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Wednesday, October 12, 2005

 

You need not be paranoid to fear RFID

`It’s one of the cutest of those cute IBM Corp. TV commercials, the ones that feature the ever-present help desk. This time, the desk appears smack in the middle of a highway, blocking the path of a big rig.

”Why are you blocking the road?” the driver asks. ”Because you’re going the wrong way,” replies the cheerful Help Desk lady. ”Your cargo told me so.” It seems the cartons inside the truck contained IBM technology that alerted the company when the driver made a wrong turn.

It’s clever, all right — and creepy. Because the technology needn’t be applied only to cases of beer. The trackers could be attached to every can of beer in the case, and allow marketers to track the boozing habits of the purchasers. Or if the cargo is clothing, those little trackers could have been stitched inside every last sweater. Then some high-tech busybody could keep those wearing them under surveillance.

If this sounds paranoid, take it up with IBM. The company filed a patent application in 2001 which contemplates using this wireless snooping technology to track people as they roam through ”shopping malls, airports, train stations, bus stations, elevators, trains, airplanes, rest rooms, sports arenas, libraries, theaters, museums, etc.” An IBM spokeswoman insisted the company isn’t really prepared to go this far. Patent applications are routinely written to include every possible use of a technology, even some the company doesn’t intend to pursue. Still, it’s clear somebody at IBM has a pretty creepy imagination.’




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