Catherine Albrecht answers questions about RFID

html Frequently Asked Questions About RFID

Q. What is RFID? A. Radio Frequency IDentification is an automatic data capture technology that uses tiny tracking chips affix chips can be used to track items at a distance--right through someone's purse, backpack, or wallet. Many of th manufacturing companies would like to replace the bar code with these "spy chips," meaning that virtually ev people wearing and carrying those items--could be remotely tracked. There is currently NO REGULATION p abuse of this technology. >> Learn More about RFID

Q. What do RFID chips and tags look like? A. RFID chips are usually attached to antennas. The chip and antenna combination is called a "tag." RFID tag and color. We have pictures of several of these chips online: Click here for images of RFID tags Click here for images of an RFID tag used in a Gillette Mach 3 Razor package

Q. What companies make or use RFID devices? A. We have a list of 103 companies that were sponsors of the MIT Auto-ID Center as of June 25, 2003. The M organization that developed the infrastructure for RFID with the help of global businesses like Gillette, Unile expect that these companies will be among the first to adopt the technology.

Q: How can I tell if there's an RFID chip in my ____? A: Since no law requires manufacturers to tell you when they've put an RFID chip into a product or its packa average consumer to know if a product contains a chip is to see it with his or her own eyes. (Or you can inves costly RFID readers.) The good news is that most RFID devices in commercial use today have a fairly consp the size of a fingernail to the size of a full-sized sheet of paper. If you suspect that an item contains a hidden R search tips: Look closely at any paper labels or stickers on the object. Peel them off and hold them up to the l metallic lines converging on a central point? If so, you may be looking at the antenna of an RFID chip. The le RFID chips in shoes is to pull back the inner pads and look around or have the shoes X-rayed. The problem w be embedded in plastic, foam, rubber or other materials at the manufacturing plant. Short of destroying the sh would be hard to find deeply embedded chips. We are still researching the use of RFID chips in shoes to dete chipping. (See the Q & A on shoes below for more information.) If the item is made of cardboard, first scan i clear, flat plastic housing the size of a match head stuck anywhere onto the cardboard? If so, is it hooked up t matte grey spray-on ink? If so, you are most likely looking at an RFID tag. Pull the cardboard layers apart an embedded inside. It is rumored that International Paper, an Auto-ID Center sponsor that makes packages for c things, may be devising ways to embed RFID tags directly into paper and cardboard packaging. If you have a (say, if you're a veterinarian or a chiropractor) you can X-ray the item to see if it contains an RFID tag. Since based, you should be able to spot an RFID tag in this way.* Again, you are looking for an antenna converging you find something unusual and would like us to take a look, drop us an email. *Note that some highly advan academic research chips do not have a "tell-tale antenna" since they combine the antenna within the chip itse small they would be nearly impossible to find.

Q: What do I do if I find an RFID chip? Can I kill or disable it? A: You can disable a chip for all practical purposes by disconnecting it from its antenna. It is usually pretty ob located in an RFID tag (all the antennas will run to it). Once you find the tiny black square you can use a pair

off. To ensure that the tiny chip cannot later be read (assuming anyone could even find a device so small), yo straight pin, crush it, or pulverize it. (Note: While burning or microwaving can destroy a chip, we do not reco of fire risk. See the Q & A below.) Do not try to "drown" it, since water does not generally destroy RFID chip chip will not work, either.

Q: Can I microwave products to kill any hidden RFID tags they might contain? A: While microwaving an RFID tag will destroy it (a microwave emits high frequency electromagnetic energ eventually blowing out the chip), there is a good chance the the tag will burst into flames first. The difficulty chip is one reason we need legislation making it illegal to hide a chip in an item in the first place.

Q: Are there some products that can't be RFID chipped? A: Items containing LIQUID or METAL are especially hard to chip. Liquids tend to absorb the electromagne chip, while metal tends to reflect it and bounce it around in unpredictable ways. Both problems can cause inte sent by a chip to the reader. These bugs are still being worked on. You can use this information about metal to store recently remodeled, replacing traditional metal shelving with new-fangled plastic shelves, to prevent int transmission?

Q: Will a magnet erase an RFID chip? A: No, the chips are not magnetically encoded. Running a magnet over the chip or using a tape eraser will no

Q: Can chips in clothing survive the washer and dryer? A: Yes. Many RFID tags are designed to withstand years of normal wear and tear, including washing and dry least one uniform rental company that uses RFID chips to keep track of its inventory. The chips hold up unde commercial washings.

Q: Is it true there are plans to put RFID chips in Euro banknotes? A: Hitachi has been working with the European Central Bank on the idea of putting RFID chips into Euro ba the anonymity of cash by making it trackable. In essence, it would "register" your cash to you when you get i of the ATM. Euro banknotes could be RFID tagged as early as 2005. See: "Euro Notes May be Radio Tagged,,t295-s2135074,00.html for details. Q: Does U.S. currency contain RFID chips? A: To the best of our knowledge, US currency does NOT currently contain RFID chips.

