secrets
Do not hide your, soon to be inflated dollars, under the matress
The controllers will optimize your confidence, and their happiness ?

Principle of Universality - logically applied;
What are the Bankers and the Godvernment hiding ?

someone   February 13th, 2009 7:29 pm ET

RFID Chip in my Passport. Oh Hai Microwave 🙂 A few seconds ought to fix that RFID chip right up 🙂

Franky   February 14th, 2009 12:39 am ET

I say let's do them like the Matrix...ohhh yeah, I believe it now, I believe it, LOL!! Plus, with that high-tech blood and records data we got(if you got a record), things can get smoother...hey, I'm just trying to save us money, LOL!!

Forget that crap paying for the resources...

SuperSoaker   February 16th, 2009 2:00 pm ET

Well it is one step removed from having the chip implanted in your arm....

mozrox   February 16th, 2009 3:45 pm ET

i have a friend who took a hammer to her passport front cover to prevent all use of the RFID that might be considered "outside" of its intended use. no one wants to be tracked while on vacation, have info stolen from them by readers, etc...the passport will still function the old-fashioned way.

Franko   February 17th, 2009 6:25 am ET

RFID is just the tip of the iceberg
Video cameras, everywhere, artificial intelligence from credit & Google
Terrorist are often caught by cell phone locators
Even Osama had his satellite phone tapped

Now Mitnik wants to hack Osama's BlackBerry ?
Then hack the Big Red Nuclear Launch Button ?
PanOpticon in reverse ? Can NSA make U$ safe ?

Moroni   February 18th, 2009 10:57 am ET

I guess finger prints are a thing of the past now? 🙂

Franko   February 19th, 2009 1:59 pm ET

"Taliban demands end to music on Pakistan buses"

Rule by the people is necessary to stomp out RFID and other intrusions
Is the Taliban a U$ government certified, tax dollar supported, Religion ?

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