Sour Grapes
Of course we're Fair and Balanced!


A modest counter-RFID proposal

I like this proposal of Rich Kulawiec's:

... [T]here's no reason why you and I can't have our own RFID
scanners, and locate the tags that we happen to find in our possession,
now is there? And if I felt like, oh, removing the tag from my new
shirt and sticking it in a city bus seat, or extracting the tag from
a new lawn sprinkler and putting it in on a shopping cart back at the
store where I bought it, well, why not?

Now imagine the consequences if 20 million people did the same.

We could even have little exchanges where we throw all our tags in a
pile and randomly take some away to play with — the point being that
then not even *we* know what happened to them.

I find it very satisfying to think that someone trying to figure out where
my bicycle helmet is at the moment will actually be tracking a Walmart
(rushing headlong toward adoption of RFID) manager's car that happened
to parked somewhere nearby when I felt like transplanting the RFID tag.

RFID tags from all kinds of things could be randomly planted everywhere:
in an airplane seat, in a newspaper at the library, in a copy of a rented
video, EVERYWHERE. Some could be transplanted to similar items; others
to completely different ones. And so on.

I'm not suggesting that anyone abandon the fight against the intrusive
and abusive uses of RFID by any means; I'm just suggesting that one
possible countermeasure to make whatever deployment goes forward far
less effective than its backers hope is to cause their RFID trackers to
record huge amounts of completely useless data.1 This is relatively
easy to do, and could actually be turned into a rather amusing exercise
in competitive ingenuity.2

But more seriously, if a sufficient number of people participate, and thus
a sufficient number of RFID tags are pressed into service generating bogus
data, it will discredit them and devalue their usefulness, thus discouraging
their further adoption and undercutting attempts to rely on them for
some of their more Orwellian possible uses.

It's a shame that something like this is necessary: but given the total
lack of respect for privacy and any semblance of self-restraint on the
part of governments and corporations, it is.

1Most importantly, "useless data" that will be very difficult to
distinguish from useful data. Every communications engineer learns
that separating signal from noise is relatively easy when they have
very different properties, but much harder when they're the same.
Hence the need to transplant at least some RFID tags to similar items,
thus generating bogus but hard-to-spot-as-bogus data.

2"I'd like to thank you for coming to testify before our committee
today, Mr. Ashton, and as my first question, I'd like you to explain
why the Senate's RFID scanner indicates that you walked in here with a
cheese grater, a copy of the latest Harry Potter video, a forklift, and
the latest issue of 'Motorcycle Babes' on your person."

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