Sep 032010

Do RFID tags in clothes for preschoolers make them more or less safe? Check out the ACLU’s timeline of cracked RFID schemes.

“On Tuesday, preschoolers in Richmond, California showed up for school and were handed jerseys embedded with Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags. RFID tags are tiny computer chips that are frequently used to track everything from cattle to commercial products moving through warehouses. Now the school district is apparently hoping to use these chips to replace manual attendance records, track the children’s movements at school and during field trips, and collect other data like whether the child has eaten or not.

“While school officials and parents may have been sold on these tags as a “cost-saving measure,” we are concerned that the real price of insecure RFID technology is the privacy and safety of small children. RFID has been billed as a “proven technology,” but what’s actually been proven time and again (PDF) since the ACLU first looked at this issue in 2005 is just how insecure RFID chips can be:

“RFID chips in US passport cards were cracked and copied from a distance of 30-feet using $250 in parts bought from eBay (2009).

“RFID chips used in building access cards across the country were cracked and copied with a handheld device the size of a standard cell phone that was built using spare parts costing $20 (2007).

“California State Capitol RFID-based identification cards were cracked and copied and access was gained to member-only, secure entrances (2006).

“RFID chips implanted in humans were cracked and copied (PDF) (2006).

“The RFID chips used in the Dutch and British e-passport were cracked (PDF) (2006).

“Without real security, RFID chips could actually make preschoolers more vulnerable to tracking, stalking, and kidnapping….”