September 8, 2007

French Bulldog is Catalyst for Investigation of Microchip-Cancer Connection

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French Bulldog Léon
(Léon's photograph has been reproduced with the permission of the owner)

Could a microchip implant like the VeriChip cause cancer? A French Bulldog named Léon was the catalyst for new questions about the safety of RFID implants.

One year ago, Léon's owner contacted me with startling news. She believed that her dog's cancerous tumor and his untimely death might have been caused by a microchip implant.

This was not just idle talk by a grieving dog owner grasping at straws to figure out why she had been robbed of her constant companion. This was a gutsy lady who refused to allow the vet to simply cremate the evidence.

This lady prefers to be known only by her first name of "Jeanne," so the Associated Press couldn't credit her properly as the original source for some of the explosive information in its article "Chip Implants Linked to Animal Tumors," but I have the leeway in this forum to share the behind-the-scenes story.

Jeanne spent a small fortune trying to cure her ailing French bulldog, Léon, after he was diagnosed with cancer in 2004. When medical interventions failed and Léon passed away, she decided to hunt for the reason the fatal tumor in his body was attached to the glass-encapsulated microchip that had been injected into his neck for identification purposes.

Jeanne located a team of researchers in Italy who agreed to test tissue samples from a biopsy of Léon's tumor to determine if the microchip was implicated in his aggressive cancer. They documented their findings in a 2006 paper entitled, “Fibrosarcoma with Typical Features of Postinjection Sarcoma at Site of Microchip Implant in a Dog: Histologic and Immunohistochemical Study.” The full text is available online at: http://www.vetpathology.org/cgi/content/full/43/4/545.

Since Léon's suspicious cancer was not enough evidence to prove microchip implants were a threat, Jeanne decided to search for other proof of a link. She unearthed scholarly animal studies documenting a possible chip-cancer link and posted several of these at the website that she formed as a tribute to Léon:

http://www.noble-leon.com/resourcesAdvanced

Jeanne informed us of this research and even faxed us copies of these studies as they were difficult to obtain. Fortunately, my Spychips co-author Dr. Katherine Albrecht had access to the Harvard library and was able to take Jeanne's work further, analyzing additional studies that seemed to support a cancer-microchip link in animals.

Sometime later, AP Reporter Todd Lewan entered the picture, eager for an exclusive. He used his press credentials to gain further information, tie up the story with a perfect, documented bow, and broadcast it to media outlets around the world. He and Katherine tirelessly pursued the truth that you can now find published in the explosive AP story.

I promised Jeanne that Katherine and I would share the whole story, and that Léon would be remembered for his contribution. Here's to you, Jeanne and Léon! I'm so sorry it took tragedy for this information to be brought to light. I applaud your tenacity, bravery, and amazing research skills.

- Liz McIntyre

Posted by liz at 2:08 PM | Comments (13)

March 21, 2007

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Folks in Richmond, Virginia, should consider stopping by for the Richmond Journal of Law and Technology symposium on RFID this Friday. The event is free and offers 4 Virginia CLE credits. For details and registration information see: http://law.richmond.edu/jolt/rfid/index.asp

- Liz McIntyre

Posted by liz at 10:36 PM | Comments (0)

March 19, 2007

Tommy Thompson Leaves Board of VeriChip Corporation

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Former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson has left the board of VeriChip Corporation, marketer of glass encapsulated RFID tags for humans. The company quietly made the disclosure in its mandatory Form 8-K filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission a few days ago:

"Effective March 8, 2007, Tommy G. Thompson, an independent member of the Board of Directors of VeriChip Corporation (the “Company”), submitted a letter to the Company expressing his interest in taking a leave of absence from the Board of Directors in order to devote his full time and efforts to running for President of the United States. As a leave of absence would have left the Company without a full board to address matters of corporate governance, Mr. Thompson resigned as a Director effective as of that date."