Q: What's the read range of these chips? Can they be tracked by satellite? A: There are two types of tags: "passive" (no independent power source) and "active" (containing a battery or on a number of factors (antenna size, RF frequency, environmental conditions etc.) a passive tag can have a r to 40 feet. Active tags can have a read range of miles or more. Most tags being considered for use in consume

Q: Is CASPIAN aware of any RFID tags in shoes? A: We are aware of at least one company that uses embedded RFID technology in shoes for security purposes company, the RFID labels they use do not contain unique product information. Rather, the RFID labels repor alarm if a consumer leaves the store without paying for the shoes. (Note that at a June 2003 RFID conference displayed a Wal-Mart Athletic Works® running shoe with an Alien RFID tag inserted under the insole. Alien display purposes only and that there were no planned/current trials or applications in those shoes. However, t

the conference over the possibilities for RFID chips in shoes. Their stated reason for wanting to chip shoes w and match pairs. In our opinion, pervasive RFID chipping of shoes will become a frightening reality unless w not buy products with chips!) WHAT IS RFID? RFID stands for Radio Frequency IDentification, a technology that uses tiny computer chips smaller than a grain of sand to track items at a distance. RFID "spy chips" have been hidden in the packaging of Gillette razor products and in other products you might buy at a local Wal-Mart, Target, or Tesco - and they are already being used to spy on people. Each tiny chip is hooked up to an antenna that picks up electromagnetic energy beamed at it from a reader device. When it picks up the energy, the chip sends back its unique identification number to the reader device, allowing the item to be remotely identified. Spy chips can beam back information anywhere from a couple of inches to up to 20 or 30 feet away. Shown at left is a magnified image of actual tag found in Gillette Mach3 razor blades. Note: The chip appears as the tiny black square component. The coil of wires surrounding the chip is the antenna, which transmits your information to a reader device, which can be located anywhere!

Photo: © Liz McIntyre 2003

Some of the world's largest product manufacturers have been plotting behind closed doors since 1999 to develop and commercialize this technology. If they are not opposed, their plan is to use these remote-readable spy chips to replace the bar code. RFID tags are NOT an "improved bar code" as the proponents of the technology would like you to believe. RFID technology differs from bar codes in three important ways: 1. With today's bar code technology, every can of Coke has the same UPC or bar code number as every other can (a can of Coke in Toronto has the same number as a can of Coke in Topeka). With RFID, each individual can of Coke would have a unique ID number which could be linked to the person buying it when they scan a credit card or a frequent shopper card (i.e., an "item registration system"). 2. Unlike a bar code, these chips can be read from a distance, right through your clothes, wallet, backpack or purse -- without your knowledge or consent -- by anybody with the

right reader device. In a way, it gives strangers x-ray vision powers to spy on you, to identify both you and the things you're wearing and carrying. 3. Unlike the bar code, RFID could be bad for your health. RFID supporters envision a world where RFID reader devices are everywhere - in stores, in floors, in doorways, on airplanes -- even in the refrigerators and medicine cabinets of our own homes. In such a world, we and our children would be continually bombarded with electromagnetic energy. Researchers do not know the long-term health effects of chronic exposure to the energy emitted by these reader devices. Many huge corporations, including Philip Morris, Procter and Gamble, and Wal-Mart, have begun experimenting with RFID spy chip technology. Gillette is leading the pack, and recently placed an order for up to 500 million RFID tags from a company called "Alien Technology" (we kid you not). These big companies envision a day when every single product on the face of the planet is tracked with RFID spy chips! As consumers we have no way of knowing which packages contain these chips. While some chips are visible inside a package (see our pictures of Gillette spy chips), RFID chips can be well hidden. For example they can be sewn into the seams of clothes, sandwiched between layers of cardboard, molded into plastic or rubber, and integrated into consumer package design. This technology is rapidly evolving and becoming more sophisticated. Now RFID spy chips can even be printed, meaning the dot on a printed letter "i" could be used to track you. In addition, the tell-tale copper antennas commonly seen attached to RFID chips can now be printed with conductive ink, making them nearly imperceptible. Companies are even experimenting with making the product packages themselves serve as antennas. As you can see, it could soon be virtually impossible for a consumer to know whether a product or package contains an RFID spy chip. For this reason, CASPIAN (the creator of this web site) is proposing federal labeling legislation, the RFID Right to Know Act, which would require complete disclosures on any consumer products containing RFID devices. We believe the public has an absolute right to know when they are interacting with technology that could affect their health and privacy. Don't you? Join us. Let's fight this battle before big corporations track our every move. Fight Back!

For additional information, see "RFID: Tracking Everything Everywhere", an excerpt from an article by CASPIAN founder Katherine Albrecht, Ed.M. that appeared in the Summer 2002 issue of the Denver University Law Review. CASPIAN Special Report, October 19, 2004

FDA Letter Raises Questions about VeriChip Safety, Data Security

FDA letter to the Digital Angel Corporation spells out potential health risks associated with the VeriChip ID implant device. Click here to download a PDF of the full letter. (For the passage above, see page 3, paragraph 2.)

