Privacy Experts Scoff at Governments Plans to Secure E-Passports - Page 2

By Lisa Vaas  |  Posted 2005-05-03 Print this article Print

"Whats bad about this?" Scannell said. "Its a completely inappropriate use of the technology. The purpose of RFID is you dont have to touch or have contact with anything. Now you have to have contact. Youre adding more time to the procedure, to make it do stuff its not meant to do." At issue is the potential for data skimming, where identity thieves carry scanners in, for example, briefcases, passing close by travelers and snatching their personal information.
Some security experts scoff at the idea of thieves wasting their time fishing for personal data in airports when there are bigger payloads available in databases.
"Im not that worried about RFID," said Pete Lindstrom, research director of Spire Security LLC. "Youre at the wrong end of the spectrum. Its on the read end. If someones going to do a [big data theft], theyll go to the database and do a massive snag." But privacy advocates classify such thinking as naïve: If it can be done, it will be done, they say. And as far as the governments acquiescence to look at data encryption, such a security practice wont help for most of the problem, said Bruce Schneier, founder and chief technology officer of Counterpane Internet Security Inc., since RFID tags require anti-collision protocols and a unique identification number. The unique ID would still be broadcast and couldnt be encrypted, lest yammering tags all talk at once and say the same thing. "The problem we worry about is tracking," Schneier said. "Its still a unique number. You can still track people but you cant identify someone." Whats wrong with that, if the unique identifier doesnt reveal personal information? They would create, in effect, a global identification number. "People get worried about national ID numbers," Scannell said. "What about an international number? Your own, unique identification number. Thats what youd end up with in the machine-readable part of the passport. A hash of the crypto thats unique and becomes a national identifier number. That would be scanned and beamed to the chip. "I think thats truly frightening," he said. "For the first time in history, together with some 40 other countries, wed have a unique identification number. You dont have to go into the mark of the beast world to find this awful." Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest database news, reviews and analysis.

Lisa Vaas is News Editor/Operations for and also serves as editor of the Database topic center. Since 1995, she has also been a Webcast news show anchorperson and a reporter covering the IT industry. She has focused on customer relationship management technology, IT salaries and careers, effects of the H1-B visa on the technology workforce, wireless technology, security, and, most recently, databases and the technologies that touch upon them. Her articles have appeared in eWEEK's print edition, on, and in the startup IT magazine PC Connection. Prior to becoming a journalist, Vaas experienced an array of eye-opening careers, including driving a cab in Boston, photographing cranky babies in shopping malls, selling cameras, typography and computer training. She stopped a hair short of finishing an M.A. in English at the University of Massachusetts in Boston. She earned a B.S. in Communications from Emerson College. She runs two open-mic reading series in Boston and currently keeps bees in her home in Mashpee, Mass.

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