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May 23, 2006

High-tech Fences in Urban Corridors?


President Bush's immigration address May 15 was mined with privacy and civil liberties bombshells if you read between the lines. His call for "high tech fences in urban corridors" to nab undocumented aliens was particularly chilling, and suggests his administration is planning some kind of national Identification system that would demand the electronic equivalent of "your papers please."

See http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/05/20060515-8.html for the offical transcript of the President's address.

How else would his high-tech fence system work? There couldn't be gaping holes in the fences that would allow people to pass through without scrutiny. To be effective, every one of us would have to prove we have the government's permission to pass through the "gates."

The President offered no details about how his high-tech fences would function or how we would prove our identities to the system, but I suspect he would prefer this proof to be quick and automatic so as not to create long lines and constantly remind citizens that the state is watching. This could be facilitated by grids of biometric and RFID readers stationed at choke points in key cities like New York, Los Angeles, and Houston.

The President's recent statements should be red flags to citizens who value their privacy and civil liberties. While he didn't spell out the details of his plans, it's clear he wants to know "who is in our country and why they are here."

I spoke with John St. George about "high-tech fences" on FMNN World News (starts at 4:10): http://www.fmnn.com/eTVLaunch.asp?rid=630

- Liz McIntyre

Posted by liz at 3:11 PM | Comments (1)

May 20, 2006

Hilarious, Insightful Commentary on VeriChip's Push to Chip Foreigners


Evan Schuman's eWeek commentary Injecting RFID into the Immigration Mess, Literally is a must read for anyone following RFID--or anyone who simply needs a good belly laugh. See: http://www.eweek.com/article2/0,1895,1965110,00.asp

Here's his take on VeriChip's push to chip immigrants and guest workers:

"Opinion: The CEO of Applied Digital has gone on TV to suggest implanting his RFID chips into the arms of registered aliens to address immigration issues. Some ideas are so awful that words don't do them justice. "

Now go, read and enjoy! :-)

- Liz McIntyre

Posted by liz at 10:52 AM | Comments (0)

May 17, 2006

RFID Meets George Orwell's Telescreen


British company Ubisense has paired the remote tracking power of Radio Frequency Identification with a modern-day version of the telescreen from George Orwell's novel 1984.

Ubisense claims that it has developed a way to use RFID tags to track human beings and objects to within 12 inches of their locations and beam a real-time 3-dimensional map of it all to computer screens for live monitoring of offices, manufacturing facilities, and even retail stores. What's more, the company touts that its system can be used to automatically train video cameras on selected individuals--even zoom in and out by remote control-- using RFID tags people are wearing or carrying as homing beacons.

It doesn't take much imagination to see how Ubisense could become a Big Brother Nightmare. This application provides one more reason all of us should be very concerned about RFID and its implications for privacy and civil liberties.

Today the company is trying to slip the technology into society claiming it could save lives and money by tracking medical equipment and emergency personnel, but tomorrow it could be programmed to track RFID tags that are embedded in our workplace badges, credit cards, shoes, or clothing--tags that can be followed by hidden reader devices in doorways, ceiling tiles, and shelving.

>> click here to visit the Ubisense website
>> click here for a transcript of an interview of David Theriault, Director of Ubisense
>> click here for an online version of Orwell's 1984

- Liz McIntyre

Posted by liz at 10:52 AM | Comments (3)

How to spot an RFID passport

Now that the U.S. has begun issuing RFID-tagged passports, how can you tell if your new passport has an unwanted spy on board? Edward Hasbrouck, the Practical Nomad (author of numerous guidebook and a tireless defender of travel privacy), has come to the rescue. He has posted a helpful page on his blog showing how to spot whether your new passport contains a spychip. If you see this symbol, you've been tagged.


If you are interested in the RFID-passport issue, I highly recommend reading Edward's insightful comments. He covers the background, security risks, mitigation measures, and more. He also asks you to let him know if you are issued one of these passports:

"In the meantime, if you do find this "mark" on your passport, please let me know about it. It would help others to know when and by which Passport Offices these start being issued. And I know several technical experts who would be very interested in testing RFID passports "in the wild", to see if the attacks demonstrated against Dutch passports with RFID chips will also work against similar USA passports, and what other vulnerabilities they may have."

He also notes that being in New Hampshire, I am right near the belly of the passport-marking beast:

"Coincidentally, both the National Passport Center in Portsmouth -- probably the site of the USA's first production line for standard RFID passports -- and one of the most active chapters of CASPIAN -- the leading opponents of non-consensual RFID use in the USA -- are located just a few miles apart in southeastern New Hampshire."

Nothing like being right in the thick of things.

Posted by Katherine Albrecht at 6:31 AM | Comments (12)