Probably not many, except for maybe a big-ticket item. But that's all about to change. What if nearly everything for sale had an RFID chip of some sort? The corporate spokesmen like to say, "Vote with your wallet," but what if there is no choice? What if everything -- including your wallet -- has an RFID chip implanted?
RFID chips in passports are being pushed for -- hard -- by the Bush Administration. Critics say that's a security risk, as unfriendly parties can scan your passport from some distance away.
Oh, what's that? A copy of Noam Chomsky in your car? We're going to have to pull you over and make sure you're not a terrorist.
Absurd? Not in terms of the technology.
This very long article is recommended for anyone who questions the need of government and corporations to know everything about your private life.
"That's the more dangerous, insidious side of RFID," said the EFF's Tien of the possibility of surreptitious government use of RFID. "The private sector and the government work hand in hand in many areas of surveillance. ... It's all one big blob a person has to worry about."
"Some people say, 'I don't care if people find out I wear size 8 Levi's jeans,'" Tien said. But what about more sensitive and personal possessions, such as a pregnancy home-test kit, or meds for bipolar disorder or HIV? "There are a lot of issues about your preferences and your beliefs," Tien said. "It's the same debate as the Patriot Act. Some people will say they have nothing to hide, and the government could find the same things out another way."
Tom, the CSUS professor, said that at the end of the day, most consumers don't really care how a technology works; they just think "it's neat that it works."
If they don't like a technology, or how it's being applied, "the power is still in the hands of the consumer. The consumer still has the power at the very end to rip off the tag."
"I don't see industry in general using RFID tags in a stealth manner," Tom said. Garfinkel said it would be a shame if RFID were dismissed completely because the industry is "incompetent" at addressing privacy concerns. He embraces many uses of the technology and especially sees ways it could be used to help blind people.
"The industry is acting very poorly." RFID manufacturers contradict themselves, he says, when they talk about how powerful their tags are and then tell consumers not to worry about them being read covertly, or from a distance beyond the recommended read range.
"Lots of times, things we think are not possible under the laws of physics actually are possible because it's an engineering problem, not a physics problem."
What it comes down to is whether you trust the government and big business to keep your privacy and other best interests at heart, he said.
"I think it's a mistake to simply assume that business would never do anything secret," Garfinkel said. "The government is already following people around. I could easily see us being in a world where this is pervasively deployed. A lot of personal info could be leaked."The spychips issue has been in various publications over the months, but this Alternet story does a good job of pulling a lot of it together. Read the whole thing.