April 05, 2003
RFID and DeScramblers

Yesterday at the Computers, Freedom and Privacy conference, they talked about talked about RFID tags (discussed here before) and solutions to consumer tracking of goods, once the goods leave the store at Plenary Session #12 on Auto ID: Tracking Everywhere: with Katherine Albrecht (CASPIAN), Mark Roberti, Richard M. Smith and J.D. Abolins (moderator). One solution put forth by Roberti was to get a $200 scrambler for your house, so that everything you own, which in future might contain a tag not turned off (or killed) at the store, or that you were told by the store/seller was turned off, but actually wasn't, would be rendered unable to transmit. However, what happens when you, wearing tagged clothes, tagged personal effects like sunglasses, keys, wallet, cell phone, drive your car with tagged Michelin tires, etc., to a store. Everything is then not scrambled, the chips are turned on and being scanned from the parking lot and all points around the store, and they are linking past purchases including dates and costs, to your current purchases, to where you go in the store, to what entertainment you buy, and to what you drive, causing them to market items to you in the store based on this information, and even then selling this information later. What happens if you don't have $200 for the home descrambler? Does this mean people with money who are informed can protect their privacy, at least at home, but the rest can't?

One more question, would a scrambler device constitute circumvention of the RFID tag system, and would it then be subject to DMCA anti-circumvention claims, if you scrambled RF signals at home? (This is a crazy question, yes, but in light of printers and garage door openers and the DMCA, what's next?)

Update 03/07/03: Benetton has announced they aren't using RFID tags in their clothing. Instead, they are just studying it.

Posted by Mary Hodder at April 05, 2003 08:05 AM
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