See: http://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1347022/000136231007000256/c70266e8vk.htm

Did Thompson really just want a leave of absence? Did VeriChip cut Thompson loose because he has wisely avoided getting chipped despite a promise to do so nearly two years ago? The carefully crafted statement for public consumption begs many questions.

What do you think?

- Liz McIntyre

Posted by liz at 3:51 PM | Comments (5)

March 16, 2007

SupplyChainDigest: "CASPIAN can't be ignored"

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SupplyChainDigest warns "CASPIAN can't be ignored" in an editorial about our meeting with top executives at American Express.

Dr. Katherine Albrecht and I met with American Express recently to discuss one of its more troublesome patent applications titled "Method and System for Facilitating a Shopping Experience." The company's filing lays out a Minority Report style blueprint for monitoring consumers through RFID-enabled objects, like the American Express Blue Card.

One outcome of the meeting was a promise by American Express to review its entire patent portfolio and ensure that any people-tracking plans be accompanied by language requiring consumer notice and consent. The company also promised to make a chip-free version of its card available to consumers who request it.

(See our press release AMERICAN EXPRESS ADDRESSES RFID PEOPLE TRACKING PLANS, )

SupplyChainDigest, a publication geared to supply chain and logistics personnel, sums up the impact of our patent revelation and meeting: "CASPIAN can’t be ignored. The Amex patent filing that was the catalyst for CASPIAN’s concerns does show just how far RFID and related wireless sensor technology can go in terms of real-time tracking at an individual level."

Read the entire SupplyChainDigest editorial analysis here: http://www.scdigest.com/assets/newsViews/07-03-15-1.cfm

- Liz McIntyre

Posted by liz at 12:03 PM | Comments (0)

February 20, 2007

RFID Gazette Names 25 Top Influencers in RFID Industry

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RFID Gazette lobs a stinging backhand to VeriChip Corporation in its new list of the 25 Top Influencers in the RFID Industry. The publication names VeriChip CEO Scott Silverman to its number one influencer spot, yet calls him "scary." The Gazette also strongly suggests investors do a double take before buying "CHIP" stock:

"Implanted with an RFID device (supposedly), Silverman has become the poster boy for RFID implantation (tagging) while trying to nudge top government officials into implanting his company's products into immigrants, babies, soldiers, and patients. Before you make contact with this company, you might glance through the nearly 20 pages of risk factors recently published in VeriChip's Form S-1 Registration Statement (CHIP), a requirement mandated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). You'll discover why investors haven't jumped on this IPO or on the idea of tagging in general (52-week range over a three-month period to date = $5.67 - $6.99 per share, although VeriChip initially set the price at $6.50-$8.50 per share)."

DHS head Michael Chertoff takes spot two on the Gazette's Top 25 list, and CASPIAN's Dr. Katherine Albrecht and I are pegged at numbers 3 and 4.

See the whole story here: http://www.rfidgazette.org/2007/02/25_top_influenc.html

- Liz McIntyre

Posted by liz at 6:14 PM | Comments (2)

February 15, 2007

RFID Journal Calls VeriChip Implant "unnecessary and a little creepy"

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The RFID brethren have kicked into self preservation mode because VeriChip Corporation's embarassing IPO launch is making them look bad. Shares of the human ID implant company began trading as "CHIP" on the NASDAQ last Friday at the low end of the expected range and went downhill from there as investors examined the company's tenuous business model.

RFID Journal is doing its best to distance the RFID industry from the stock fiasco, even calling VeriChip's human implant "unnecessary and a little creepy."

In his commentary titled "VeriChip IPO Focuses Attention on Human Implants," RFID Journal Editor Mark Roberti distinguishes "mainstream" RFID companies from the tainted human chipper by drawing the line where RFID devices are inserted into flesh. He doesn't take VeriChip to task for identifying and monitoring people through RFID. Rather, he objects to the visceral nature of the implanted product and the waves of squeamishness it evokes.

"[N]ot everyone likes the idea of getting implanted. It's the stuff of TV dramas, and it scares people, " says Roberti. "My view is that a pendant with an RFID transponder in it could work just as well."

