Spychips in Passports May be Just the Start
Mon Aug 21, 2006 19:08

August 14, 2006

Spychips in Passports May be Just the Start, Warn Privacy Advocates

RFID-laced passports may be just the start of an Orwellian airport experience, warn privacy advocates and authors Katherine Albrecht and Liz McIntyre as the nation braces for a rollout of the controversial technology in passports this week.

They point to a U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) concept video created by CompEx Inc. that shows how citizens can be tracked and monitored throughout an airport terminal — without their knowledge or consent.

The animated flash clip is posted on the authors' website at:

In the video, citizen "Bob" is remotely identified and tracked via Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) devices as he enters an airport and navigates to his gate. The video ends with chilling frames of a government agent surreptitiously scanning Bob and his belongings as he sits in the waiting area.

CompEx Inc. President Aram Kovach, who developed the film as a demo for the TSA, received a U.S. Patent for the idea he calls "Method for Tracking and Processing Passengers and their Transported Articles" in November of 2005. According to company press releases, TSA officials entertained his ideas twice, once in 2002 and once in 2003, and "offered to direct CompEx in pursuing a segmented objective within the guidelines they have set forth."

"This footage raises the specter of Soviet-style government surveillance creeping onto our free soil," said McIntyre. "People need to know that our government has actively considered these disturbing and invasive RFID concepts. With RFID now appearing in our passports, the threat to our privacy and civil liberties may be more than theoretical."

"RFID passports will do little to keep us safer," Albrecht added. "On the contrary, by requiring us to carry RFID tags in our travel documents, the government is jeopardizing our personal information while doing little to slow down the bad guys."

The new passports are vulnerable to hacking and cloning by criminals. Last week at the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas, German researcher Lukas Grunwald showed how easily a criminal or terrorist could clone RFID tags like those in U.S. passports using inexpensive and readily available hardware.


Liz McIntyre and Katherine Albrecht are the authors of "Spychips: How Major Corporations Plan to Track your Every Move with RFID." The book draws on patent documents, corporate source materials, conference proceedings, and firsthand interviews to paint a convincing — and frightening — picture of the consumer privacy threat posed by RFID.

Despite its hundreds of footnotes and academic-level accuracy, the book remains lively and readable according to critics, who have called it a "techno-thriller" and "a masterpiece of technocriticism."

Two days prior to its release in 2005, "Spychips" flew the top of the Amazon bestseller charts, hitting number one as a "Mover & Shaker," making its way to the top-ten Nonfiction bestseller list, and spending weeks as a Current Events bestseller. In a nod to the book's focus on freedom, Spychips was awarded the prestigious Lysander Spooner Award for Advancing the Literature of Liberty and named "the year's best book on liberty."


George Orwell's 1984


3/16/06 George Noory, Coast to Coast
Govt. Tracking: RFID & NAIS
Consumer privacy expert Katherine Albrecht, joined by activists Pat Showalter and Celeste Bishop in hour two, spoke out against the National Animal Identification System (NAIS), a USDA plan to track farm animals using RFID chips. Showalter and Bishop, who both own animals in a small scale, non-commercial capacity, said the new regulations are very burdensome for small farmers. For instance, the "Premises Identification" part of the plan requires owners to report any movements or visitors of the animals, even in the case of a few chickens and goats. The cost and time for such monitoring is prohibitive and also an invasion of their privacy, they argued.
Technology is being used to clamp down and control food in general, said Albrecht, who compared the NAIS plan to the tracking done with grocery loyalty cards, and the efforts to restrict farmers' rights to seeds. In regards to the NAIS, she hoped that small farmers will refuse to comply with the plan, as she believes it does nothing to make the food supply safer (the stated goal of the program), and it discourages self-sufficiency.
Further, the RFID chips, used to track the animals, and recently introduced in passports, are susceptible to hackers who can infect large databases with malicious viruses, she pointed out. The bigger picture is that the government is seeking a top down control of the populace on a global level, and there is "a move afoot to number everything and everyone," said Albrecht. However, she finds that US citizens are more prone to resisting these efforts than Europeans, and that the NAIS may be the issue that wakes people up.
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05/19/06 Coast to Coast with George Noory re: Katherine Albrecht RFID Spy Chips
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