Saturday, July 11, 2009

Privacy and RFID Chips

In a way I am a very paradoxical person. I love Internet access, I love being able to receive email and browse sites anywhere using my "smartphone" (either a Palm Treo or Blackberry, so far), I think it's wonderful. I also highly support the rights of candid/street photographers to photograph public life, without asking those around if it's okay, because of 1st amendment issues and because candid/street photography only captures the essence of life as it genuinely is when the subjects are unaware and not posed.

Yet, at the same time, I very highly value my privacy.

I have had enough bad experiences with society at large, and even the police, that Jenifer and I were, frankly, relieved to be able to move to the "boonies" as it were, away from the large city and out in the woods where we don't have the whole world meddling in our business. We can shout when fighting if we want to, when I become angry I can shout and break a drinking glass in the sink if I want to--no worries about the police showing up and refereeing it when neither of us want the government involved in private family matters. That's just the way we like it.

Personally, I don't think of our country in the same post 9/11 regard many others do, including fellow conservatives. This may be a key area where I'm more liberetarian than conservative--I am appreciative that no new attacks have occurred in our nation since 9-11-2001, but I do not agree with warrantless wiretapping, NSA, "data-mining," or any of that type of civilian surveillance to achieve it. I don't for one minute think that September 11th 2001 instantly made invalid my privacy concerns, or anyone else's either. I think airport security, school campus security, and the like have all gone completely overboard.

Anyone that thinks my stance is lunacy in light of such acts as the Virginia Tech massacre don't know their history: the worst school disaster in history actually occurred in 1927, go here1 to read all about it. Yes, before we had Internet, digital photography, violence in the movies, and 9-11 itself, school violence was taking place--in 1927 (before the Great Depression, too). That revelation is astounding to me, and really drives home the point--all this rush to squash people's liberty and privacy for the sake of safety under the premise of "9-11 changed everything" is brought on by people operating in pure ignorance of history and the proper perspective of it.

Some 3-4 years ago, I read about RFID tags in Consumer Reports, and then I read this article2 today, which served to remind me of just what is at stake here with RFID tags.

RFID tags are chips that contain unique information about a person and transmit this information wirelessly to detectors that can acquire this information. RFID tags commonly exist in clothing and other items, mainly for the purposes of allowing easier inventory tracking. However, RFID tags can sometimes be found in driver's licenses and other sensitive documentes as well--including credit cards (commonly called "PASS").

In theory, this actually would allow individuals to be tracked, 24-7, anywhere they're at.

This ought to scare the pants off of anyone.

While I love computers, Blackberries and Internet where it allows you to use such sites as Wikipedia and Yahoo! to search for information on a certain topic and acquire it quickly, I dislike it just as much when it prevents a person from being able to live their life without it being an open book. For example, I personally think someone should be able to, if they move from one state to another, be able to do so without their past following them and preventing them a chance to "start fresh"--so long as they're not a serial killer, obviously. Trouble is, databases and Internet--and now maybe RFID tags as well--make it to where you can't start over and just live life anonymously without intrusion.

A good example of this involves us and our attempts to be parents. Anyone who knows me well knows of our past struggles with child protective services (CPS). Problem is, CPS is everywhere. Take your child to the doctor with a bruised eye resulting from a baseball game, and it can turn into a full-blown investigation. Drop your child off at daycare and do so where you haven't had time to Barbie-Boll polish them to the nines (I don't mean covered head-to-toe in mud, either), and it can turn into a full-blown investigation as well.

The real problem: if you've ever encountered any such struggles, even years ago in a different location 3,000 miles away, that history will follow you and haunt you all these years and miles removed from it. It's despicable, and undermines your attempts to just parent your children free of hassle.

RFID tags really could mean yet more liberties eroded, and I have no interest in it happening. Just because 9-11 happened does not mean we should trade any of our liberties for the allusion of being more secure. The government is already too much in our business as it is anyway.


1 Bath School Disaster of 1927, source: Wikipedia
2 Chips in official IDs raise privacy fears. Yahoo!, 7-11-2009

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