Once he makes the distinction (RFID neckware is cool, implanted chips aren't), Roberti laments, "VeriChip's initial public offering... has had a chilling effect on some people's attitude toward RFID."

He goes on to criticize the media for recent negative press that reflects badly on the spychip industry overall. Headlines like "Implantable RFID May Be Easy, But That Doesn't Mean It's Ethical," "'Spychip' Corporation Hides Implant Risks in Stock Offering," and "RFID Chips Getting Under Few People's Skin" obviously haven't been sitting well with the Journal's advertisers.

"I don't know if VeriChip is a good or a bad investment. I don't know if getting a chip under your skin is a good or bad idea," Roberti expounds, wagging his pen in defense of his corporate sponsors. "But I do know that the undue media attention focused on this one company offering a niche application of RFID is having a negative impact on the public perception of RFID. That's unfortunate, because so few people, so far, have chosen to 'get chipped.'"

For more of Roberti's take on this IPO injustice, see:
http://www.rfidjournal.com/privacy/entry/3045

- Liz McIntyre

Posted by liz at 11:45 PM | Comments (1)

February 14, 2007

Hitachi's "Weaponized" RFID Powder

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The picture on the left shows Hitachi's infamous mu chip, once heralded as the world's smallest RFID tag. Back in 2003, it was touted as the perfect size for embedding into currency, slipping into bullets, and even tagging humans. The siren song of this dot-sized tracker even lured the Malaysian government into buying rights to it.

One can only wonder how Hitachi's new "weaponized" RFID powder could be used and abused, if reports of its existence are true. It is supposedly 64 times smaller than the mu chip, measures in at just .05 X.05 mm, but can still hold a unique 38-digit number. Specks of this RFID powder are shown next to a human hair in the picture on the right from pinktentacle.com.

For additional information, see:
http://www.pinktentacle.com/2007/02/hitachi-develops-rfid-powder/

- Liz McIntyre

Posted by liz at 10:32 AM | Comments (2)

November 21, 2006

Jack in the Box Adopts RFID Payments Despite Warnings

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Despite warnings about the insecurity of contactless RFID credit cards, Jack in the Box is pushing forward with an unprecedented plan to install RFID card readers in its fast food restaurants. By the end of December, all Jack locations should have the infrastructure in place, according to a report at RFID Product News.

The New York Times recently ran a story revealing that virtually every RFID credit card tested by security researchers, including Visa, Mastercard, and American Express, was vulnerable to unauthorized charges and put consumers at risk for identity theft. Information like the credit card number, card holder's name, and expiration date could be gleaned right through purses, backpacks or wallets without consumer knowledge or consent using a relatively inexpensive device made with over-the-counter hardware. CASPIAN demanded a recall of the spychipped credit cards, but credit card companies have not even notified consumers about the risks.

Of course, identity thieves aren't the only concern. Those who have read our book "Spychips" know that "authorized users" of RFID technology have been planning to siphon information from RFID-laced credit, debit, and "loyalty" cards to deliver up targeted advertising and perform in-depth marketing research. One day, Jack could hide RFID readers in its restaurant doorways, order counters, tables and other locations to grab information you would never offer up voluntarily.

Next time you want to eat fast food, consider passing by Jack in the Box for a more consumer-conscious restaurant--and be sure to tell Jack that you oppose the use of RFID reader devices in public places.

- Liz McIntyre


Posted by liz at 2:55 PM | Comments (1)

November 15, 2006

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Many thanks to Essex County College in Newark, NJ, for having me share information about the RFID threat with faculty, students, and the community at large in two presentations on Monday! Special thanks to Essex County College’s Student Life & Activities, Legal Assistant Studies & Criminal Justice programs, Dr. Linda McDonald Carter, Dr. Patrice Davis, Patt Slade and Shirley Rice for making the events possible.

