Volume 24, Number 04, Summer, 2006


RFID tags, spychips, and the myth of “the mark”

By Tamara Wilhite

Are RFID chips like “Digital Angel” and “Verichip” going to mutate into the mark as many saw in The Omen? Before we visualize our fears of what could be, let’s take a look at what RFID chips actually are.

RFID stands for Radio Frequency Identification. This term is used for any system that allows you to identify an object based on a radio frequency system. This can be anything from the toll tag for your car or an inventory tag on a tube of toothpaste.

There are two kinds of RFID systems, active and passive. If they are powered by the light beam, then they are passive. If the LCD is modulated by a chip with a battery, then they are active.

When you have to power it up, range is more limited, but cost is much less.

Uses include electronic tolltags for cars, theft resistance tags in items in stores—or Verichips in people. It is this use in people that raises the “Mark of the Beast” fears of Revelations in the Bible. The greatest privacy concern RFID chips are raising is in tracking individuals.

RFID chips can be coded to contain personal information. It’s essentially a bar code turned into a digital data string.

The “verichip” makers want us all to have chips that have a personal identification code—a barcode embedded in the implanted RFID chip. The greatest likely future use that is being pushed is to have the RFID chips hold a medical ID number tied to your records in a central database. And a centrally accessible database of our medical records is a violation of our security concerns. Name, address, social security number, along with potentially embarrassing medical. 300 million peoples’ information, including information valuable to ID theft, blackmail, and pranksters.

I had personal concerns when a typographical error in someone’s database listed my blood type as type O. I’m A. However, I’d had a moderate medical reaction after a surgery. If the case had been reverse, and the database said I was O and I had received type A blood, the mistake could have been fatal. What happens when 100,000 medical staff can enter information into the database? And any hackers who’d think it’s funny to make a million people think they have AIDS or an angry ex-spouse who hires a hacker to delete a fatal drug allergy from the database.

If RFID chips ever did become a replacement for credit cards and debit cards and the government tried to outlaw cash so they could track our purchases, we’ll simply see the black market of goods and underground labor start dealing in pesos or Canadian cash. Hence, “mark of the beast to make us unable to do business” is not what we should be worried about.

Put everyone’s medical records in a single database so that RFID chips can be used as a medical record barcode, and our private public records become that much more vulnerable. That is the reason RFID chips should cause us worry.

All trademarks and copyrights property of their owners.
Creative Commons License
Prometheus, the newsletter of the Libertarian Futurists Society, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.