Privacy Concerns Dog RFID Chips

By Peter Coffee  |  Posted 2004-04-19 Print this article Print

Passive tagging chips could be easily hidden and difficult to detect without RFID hardware.

During a briefing on RFID tags at Sun Microsystems Menlo Park, Calif., facility late last month, Director of Advanced Development Juan Carlos Soto passed around a vial containing 150 nearly microscopic tagging chips, barely visible as sandlike grains on the bottom of the container.

These are, of course, the passive type of radio-frequency identification tags, readable only at short distances determined by the combination of an attached antennas size and by the power and complexity of the interrogating reader equipment. But with thin-film antennas, these tags are clearly capable of being concealed in a wide range of products with no means of being detected by customers lacking their own RFID hardware.

Read eWEEK Labs analysis of RFID here.
At the end of the briefing, Soto asked, "Does anyone have my vial?"

"Cant you track it?" asked a voice that sounded suspiciously like mine.

For those concerned about the privacy issues of identifiable objects, though, the technology is no joking matter.

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Peter Coffee is Director of Platform Research at, where he serves as a liaison with the developer community to define the opportunity and clarify developers' technical requirements on the company's evolving Apex Platform. Peter previously spent 18 years with eWEEK (formerly PC Week), the national news magazine of enterprise technology practice, where he reviewed software development tools and methods and wrote regular columns on emerging technologies and professional community issues.Before he began writing full-time in 1989, Peter spent eleven years in technical and management positions at Exxon and The Aerospace Corporation, including management of the latter company's first desktop computing planning team and applied research in applications of artificial intelligence techniques. He holds an engineering degree from MIT and an MBA from Pepperdine University, he has held teaching appointments in computer science, business analytics and information systems management at Pepperdine, UCLA, and Chapman College.

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