Thanks also to Bob Pickett, attorney and host of Kiss FM's top-rated talk shows "Open Line" and "Week in Review" for making a special introduction at the evening program.

This college is an amazing oasis in the city of Newark, and it's full of dedicated faculty, staff and students. The campus is immaculate and the facilities are outstanding. This school brings in incredible programs and nationally recognized speakers like human rights activist Enrique Morones, and National Action Network Founder & President Rev. Al Sharpton, as well as state and local lawmakers and educators. Attendance is free! Newark is so fortunate to have this resource and access to important forums.

It was a joy and pleasure. Thanks to everyone!

- Liz McIntyre

Posted by liz at 3:31 PM | Comments (0)

October 27, 2006

Spychipped Credit Card Q & A

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The recent NY Times article that reveals the security flaws of RFID-enabled credit cards has consumers wondering if the cards in their own wallets are putting them at risk. We've been getting lots of questions and thought it might be helpful to share some thoughts here about what steps cardholders can take to protect themselves and their identities.

Q. Am I really at any risk if I carry an RFID-enabled credit card?

A. Security researchers have demonstrated that someone can siphon your name, credit card number and other information from these cards right through your purse, backback, or wallet--without your knowledge or consent. If you tote the "spychipped" cards, you could be opening yourself up to identity theft and surreptitious tracking of your movements and behavior. This "someone" could be the credit card issuer or a retail store--it could also be a stalker or thief.

Q. Does my credit card contain an RFID tag? How can I tell?

A. Call your credit card company and ask if your card contains an RFID tag. RFID tags are so small and thin that they can be hidden within the plastic. An RFID tag communicates by silent, invisible radio waves. If you don't ask, you might never know that your card can beam back information like your credit card number, name etc. The exception is the American Express Blue card. You can see the RFID tag through the clear plastic.

Q. Don't credit card companies tell you when they send RFID-enabled credit cards and alert consumers to the information security issues?

A. Millions of RFID-enabled credit cards have been issued with innocent-sounding names like "Blink" and "EasyPay." Most consumers don't understand this is a way the card companies have been trying to get the public to accept the cards without needing to explain the serious privacy concerns. After all, the RFID industry's own studies have shown that 75% of consumers object to RFID on privacy grounds once they understand how it works and how companies plan to use it.

Q. What credit card brands contain RFID tags that have security issues?

A. I spoke with one of the researchers quoted in the NY Times article. He wouldn't reveal the names of the issuers of cards tested in the sample, but he said the team found problems across all brands, including Visa, MasterCard, and American Express.

Q. What should I do if my credit card contains an RFID tag?

A. We believe credit card companies should recall RFID-enabled credit cards that leak information about consumers. However, we haven't heard of any company taking this responsible action. It's going to be up to you to demand a replacement card that is spychip-free.

Most credit card issuers will send you a new card without an RFID tag at no charge. However, we've heard that American Express customer service representatives are telling consumers who call with concerns not to worry because they can disable the RFID functionality from headquaters.

The RFID-enabled American Express Blue card has dual functionality and contains two distinct credit card numbers. One number resides on the mag stripe. The other number resides on the embedded RFID tag. AMEX customer service representatives are likely disabling the card number that resides on the RFID tag in the company database. This should help prevent unauthorized purchases via numbers read by radio waves. HOWEVER, this is only a partial solution.

The tag within the card could still be read by authorized and unauthorized persons and be used to track you and your behavior. We are recommending that consumers demand a spychip-free version or take their business elsewhere. Do you really want someone to scan information about you through your purse, backpack or wallet without your knowledge or consent?

Note: Do not mail or throw away the RFID-enabled credit card before destroying the RFID tag. Tags can be read right through envelopes and trash. You can destroy the tag by shredding the card or by cutting or crushing the chip.

Q. Can I disable the RFID tag in my microwave?

A. Don't do it. While putting an RFID tag in the microwave can disable a tag, doing so can also start a fire and damage the microwave. (We recount our microwave disabling trials in our book "Spychips.")

