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Rena Tangens

Privacy Gadget against RFID spychips and scanners

"I don't care!" and "I have nothing to hide!" are common excuses of those who ignore or condone the violation of their fundamental civil right of privacy. But how would you know in advance what you don't want others to know in the future? Most people seem to consider their shopping habits to be pretty harmless. Until they don't get a health insurance any more (your shopping record shows you bought cheap British beef 12 years ago) or until they get a search warrant as potential terrorists (why the hell did you buy icing sugar, an alarm clock and garden fertilizer in different stores, but with your Payback customer card?).

RFID chips ("radio frequency identification" - a chip with antenna, each with a unique serial number) add a new dimension to tracking, tracing, surveillance and manipulation. With an RFID tagged customer card for example not only your shopping history is recorded -- it can also provide a profile of your interests, as it always tells where you are, which shelf you lingered around at for some time, even when you did not buy anything. And your customer card can be tracked in your purse without you even noticing - and whereever you go.

Science Fiction? No, already yesterday, at Metro's "Future Store" in
Rheinberg: The world's fifth largest retailer (in Germany Metro owns Kaufhof, real, Extra, Praktiker, Saturn and Mediamarkt) did not only test RFID chips on item level on some products in this supermarket, but they also had their customers as guinea pigs for RFID chips hidden in their Payback customer card -- without any notice. Until FoeBuD unveiled the spychip in the Future Store card in early February and published it -- Metro drew back, forced to exchange 10.000 cards.

But the RFID Lobby still dreams of a world where "objects want to communicate", labour is replaced by technology and customer specific marketing is able to give different prices to different people depending on customer segmentation. And the Minister of the Interior dreams of biometric data stored on RFID chips in passports.

The "DataPrivatizer" is a FoeBuD project which aims at giving the power of action back to citizens and making resistance fun. It is a small eletronic device designed to detect hidden RFID chips and RFID scanners. With this project FoeBuD won the idea contest of Stiftung bridge (citizens rights in the digital society) in 2003.

At WOS3 I will present a prototype of the DataPrivatizer and talk about some background of the stopRFID campaign.

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