RFID stands for Radio
a technology that uses tiny computer chips smaller than a grain
of sand to track items at a distance. RFID "spychips"
have been hidden in the packaging of Gillette razor products and
in other products you might buy at a local Tesco, Wal-Mart or Target
store - and they have already been used to spy on people.
Each tiny chip is hooked up to an antenna that picks
up electromagnetic energy beamed at it from a reader device. When
it picks up the energy, the chip sends back its unique identification
number to the reader device, allowing the item to be remotely indentified.
Spychips can beam back information anywhere from a couple of inches
to up to 20 or 30 feet away.
Some of the world's largest retailers and product manufacturers
have been plotting behind closed doors since 1999 to develop and
commercialize this technology. If they are not opposed, their plan
is to number and tag every manufactured item on earth with this
system as a replacement for the bar code.
Many huge companies, including Tesco, Gillette,
Proctor and Gamble, and Wal-Mart, have begun experimenting with
RFID spychip technology. Tesco recently made the largest publicly
announced single order of EPC RFID readers. Companies like Tesco
envision a day when every single product on the face of the planet
is tracked with RFID spychips!
Is it a better barcode?
This is NOT an "improved bar code" as
the proponents of the technology would like you to believe. RFID
technology differs from bar codes in three important ways:
1. With bar code technology, every can of Coke
has the same UPC or bar code number (a can of Coke in Toronto has
the same number as a can of Coke Topeka). With RFID, each individual
can of Coke would have a unique ID number which could be
linked to the person buying it when they scan a credit
card or a frequent shopper card (i.e., a "registration system").
2. The second way it's different
from a bar code is that these chips can be read from a distance,
right through your clothes, wallet, backpack or purse--without
your knowledge or consent--by anybody with the right reader device.
In a way, it gives strangers x-ray vision powers to spy on you,
to identify both you and the things you're wearing and carrying.
Imagine walking through a doorway and having a hidden reader device
identify the books in your briefcase and the brand of your underwear.
3. Unlike the bar code, RFID
could be bad for your health. RFID supporters envision
a world where RFID reader devices are everywhere - in stores, in
floors, in doorways, on airplanes -- even in the refrigerators and
medicine cabinets of our own homes. In such a world, we and our
children would be continually bombarded with electromagnetic energy.
Researchers have discovered that exposure to this type of energy
could cause permanent harm to DNA.
are the chips?
As consumers, we have no way of knowing which products
contain these chips. While some chips are visible inside a package
(see our pictures of Gillette product spychips), RFID chips can
be well hidden.
Magnified image of actual tag found in Gillette
Mach3 razor blades.
For example they can be sewn into the seams of clothes, sandwiched
between layers of cardboard, molded into plastic or rubber, and
integrated into consumer package design.
RFID chips shown here look like specks of sand.
This technology is rapidly evolving and becoming more sophisticated.
Now RFID spychips can even be printed, meaning the dot on a printed
letter "i" could be used to track you.
In addition, the tell-tale copper antennas commonly seen attached
to RFID chips can now be printed with conductive ink, making them
nearly imperceptible. Companies are even experimenting with making
the product packages themselves serve as antennas.
As you can see, it could soon be virtually impossible
for a consumer to know whether a product or package contains an