You every play tag? You know, the children’s game where someone chases you and if they touch you, you’re it? We’ve come a very long way since then, but we’re still tagging people—and stuff. The RFID chip is essentially a tag and chances are you are using at least one in your everyday life right now.
For instance, if you live in Miami you probably have one in your car. It’s called the Sun Pass. It has an RFID chip in it. Many beach residents have already tagged their dogs with a RFID chip as well.
Some say the technology has been around since the 20’s. But the predecessor to modern RFID was invented in 1945. It was invented by Léon Theremin, as an espionage tool for the Soviet Union; it retransmitted incident radio waves with audio information.
Modern RFID tags come in three types: 1) Passive 2) Active & 3) Semi-passive (AKA battery-assisted).
Passive tags don’t need an internal power source; they are only active when a reader is nearby to power them. And this is dangerous for many of us who are unaware of unscrupulous thieves who want your money. (More on this in part II)
Semi-passive and Active tags require a power source in the form of a small battery.
Also, there are three different kinds of RFID tags, attachable, implantable and insertion tags. And I’m told the Eastman Kodak Company has filed two patent applications for monitoring intake of medicine based on a digestible RFID tag.
So, we’ve got three types times three different kinds and a few more on the horizon. These tags all have various uses as well.
But, let’s talk about the pros and cons of the RFID.
They are used in Passports, Payment detectors, Product tracking, Animal tracking, Inventory control and as Implants.
Many argue that human implants, due to child abductions and political kidnappings and the like are needed. And tracking prison inmates and parolees are on the list of pro-arguments. In casinos and some European theaters they already have face and eye recognition software that scans all traffic for people who were black listed or banned. And while that really isn’t RFID, the concept of tracking is the same—just a different method. So, are RFID chips really that bad?
RFID standardization still doesn’t exist. The ISO hasn’t established standard operating frequencies and form-factors as a norm. Chips that work in the USA won’t work in Japan or Europe for instance. Furthermore, no standard has thus far become as commonly accepted as the bar-code—now rapidly being replaced with QR codes.
But, an even larger concern is illegal tracking. Standardized RFID tags create a genuine threat to both personal privacy and corporate/military security.
Speaking to privacy issues, there are concerns about tracking a person’s every movement, ones spending behavior, personal financial information, and medical data, what we consume and where, and a gazillion other possibilities.
In terms of population tracking, those monitoring would know where you travel and why, your sleeping and buying habits, and essentially, if you wanted an incommunicado get-away, you’d be outta luck.
Now, the FDA approved the first RFID chips implanted into humans in October of 2004. But, it did warn of the potential complications. They are
Undesirable tissue reaction (This goes to my earlier comment on cancer). Some frequencies have been known to cause timorous growths surrounding the chip. A series of veterinary and toxicology studies, dating to the mid-1990s, stated that chip implants had induced malignant tumors in some lab mice and rats—even dogs and cats.
- Resettlement of the implanted transponder (Just like the early breast injections of silicon, these chips may migrate to other parts of the body).
- Transponder failure (The battery dies, or the chip is worn-out or broken)
- Electrical risk (If the chip battery leaks, it is possible to get a consistent shock as well as battery fluid seeping into your system).
- MRI incompatibility (This one is hazy, but if there is metal in your body during an MRI, it may interrupt the resonation and may also become dislodged).
However, more immediate digital pick-pocketing dangers of the RFID and protections thereof, I discuss in Part II. Later gators.