If you have any other questions, send them to me, and I'll try to share an answer:

Liz@spychips.com.

- Liz McIntyre

Posted by liz at 5:54 PM | Comments (5)

October 5, 2006

Schwarzenegger's Support of RFID Tracking Technology No Shock

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Governor Schwarzenegger's veto of a bill aimed at protecting California citizens from surreptitious RFID tracking should come as no shock if you understand his penchant for paternalistic power.

In a 1990 U.S. News interview he was quoted as saying "My relationship to power and authority is that I'm all for it. People need somebody to watch over them. Ninety-five percent of the people in the world need to be told what to do and how to behave."

Senate Bill 768, known as the Identity Information Protection Act of 2006, was passed by state legislators last month. It was drafted to prohibit abusive tracking of people through RFID tags and give Californians control over personal information stored on RFID-laced identity documents.

Among other things, the bill would have provided "... that a person or entity that intentionally remotely reads or attempts to remotely read a person’s identification document using radio waves without his or her knowledge and prior consent...shall be punished by imprisonment in a county jail for up to one year, a fine of not more than $5,000, or both that fine and imprisonment." (See http://info.sen.ca.gov/pub/bill/sen/sb_0751-0800/sb_768_bill_20060901_enrolled.pdf)

Schwarzenegger was apparently aware that his failure to sign the bill could open the door to more Big Brother surveillance on California soil. He issued a statement explaining that he vetoed the bill because it could conflict with new government standards for identity documents like those to be issued for driver's licenses under the Real ID Act. (See http://gov.ca.gov/pdf/press/sb_768_veto.pdf)

The Real ID Act, passed in the spring of 2005, gives the Department of Homeland Security the right to set new federal driver's license standards. Privacy advocates and civil libertarians are not only concerned that these new standards will create a de facto national ID, but that this national ID will contain remotely readable RFID tags.

Homeland Security is already testing RFID tags in visitor documents, and it is on record as shopping for a very powerful form of the technology that could allow law enforcement to read documents secured in purses, wallets and even in cars speeding by at 55 miles per hour.

It wouldn't surprise me if the governor has already read our book "Spychips" and understands how RFID technology could be used to track, monitor, and control citizens. He's just the sort of character who would find added value in RFID deep organ implants for humans and IBM's RFID-based "PERSON TRACKING UNIT" that can follow people in places like shopping malls, libraries, theaters, museums, elevators and even restrooms. Why, with that kind of power, he could most certainly keep track of the 95 percent of his constituents that he seems to believe need close supervision and instructions on proper behavior.

For more on this story, see Martin Bosworth's article Schwarzenegger Terminates Spychip Bill at www.consumeraffairs.com/news04/2006/10/ca_spychips.html
and
Arnie Terminates RFID Bill at www.theregister.co.uk/2006/10/05/california_rfid_bill_terminated/

-- Liz McIntyre

Posted by liz at 3:01 PM | Comments (1)

September 30, 2006

Dog starts car - the RFID way

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This RFID story is almost too weird to be true. In fact, if it didn't come from the BBC, I probably wouldn't believe it .

Dog starts car after eating chip

A breakdown patrol man who came to the rescue of a woman motorist has managed to get her car started using her dog.

Juliette Piesley, 39, had changed the battery in her electronic key fob but was then unable to start her car.

When AA patrolman Kevin Gorman arrived at the scene in Addlestone, Surrey, he found its immobiliser chip was missing.

Ms Piesley said her dog George had eaten something, and realising it was the chip, he put the dog in the front seat and started the car with the key.

Mr Gorman said: "I was glad to get the car started for the member.

"They will now have to take George [the dog] with them in the car until things take their natural course.

"It is the first time that I have had to get a dog to help me to start a car."

Source: BBC News, Tuesday, 26 September 2006

I can't help wondering what will happen once "things take their natural course." Of course, if the owner isn't comfortable digging through excrement to extract a slightly used RFID tag, she could just pop the poop into a baggie and use *that* to start her car. "Oh, that? It's not really a bag of dog poo, it's my car's RFID immibilizer chip. Can't you tell?"

