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May 17, 2006

RFID Meets George Orwell's Telescreen

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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 May 17, 2006 10:52 AM

Comments

I heard you on Coast to Coast. Didn't hear about the cell phones. I had an older phone. Very happy with it. Verizon insisted the government wanted all to have the new GPS capable phones (they called it something else) so that our 911 calls would go though. It was a safety thing, nothing about giving our numbers to NSA so they could track us.
I was surprised you didn't mention that as cell phones are used world wide and even children have them. I guess having the Feds able to trace not only our phone calls but our location could be added to your list.

Posted by: IMW at May 20, 2006 8:17 AM

Shaun Saunders portrays an excellent insight into the possible use of human chipping in his futuristic novel "Mallcity 14" where chips are embedded under the skin of each and every person with tracking devices in every corner of the city to monitor movements and consumer spending to allow the powers that be to market directly to each individual and to control behaviour. Quite scary that there is a mass push towards the creation of universal ID databases and tracking devices for the purposes of our own security.

Posted by: Alan Malsem at May 21, 2006 7:28 PM

I think one major idea has been essentially overlooked, and that is the fact that our cell phones provide enough RF energy to communicate with RFID chips. Even if we manage to stop readers from being put in stores, our homes, and our cars, that's not enough. I have heard from an electronics expert that our cell phones can not only be homing devices, but they can relay information from, and possibly to, spychips, whether they are turned on or not. Considering that everyone I know has a cell phone, and the signals are pervasive, we can already be tracked and linked to devices with the spychips in them.

Posted by: Scot at August 7, 2006 9:04 PM

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