Think it's completely safe to inject an RFID transponder into your flesh? Think 
again. Although the FDA approved the VeriChip implant last week, their approval does  not mean the device is completely safe, according to an FDA letter CASPIAN has  obtained.   The   letter,   dated   October   12,   2004,   was   sent   to   Digital   Angel  Corporation and outlines a number of potential health risks associated with the  device. Among the potential problems the FDA identifies are: "adverse tissue reaction," "migration of the implanted transponder," "failure of implanted transponder," "electrical hazards" and "magnetic resonance imaging [MRI] incompatibilty." Not to mention the nasty needle stick from the "inserter" used to inject it. (The FDA lists "failure of inserter" -- a bloody possiblity we'd rather not contemplate -- among the risks.) To read the FDA's letter for yourself,  download the PDF  and refer to Page 3,  Paragraph   2.   Of the numerous risks listed, MRI incompatibility is perhaps the most serious. An 

MRI machine uses powerful magnetic fields coupled with pulsed radio frequency (RF) fields.  According to the FDA's Primer on Medical Device Interactions with Magnetic Resonance Imaging Systems, "electrical currents may be induced in conductive metal implants" that can cause "potentially severe patient burns."   Presumably, VeriChip­MRI incompatibility means that doctors will be unable to  order this potentially life­saving diagnostic procedure for patients with VeriChip  implants,   unless   the   patient   undergoes   a   surgical   procedure   to   remove   the  VeriChip first. 

In addition to health  risks, the FDA's letter  identifies "compromised  data security" as one of  the concerns associated  with the VeriChip. It  appears that not only  could someone use a  reader device to capture  the information from an  implanted VeriChip, but  they could use that  information to create a  cloned chip with the  same functionality. (Of  course, criminals lacking  RF engineering skills  might be tempted to take  a more direct route and  simply gouge the device out of their victims' arms instead.) If that's not enough to convince you to "say no" to the VeriChip, how about  knowing your VeriChip implant can be read whenever you pass through a  doorway equipped with a special  VeriChip "portal scanner"?  The image at right comes from a company called "Find Me, LLC," a value­added  reseller of VeriChip technology based in Louisiana. The company also sells a  handheld reader, which presumably anyone can use to read VeriChip data. That's quite a lot of potential harm for something supposedly designed to help   patients. 

If you're looking for a secure, non­invasive way to alert medical professionals to  your health history, we recommend the MedicAlert bracelet as a safe alternative 

to the VeriChip. Given the MedicAlert's 48­year track record, all emergency  health providers know to look for it. It costs far less and has none of the serious  health risks associated with an implanted computer chip. 

Katherine Albrecht - CASPIAN Founder Katherine Albrecht, Ed.D. (Pronounced ALL-breckt) Founder and Director, CASPIAN Consumer Advocacy (Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering) Doctorate in Education, Harvard University telephone e-mail 877-287-5854 kma(at/@)

(click here for a French-translated version) Dr. Katherine Albrecht is the director of CASPIAN (Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering), an organization she founded in 1999 to advocate freemarket, consumer-based solutions to the problem of retail privacy invasion. Katherine is widely recognized as one of the world's leading experts on consumer privacy. She regularly speaks on the consumer privacy and civil liberties impacts of new technologies, with an emphasis on RFID and retail issues. She has testified on RFID technology before the Federal Trade Commission, state legislatures, the European Commission, and the Federal Reserve Bank, and she has given over a thousand television, radio and print interviews to news outlets all over the world. Her efforts have been featured on CNN, NPR, the CBS Evening News, Business Week, and the London Times, to name just a few. Executive Technology Magazine has called Katherine "perhaps the country's single most vocal privacy advocate" and Wired magazine calls her the "Erin Brockovich" of RFID". Her success exposing corporate misdeeds has earned her accolades from Advertising Age and Business Week and caused pundits to label her a PR genius. Katherine is co-author of "Spychips: How Major Corporations Plan to Track your Every Move with RFID." Two days prior to its release, Spychips flew the top of the Amazon bestseller charts, hitting number one as a "Mover & Shaker," making its way to the topten nonfiction bestseller list, and spending weeks as a Current Events bestseller. Within

its first four weeks alone, the book sold thousands of copies, and the journalistic and privacy communities called it "brilliantly written," "stunningly powerful," and "scathing." In a nod to the book's focus on freedom, Spychips was awarded the prestigious Lysander Spooner Award for Advancing the Literature of Liberty and named "the best book on liberty" for 2005. Katherine is a highly sought-after public speaker, informing audiences across Europe and North America with her well-researched, compelling, and often chilling accounts of how retail surveillance technology threatens our privacy. She is a frequent guest on radio programs worldwide, logging over 500 hours of airtime with her proven ability to entertain an audience and generate listener calls. Katherine graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration with a concentration in International Marketing. She holds a Doctorate in Education from Harvard University with a research focus in consumer education, privacy and psychology.

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