Skip to: [ search ] [ menus ] [ content ] Select style [ Aqua ] [ Citrus ] [ Fire ] [ Orange ] [ show/hide more content ]

I left my passport RFID in San Francisco…

No. Not me personally…, but TWO of YOU did.

I had to laugh when I read the title of a CNN SciTechBlog, “RFID freaks me right out.” RFID has been freaking me right out for years, and I am a pretty “technological kinda guy.” I have had RFID techology embedded in my company ID tag at a few companies and been tracked around with it. I am glad that some other folks are “freaked right out,” too!

You can read about RFID (Radio-frequency identification), its history, its current (Is YOUR pet “chipped?”) and potential uses, its problems and concerns, and its controversies in this Wikipedia article.

The CNN SciTechBlog article references both the U.S. Department of State‘s FAQ (frequently asked questions) about Electronic Passports and a link to a Gizmodo video of a Volvo-driving “geek,” (don’t get me wrong, I LIKE geeks) Chris Paget, who harvested two passport IDs out of the air while driving through San Francisco. The new generation of U.S. passports are electronic, and broadcast radio signals with certain information. Chris merely rigged a $250 RFID reader comprised of a Symbol XR400 RFID reader and a Motorola AN400 patch antenna, and then he used the rig to harvest the two passport IDs in a 20-minute ride through San Francisco. The rig has a range of about 30 feet, which turns out to be “enough.” Conceivably, passport IDs thus harvested could be used to create cloned documents.

Another Gizmodo article mentions that tampering with a passport (through, for example, smashing the RFID chip with a hammer) is punishable by up to 25 years in prison. Yet another Gizmodo article talks about Faraday Cage wallets for blocking RFID transmissions from passports and possibly future driver’s licenses.

RFID chips are a fact of life. Their mass production and low cost means that they will find many uses. One former CEO of mine, who contended that we have no privacy left anyway, strongly supported their use. I am not quite so ready to “throw in the towel.”

RFID technology is one of those “two-edged sword” technologies that can be used for good or for evil. It is also a technology for which BOTH of the two common arguments for eroding our liberties… safety AND convenience… can be used very easily.

(Note added February 20, 2009: In the “let’s-protect-a-flawed-technological-implementation-with-laws department,” :-) we find SB 125 in the Nevada legislature, which “would make it a Class 3 felony to possess, read, or capture another person’s personal identifying information through RFID, subject to up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.” California’s recently enacted anti-skimming law, SB 31, protects researchers. It looks like RFID is shaping up to be a battle between chip manufacturers [and governments] and the people who actually obey laws, rather than the criminals and terrorists who do not.)

-Bill at Cheshire Cat Photo™

You can view higher-resolution photos (*generally* 7-30 megabytes, compressed) at the Cheshire Cat Photo™ Pro Gallery on Shutterfly™, where you can also order prints and gifts decorated with the photos of your choice from the gallery. Apparel and other gifts decorated with some of our most popular photos can be ordered from the Cheshire Cat Photo™ Store on CafePress®. Both Shutterfly™ and CafePress® ship to most international locations worldwide! If you don’t see what you want or would like to receive an email when new photos are up on the site, send us an email at

No Comments to “I left my passport RFID in San Francisco…”

  (RSS feed for these comments)

You must be logged in to post a comment.

InspectorWordpress has prevented 52153 attacks.
Get Adobe Flash player