The premier gadget site Gizmodo profiles today a RFID “Tag Zapper” that disables any RFID device, including those placed on commercial merchandise, or even, say, a conference badge. Not that any WSIS people could think of a use for this….
RFID chips are used by companies on commercial products to track how they are selling and who is buying them. They also are sometimes put onto conference ID badges to monitor people’s comings and goings.
Gizmodo jokes that “the concern with RFID is that anyone with a reader will be able to decode the information on the tags, so potentially, people could camp outside your house and determine what brand of soap you’re using. Either way, I hope they figure out a way to effectively ban these devices from my grocery store so I don’t have to worry about RFID terrorists running amok and screwing up my next purchase.”
More seriously, at the December 2003 World Summit on the Information Society there were privacy and surveillance concerns raised about the use of RFID chips on the WSIS conference badges to monitor the access of delegations and observers to the official proceedings. Several civil society folks noted that there were no stated policies about how this data was collected, used or disseminated. No one was notified that this kind of tracking was taking place.
Some even noted that with a well-placed RFID reader, one could monitor the activities of WSIS participants virtually anywhere in the conference facilities undetected.
Some people have already expressed concerns that the same SWISS company has been hired to handle much of the logistical arrangements for the Tunis WSIS summit in November. Presumably this might include the use of RFID conference badges.
One could imagine a “creative” use of the RFID zappers if similar privacy and surveillance concerns are raised in November. Add one more item to your e-activist shopping cart.