Is all RFID technology bad?
No. Preemptive Media is not suggesting that RFID technology should never be used. There are examples of RFID systems that are harmless or merely a new way to perform old tricks, like anti-theft security. There are benefits to RFID too. Electronic tolls are a great use of RFID (it can save you time and our environment!), if the companies operating the systems adequately protect the data collected and not use it for undisclosed purposes. Zapped! gives people the tools
to understand when, where and how RFID is used so they can determine for themselves if specific applications are appropriate or not.
How is RFID misused?
Preemptive Media does not endorse RFID systems that do any of the following: institutionalize electronic tracking of humans, surreptitiously collect data from tags that can be identified with individuals, inadequately encrypt personal information or use collected data for any purpose other than the primary, publicized intention. An example of a RFID system implementation that we, therefore, do not approve of is the use of RFID to track students and automatically alert school administrators and police of student whereabouts. We also question the upcoming use of RFID tags in U.S. passports that reportedly are not secure and would easily allow skimming of personal information from a distance. In general, Preemptive Media is concerned about AIDC (automatic identification and data collection) technologies because of their invisible and discreet nature, the lack of notification and consent by subjects, the unregulated data collection industry in the U.S. and the developing alliance between businesses and government in the trade of personal information.
What do I have to hide?
You probably are a very good person and don't have anything to hide. But PM believes that all automatic tracking technologies and data collection practices that uniquely identify individuals should stop until adequate laws and regulation in the U.S. are established that respect people first, rather than corporate profit. You might trust the person or government that initially asks for your data, but once it is recorded, you have few rights protecting its future use. Finally, we must remember that anonymity is a basic tenet of democracy, allowing people to freely express unpopular ideas without fear of personal harm. The founders of the U.S. understood this when they wrote what came to be known as the Federalist Papers, using the pseudonyms "Publius" and "Federal Farmer." The Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that the First Amendment protects anonymous free speech.
Aren't you being paranoid? I can't find examples of RFID in my life.
We are not trying to scare anyone or spread false rumors. We are simply looking at where RFID money is being spent, who the major RFID players are and why. Based on this information and studying past examples of surveillance and data collection technologies, we are making predictions and recommendations. For instance, Wal-Mart may not be tagging individual products (just cases and palettes) or putting RFID readers on the sales floor, as they insist. But, for RFID to make the most business sense, Wal-mart will eventually try to conduct product level tagging. Wal-Mart will likely encourage consumers to participate in an expanded RFID program by offering benefits (savings!). If this does occur, as we are predicting, Zapped! participants will be able to better determine if the benefits are truly worth it. We do not see this discussion as paranoid, but rather an act of participation and preparation.
Why are you focusing on Wal-Mart?
In the words of a Federal Trade Commissioner at the opening of a government-run RFID workshop, "We would not be sitting here today if it were not for Wal-Mart." This is because Wal-Mart has mandated that its top 100 suppliers use RFID tags starting in 2005. Because Wal-Mart is the largest profit-making enterprise in the world--with sales of a quarter of a trillion dollars and 1.4 million employees in more than 44 countries-- what Wal-Mart does matters a lot. If this corporation were an independent country it would be China's eighth largest trading partner, ahead of Russia and Britain. Wal-Mart is not the only force moving RFID out of the labs and into our lives. The Department of Defense has declared a similar mandate to its suppliers, and the Food and Drug Administration, the State Department, public libraries and schools (to name just a few) are also involved in pilot RFID programs of their own.
Is your Zapped! title a tribute to the Scott Baio movie of the same name?
No. This was unintentional, although we even use a similar color scheme and exclamation mark in our logo. This could be repressed desire bubbling to the surface since one of us did have a BIG crush on Baio in the early 80s. But we won't go naming names now...
In January 2005 Wal-Mart issued a RFID.
Schools are using RFID badges for automatic attendance.
The Spring Independent School District outside of Houston uses a RFID system on school buses in order to track students.