It would be ironically appropriate, since security researchers at Johns Hopkins who hacked a car immobilizer chip have a hard time distinguishing RFID from a pile of poo themselves.

(Thanks to Synonym for the link.)

-Katherine Albrecht

Posted by Katherine Albrecht at 12:42 AM | Comments (1)

September 22, 2006

RFID Risky; Could Expose Company Secrets, says Forrester

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Consumers aren't the only ones who need to be concerned about the privacy and security downsides of RFID technology. A new report by Forrester Research is warning companies that "RFID is not mature enough yet to protect your company secrets," notes Evan Schuman, Retail Technology Editor for eWeek.com.

Forrester's report cites risks that include surreptitious modification of RFID data on tags and attackers monkeying around with data transmissions.

Read more at Schuman's StorefrontBackTalk:

http://www.storefrontbacktalk.com/securityfraud/forrester-report-rfid-not-as-secure-as-vendors-say

- Liz McIntyre

Posted by liz at 10:02 AM | Comments (0)

September 8, 2006

Robert Scott Bell interviews Congressional Candidate Michael Badnarik and Me about RFID

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Robert Scott Bell will be interviewing me and Congressional Candidate Michael Badnarik about RFID chips, national REAL ID, and NAIS Sunday, September 10, 2006 somewhere between 2 PM and 3 PM Eastern Time.

Each week Robert Scott Bell empowers his listeners with healing principles that can aid in physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, economic and, yes, even political healing! Robert Scott Bell tackles the tough issues and shows no fear when confronting government and corporate bullies who would stand in the way of health freedom.
The Robert Scott Bell Radio Show website: http://rsbell.com/radio/index.php

Michael Badnarik is the Libertarian candidate for Texas Congressional District 10 and author of "Good To Be King: The Foundation of Our Constitutional Freedom." In 2004 he won the nomination as the Libertarian presidential candidate and was on the ballot in 48 states and the District of Columbia. He received over 400,000 votes in the general election.
Michael Badnarik's website: http://www.badnarik.org/

The Robert Scott Bell Show is syndicated by the Talk Radio Network to over 90 radio stations across the country, and Bell's programs are archived at his website so members can listen on demand.

- Liz McIntyre

Posted by liz at 4:52 PM | Comments (0)

May 23, 2006

High-tech Fences in Urban Corridors?

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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)

April 28, 2006

Tell Levi Strauss What You Think about RFID

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Graphic by Todd Fox

Many of you who have read our press release about the Levi Strauss item-level tagging initiative are emailing to request contact information for Levi Strauss. Here it is:

Main Number: (415)501-6000
This number goes to the main switchboard. The operator can switch you to Consumer Relations. Remember. If you call the toll-free Consumer Relations number on the Levi Strauss website, your phone number can be obtained.

Email: info@levi.com
This email address goes to a general email box. Consumer Relations would like you to use a special online form, but that doesn't give you a record of your comment. Please share a copy with us. You can email me at Liz@spychips.com.

Snail mail:
Levi Strauss
Consumer Relations
1155 Battery Street
San Francisco, CA 94111

We are hopeful that Levi Strauss will stop its item-level RFID tagging initiatives and honor the moratorium called for by over 40 of the world's leading privacy and civil liberties organizations. (See: http://www.spychips.com/jointrfid_position_paper.html)

RFID technology can easily be abused, and we believe it is essential that all the societal issues be explored before it is deployed. We hope Levi Strauss will be the company to step forward and begin the needed dialogue.

The current Levi Strauss RFID test reportedly involves RFID hang tags that can be clipped from the garments at checkout. But as anyone who has read "Spychips" knows, the RFID industry has discussed affixing tags on and within products and tracking consumers through them--a practice that could usher in an Orwellian surveillance society. On the clothing front, companies have talked about embedding RFID tags in the seams of garments and in flexible clothing labels. There has even been talk of using threads woven into fabric as antennas.

