Climbing into his Volvo, outfitted with a Matrics antenna and a Motorola reader he’d bought on eBay for $190, Chris Paget cruised the streets of San Francisco with this objective: To read the identity cards of strangers, wirelessly, without ever leaving his car.
It took him 20 minutes to strike hacker’s gold.
Zipping past Fisherman’s Wharf, his scanner downloaded to his laptop the unique serial numbers of two pedestrians’ electronic U.S. passport cards embedded with radio frequency identification, or RFID, tags. Within an hour, he’d “skimmed” four more of the new, microchipped PASS cards from a distance of 20 feet.
“Little Brother,” some are already calling it – even though elements of the global surveillance web they warn against exist only on drawing boards, neither available nor approved for use.
Putting a traceable RFID in every pocket has the potential to make everybody a blip on someone’s radar screen, critics say, and to redefine Orwellian government snooping for the digital age.
But with advances in tracking technologies coming at an ever-faster rate, critics say, it won’t be long before governments could be able to identify and track anyone in real time, 24-7, from a cafe in Paris to the shores of California.
ID theft combined with total loss of privacy. Marvelous. I think most people who saw the movie “Minority Report” have probably forgotten the plot by now but I bet if you asked, they will remember the scene in the shopping mall where retinal scanners recognized everyone walking into a store, announced a personalized greeting and suggested products. That was pretty profound when the movie came out. Nowadays it’s much closer to reality. The movie was set in the ‘mid 21st century’. It looks like we are ahead of schedule.