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America's Debate > Archive > Assorted Issues Archive > [A] Science and Technology
For some time, retailers that use loyalty card schemes have been able to gather valuable data about the shooping habits of those customers that opt into these schemes.

Now, though, new technology allows tiny chips to be embedded in practically every item sold, including foods, clothing, and consumer goods, and to stay there. Similar technology is used already inside stores to prevent theft - they are the things that make alarms sound if someone walks out without paying for something.

A British supermarket tested RFID in store with Gillette razor blades (one of the most-stolen consumer goods - expensive and small) by surreptitiously taking a photo of everyone whenever they took a packet of the razor blades off the shelf. This was matched to the faces of people that paid for them at the check-out, so thieves could be apprehended. So far so good, but what about after you leave the store?

The new RFID (Radio Frequency IDentification) technology means that evry item can be individually identified, and unless is is specifically deactivated, it can be used to track the person that has bought it. For example, if you buy a pair of shoes that has RFID tagging, the data owners and brokers wil know your name, address, credit rating, where you bought them, and how much you paid for them. Advertising in store could be personally targeted to, say, try to sell you a belt to match eery time you come within a certain distance of it.

It doesn't take a genius to work out that without regulation and security provisions, data owners could be less than scrupulous in what they allow the data to be used for. Similarly, hackers could easily find out what you own and where you live - potentially a burglar's charter (since if you know where and how to look, it's easy to find and deactivate the chips).

So far, the retailers and RFID makers have made all the running, and the legislators and civil liberties watchdogs have been a little behind. And, they don't have the same kind of budgets as the big corporations that are pushin RFID forward.

There' plenty of info on the net, but here's just one news report on the subject RFID story

So, my questions for debate are:
Is RFID a technology that we should see as a threat to civil liberty and privacy? Are there applications that go beyond the retailers' premises that could be beneficial to consumers and to society as a whole? If so, what might they be?
Billy Jean
Is RFID a technology that we should see as a threat to civil liberty and privacy?

YES!! It is one of MANY technologies that are being slowly introduced into our society to prepare us for being chipped. mad.gif
Judging from the article, RFIDs are harmless as long as they are deactivated when you leave the store. That seems reasonable to me. I certainly don't want stores to recognize what I've purchased there before when I walk in and try to sell me something else. That would just be annoying. But if it helps prevent theft within the store then I'm all for it, as long as that's the only application for which it's used .
I have no problem with it. I have nothing to hide. I'm not worried about hackers, I've been in the IT business for nearly ten years, people watch too many hacker movies. The Net, Swordfish, Hackers, etc.... 99% fantasy.
Victoria Silverwolf
This completely freaks me out. I don't worry about hackers; I worry about the people who have a "legitimate" reason for tracking down this information. (Let's not kid ourselves; if the police or the FBI come to Wal-Mart and ask for a complete record of everything I've ever bought there, they will get that information, even if it's been "deleted" or "deactivated.")
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