Monday, March 24, 2008

RFID enabled e-Passports

The future of America scares me. Why? Because technology is allowing "Big Brother" to become more of a reality as each day passes. Governments are power and money hungry conglomerates. What government wouldn't want complete control over its people (or the world for that matter with America)? And even if the collective governmental society "has your best interests in mind," there will still be those who will be willing to abuse power for their own nefarious gain. Enemy of the State could one day be your reality.

Radio Frequency IDentification (RFID) chips are leading the revolution for personal spying. They are now really cheap to produce and can be easily hidden anywhere. These chips can be used for tracking people or items, as Wal-Mart does for all of their inventory.

For a government to have complete power, the second-to-last step would be knowing where you are at all times (being able to control you would be the absolute last step). When RFID enabled National Real ID cards come into existence, that step will be complete. Usually changes come in small waves, however. Governments want to make changes slowly so that you barely notice the taking away of your privacy, rights and liberties. This is known as the Foot-in-the-Door Technique. Also, here in America, the people acquiesce when the word "terrorist" is used somewhere in the propaganda literature, so one can expect more of those citations.

So here comes the new e-Passport. The new e-Passport, issued since Jan 2007, includes a RFID chip that essentially broadcasts your personal information up to 200 feet, given the proper equipment. The government claims that it added RFID in order to make it harder for one to make counterfeit passports, but then why not replace the broadcasting RFID chip with a smart-chip that requires a contact plate to physically touch a machine reader? Or they could have used a 2D optical bar code for extra verification.

As an American, you should be concerned about having a RFID chip in your passport. It is just not safe to run around broadcasting information especially in foreign lands. Someone can pinpoint you out of a crowd as an American. This makes you a target for kidnapping or an explosive device. It is not difficult to build a skimmer as some have done it for under $50. The government originally wasn't even going to include "security features," such as encryption, on the original design until some security groups raised concerns. I put that in quotes because those security features aren't even that that secure, as hackers have already cracked them.

Take the radio shield for instance. It must be completely closed for it to be effective, but have you ever even seen a passport that closed all the way? When mine arrived brand new, it would open about an inch. Unless the average American deliberately takes steps to keep it closed all the time, the "shield" is effectively nullified as shown in numerous YouTube videos. Most Americans probably aren't even aware that the microchip is embedded in their passport and will probably just throw it into their backpack or pocket where it will be exposed in its vulnerable state. And anyway, does it really make sense to include a transmitter and then add "protection" against transmitting? This is like adding bricks to the trunk of a corvette. "Earth to [the] State Department: if you're going to manually scan our passports, why bother using RFID?", says the author of I think he raises a good point.

I'm a huge privacy activist. I don't want people knowing who I am, where I am, or even what I am. I could be a giant meat popsicle and I wouldn't want you to know. I don't even like the fact that the government will scan my passport through their system and inquire as to what I was doing there. As far as I'm concerned, what I do and where I go is none of your business! If I don't have a block of C4 in my luggage, f*** off!

Let's face it, governments and private corporations alike are very bad with security of personal information (e.g lots of laptops containing this sensitive material get lost or stolen). And since the government is so concerned about the security of your information, apparently all it takes is a low level contractor to dig up your business. That's cute.

The good news is that if the RFID chip suddenly stops working, the passport is still a valid worldwide travel document.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

If you live in a border state (such as Washington or Arizona), you will see that there is a push to put these into driver's licenses if you want to be able to use a driver's license to cross an international border. This is supposed to be voluntary (Washington is the only state that has this up and running), and you could choose to keep an "ordinary" license if you want to. However, under REAL ID, the REAL ID final rules clearly state that DHS is permanently in charge of all technology choices for drivers licenses going forward. The fact that they have chosen 2d barcodes for now should therefore not be taken as truly final. If REAL ID is not overturned, DHS will push for RFID in drivers licenses as standard operating procedure.