The San Francisco Chronicle takes a look at the growing use of t radio frequency identification (RFID) technology. (RFID systems transmit data wirelessly from a chip or tag to a reader.) In recent months, we’ve seen reports that: RFID systems that transmit data between new cars’ electronic control units and their tires can be forged or intercepted, which could identify the location of the car and driver; Wal-Mart will use RFID tags to track the clothing sold in its stores; and security questions have been raised about RFID-enabled credit cards.
It has been proven time and again that unsecured RFID tags can be scanned and the data gathered with cheap, off-the-shelf technology. Some states have laws that would protect such data. For example, Washington state has a law to prevent “skimming” (unauthorized gathering of data from RFID tags).
Now, the Chronicle reports on some privacy issues that people have raised about the use of RFID technology.
But while businesses see RFID as a way to obtain valuable information about their products’ whereabouts, critics worry that the expansion of this technology might peel away yet another layer of privacy.
An RFID tag can be small enough to be fitted to an ant’s back and often use little to no energy, activating only when they are close to a reader. They have been used for years to keep track of livestock, authenticate ID badges, manage inventories or pay bridge and highway tolls. […]
Privacy organizations have long criticized the use of RFID chips in documents and items that could be used to track people’s movements, determine their identities or make inferences about their habits. […]
But privacy advocates worry about how retailers themselves might use the information and about the possibility of cross-referencing data from costumers’ loyalty cards and RFID-equipped purchases that could effectively identify and track how often shoppers go into the store and where they spend their time.
“If you buy a lot of pizza, or spend a lot of time at the alcohol aisle, where does that information go later? Does it end with your employer or insurance company? Once information is collected, it’s not always clear how it will end up being used or abused,” she said.