That's why it is crucial to counter *any* attempts at tagging individual consumer items now. Once the RFID infrastructure is in place, the nature of tagging--and the tracking done via the tags--can change overnight.

- Liz McIntyre

Posted by liz at 2:53 PM | Comments (101)

April 21, 2006

Spychips To Be Released in Spanish

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A Spanish language edition of Spychips will be published by Grupo Nelson due to popular demand. Chips espias : Como las grandes corporaciones y el gobierno planean monitorear cada uno de sus pasos con RFID will be available in June 2006.

Many thanks to all of our Spanish-speaking supporters!

-Liz McIntyre

Posted by liz at 4:10 PM | Comments (1)

March 20, 2006

RFID Chipped chompers

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Chipped chompers could take a bite out of privacy if Belgian scientists convince the public to open wide and say "ahhhh" to spychips. Dr. Patrick Thevissen and his team from the Catholic University of Leuven think embedded RFID tags in teeth would be an ideal way to uniquely identify people, according to an article in The Register today. After all, they note, teeth are the most enduring of human remains, and certain RFID tags can withstand temperature changes in excess of 800 degreees Farenheit.

The university's interest in identifying humans with RFID should come as no surprise. Members and associated members of one of the university's consortiums, Leuven Security Excellence Consortium, include Philips, HP, Sun Microsystems, and IBM, among others.

- Liz McIntyre

Posted by liz at 9:20 AM | Comments (0)

March 15, 2006

RFID Vulnerable to Viruses!

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Melanie Rieback, a Ph.D. student at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam, delivered a wake-up call to RFID proponents March 15 at the Fourth Annual IEEE Conference on Pervasive Computing and Communications in Pisa, Italy. She gave a live demonstration of how hackers could deploy rogue RFID tags programmed with a virus to wreak havoc on associated databases--possibly even facilitate a terrorist attack.

Read all about it in our latest press release by clicking here.

- Liz McIntyre

Here are more relevant links:

The researchers' website
http://www.rfidvirus.org/

Their paper
http://www.rfidvirus.org/papers/percom.06.pdf

Their press release in english
http://www.rfidvirus.org/papers/press_release.pdf

Here's the link to the BBC article...
Mikko Hypponen, chief research officer at anti-virus firm F-Secure, said: "RFIDs with embedded computers are suspectible to basically all the same threats any other computers are. Unfortunately."
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/4810576.stm

(Thanks to Trevor for compiling these links.)

Posted by liz at 12:03 AM | Comments (3)

March 13, 2006

Checkpoint Showcases a Spychipped Shoe

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Photo by Todd Fox

CASPIAN volunteer Todd Fox snapped this photo at the recent RFID World 2006 trade show held in Dallas, Texas. The advertisement depicts a boot with a hidden Checkpoint Systems Performa RFID tag molded into the rubber sole. RFID tagging of any consumer item poses a threat to your privacy, but that threat gets up close and personal in the things we wear--especially shoes.

Why are shoes such an issue? Simple. Ask yourself when was the last time you lent your shoes to someone else. The answer is likely "never." So if someone can scan your shoe to glean its unique RFID tag number that's linked to you, that person could have a pretty good idea of who is standing in it.

Imagine now that someone tracks you through your spychipped shoe via RFID readers hidden under floor tiles in your workplace or in public venues like shopping malls. Philips Electronics has clearly been thinking about this possibility. In a sworn U.S. patent application, a Philips' inventor observes that "the placement of [the RFID tag] in [the] shoe may be particularly advantageous where the [RFID] interrogator is located in a floor." (See page 52 of Spychips.)

Checkpoint's spychipped shoe display comes as no surprise to those of us who have been keeping a close eye on the publicly traded company. Back in the Fall of 2004, Katherine and I documented Checkpoint's scandalous display of prototype flexible clothing labels laced with hidden RFID devices. These labels looked very much like the ones that are sewn into the collar of clothes that might be hanging in your closet, bearing brand names like Calvin Klein, Champion, and Carter's.

