Radio-frequency I.D. (RFID) tags are a convenient way to track items and cut costs for companies. But this technology is increasingly being used to track other things, like security badges — or even people — giving it the potential to cause a horrific erosion of privacy. Tracking people with smart tags, their shopping preferences, their activities, and their personal belongings sounds like something from a sci-fi thriller. But If you got your panties in a twist over Walmart's decision to track your undies via RFID smart tags, then you'll be doublely concerned at how close we are to cradle-to-grave surveillance.
But the idea is far from dead. How about if governments started using RFID to issue automated ticket violations? As part of a project called ASSET-Road, VTT Technical Research Center in Finland, has developed RFID license plate tracking. The project began in 2008 and will wrap in June, 2011. VTT attempts to detect traffic congestion but it also achieved the goal of “traffic violations detected in a flash.” And then Arizona-based camera vendor American Traffic Solutions (ATS) expanded upon that RFID technology by developing automated tailgating tickets as a feature that can soon be added to existing speed camera programs. Now add in this bit of info: There are also drivers licenses that "come equipped with radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags that can be read right through a wallet, pocket or purse from as far away as 30 feet."
Along similar lines is a company using RFID to track employees. An Indian company, Unity Infraprojects, uses RFID employee tags to keep track of so-called "ghost workers." The only way an employee gets paid is by a combination of RFID evidence and physical presence to collect daily payment.
A new RFID product, "guarantees that RFID will follow you straight to your grave." The palm-size stone tablet has an RFID tag that talks with mobile phones to direct users to an Internet memorial archive. And such uses for RFID are only the tip of the iceberg. Thing Magic, a company that builds embedded RFID readers, recently launched 100 Uses of RFID.
Location-aware apps are scary enough, based on GPS with the broad range they offer. But for the most part you still have to sign up for those. RFID is being implemented all around you. It has slowly been moving to mainstream. It can track infants to senior citizens with Alzheimer’s. In between it can track your clothes, your purchases, your car — even you. RFID is on the verge of tracking us all, cradle to the grave.