- Liz McIntyre

Posted by liz at 5:58 PM | Comments (0)

February 22, 2006

NY RFID System Prompts Peaceful Protest

NY PATH scanner.jpg

Thanks to a supporter who snapped this photo of a New York City RFID scanner with a "SPYCHIPS.COM" sticker attached. Scanners like this are being installed in PATH train stations so riders can pay for fares with new RFID smart cards.

We're guessing this is the work of a grass roots activist who decided PATH train riders should visit our website to learn about the downsides of RFID technology. (This is not a CASPIAN sanctioned project, but we can't help but smile when we see this kind of peaceful protest and education campaign.)

Reportedly, these SPYCHIPS.COM stickers are showing up in other locations where RFID is in use. They appear to be non-destructive labels like you might see on file folders.

Here are some links to recent articles about the new PATH RFID system that might have prompted the recent activity:

http://www.amny.com/news/local/transportation/am-path0222,0,6637845.story

http://ny.metro.us/metro/local/article/New_PATH_card_good_to_go/1220.html

- Liz McIntyre

Posted by liz at 4:27 PM | Comments (3)

January 16, 2006

VeriChip or dog chip?

VeriChip Home Again chip rice and dime.jpg

There are two glass encapsulated RFID tags pictured above. One is intended for human flesh, the other for the scruff of your pet's neck. Which is which?

Answer: The chip pictured at the top is VeriChip's VeriMed chip that former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson would like to see implanted in all Americans. Directly below the human chip is the animal chip marketed by Schering-Plough under the "Home Again" brand name.

There's no visible difference between the chips. They look the same, and they're both manufactured by subsidiaries of VeriChip's parent company Applied Digital Solutions. The whitish substance on the end of the chips is an anti-migration coating called "biobond" that encourages tissue growth so the chip doesn't move around inside of the animial--human, feline, or canine.

There is a technical difference between the chips that you wouldn't see with the naked eye. The pet chip contains a 10-digit number while the human chip contains a 16-digit number. I asked VeriChip spokesman John Procter why the human version contained 16-digits. His reply: "flexibility." He said the company wanted to ensure there would be enough unique numbers available for all the people it envisions chipping. Yikes!

Note: The VeriChip corporation tries to ease consumer fears by referring to the chip as being "about the size of a grain of rice." The rice in the photo above is long-grain rice--the longest grain I could find in my pantry. As you can see, the VeriChip is much larger.

- Liz McIntyre

Posted by liz at 3:33 PM | Comments (17)

January 5, 2006

VeriChip Corp's new competition - DIY chippers

Thanks to Steve for sending me this link to fascinating videos about a tech type who decided to implant an RFID tag in his hand: http://www.electric-clothing.com/chipped.html Warning: the pictures and videos linked at the site are quite graphic, showing things like metal rods being shoved under the skin and the suturing of slits and puncture holes.

The implantee and webmaster, Mikey, says he knows of more than sixteen other "midnight engineers" who have similarly chipped themselves, and he provides links to images of a few of those procedures, too. It seems there is some fascination with self-implanting tags not designed for human chipping, like animal tags, to do things like automatically open doors or access computers.

If you watch the link to the longer video interview with Mikey, you'll hear him acknowledge some potential medical risks associated with the implants. He raises the specter of cancer, for example. But I didn't hear any mention of concerns like potential MRI incompatibility, chip migration, or electrical hazards-- issues the FDA raised in a letter it sent when approving the VeriChip human RFID implant as a medical device: http://www.spychips.com/press-releases/verichip-fda.html.

Also absent from the discussion are the privacy and civil liberties implications of RFID implants--issues free-spirted individualists should take into consideration before plunging tags into their flesh.

Liz McIntyre

Posted by liz at 3:13 PM | Comments (1)