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Chye

Chye Ping Xuan


Mr. Sharpe
Written Communication
5 August 2014
RFID Technology
With the advent of technology, we increasingly entrust it with imperative parts of our
daily lives and environment, such as our personal security. One such example is illustrated in
the use of RFID tags. RFID is an acronym that stands for Radio Frequency Identification.
According to Reyes, it is a form of auto-ID technology that uses radio frequencies to
identify, track, and trace an object or product (3). It was originally used in the military
during World War II, but since the early 1980s, it has been used for commercial purposes (3).
Currently it has a variety of uses, such as tracking animals, objects and people; controlling
access; and enhancing data transfer. RFID tags were used to account for the students of
Brandon Junior High School in the United Kingdom, during an evacuation (18). An example
of access control can be seen in the prevention of retail theft. An alarm would be sounded if a
product were to leave the shop prior to having its RFID tag taken out by the cashier (17). A
major financial services corporation in the U.S., JPMorgan Chase, has taken to embedding
RFID chips in its credit cards, allowing users to hold the card to the reader instead of having
to swipe it through the reader and potentially damaging the cards magnetic strip (18), thus
making it easier to transfer data. Eventual uses of this technology include substituting RFID
tags for barcodes, wireless data transfer, and identifying patients and hospital employees by
implanting tags in them (Potential Uses). As such, it can make a huge contribution to our
society with it has many effective uses. Thus it is easy to ascertain why proponents support
the use of RFID technology. However, RFID chips should be banned because it compromises
our privacy, it does not guarantee better security, and it is unethical.

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RFID tags sacrifice our human right to our own privacy in three ways. For example,
others can track individuals without their consent. This is because RFID tags allow every
object on earth to have its own unique ID (American Civil Liberties Union et al. 35). This
makes it easy to link this unique identification code to its owner, allowing others to pinpoint
the owners easily. Since RFID tags do not have to be in contact with readers to be read, tags
can have a long read-range (34). Hence individuals would not be able to determine when
their RFID tags are being read, and are tracked without their permission. Another example of
RFID tags being an invasion of our privacy is that tags and readers might be hidden,
unbeknownst to the owner. Because these chips can be as small as a grain of rice (Dimov),
they can be easily hidden by imbedding it in belongings of an individual (American Civil
Liberties Union et al. 34) without his or her consent. Materials such as fabric and plastic do
not hinder the detection of these chips, as radio waves are able to travel through them easily
(34). Thus, they are able to avoid detection by the owner of the item, who does not know that
he is being tracked. Similarly, RFID readers can be hidden by being embedded into floor
tiles, woven into carpeting and floor mats, hidden in doorways and seamlessly incorporated
into retail shelving and counters (35). Furthermore, tags do not have to be in line of sight of
readers in order to be read. Instead, they can be detected from a distance, and the possibility
of one knowing when he or she has a tag that is detected is near zero. Thus one does not
know when he or she is being tracked. A third example of our privacy being compromised is
seen in the collection of personal data in the tag. Personal information is stored in the chips,
which are vulnerable to skimming and eavesdropping (US. Department of State 60).
Skimming refers to attaining information from an individual without his permission, while
eavesdropping is attributed to intercepting data as it passes from the tag to the reader or vice
versa (60). Sensitive data can then be read by others without permission, hence there is a
huge potential for abuse. Also most tags are vulnerable to data tampering (Newitz 20).

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Many chips have memory areas that are writable (20), hence, can be easily accessed and
hacked (20). It is an obvious infringement of our privacy to have our personal information be
tampered with.
Not only do RFID tags compromise our privacy, they also do not necessarily boost
our security systems. Why is this so? As mentioned in the previous paragraph, personal
information and sensitive data can be easily intercepted and read by others. This leads to the
possibility of data being intercepted and read by terrorists who will then be able to target
specific citizens (Davis 65). Additionally, tags can be cloned by copying and uploading a
tags data onto another (Newitz 23). This will no doubt engender identity theft crimes, which
is a wholly serious issue alone. Besides making it easier to commit certain crimes, RFID
systems can be easily bypassed. According to Jamali, Cole, and Engels, one such method is
by launching a Denial of Service attack. It refers to an attack that is engineered to cause a jam
in the system by consuming the band-width of the victim network or overloading the
computational resources of the victim system (153). The results are tag confusion and reader
confusion, the two easiest methods of attacking the RFID systems (153). Another attack on
the system is termed as Code Injection, which attacks the database of the system through the
middleware software (149). One can corrupt a query operation by providing, while a query
is being assembled, a response sting containing special characters (149). This results in the
introduction of a new malicious statement in place of the original statement that will be
ignored (149). Using this method, tags can be used to launch malicious attacks on the
systems database and middleware (150). Aside from being able to bypass the system, RFID
technology might bring about more harm than good. Corporate-wise, it can lead to corporate
espionage, competitive marketing, and damage the companys infrastructure. Rival
companies are able to gather confidential data about industries through tagged objects in the
supply chain (Reyes 58). Additionally, they are able to obtain information on customers

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preferences and use the data to their advantage (58). The RFID system also makes companies
more vulnerable to new types of technological attacks that might hurt the companys
infrastructure (58). An example of a major security threat is the buffer overflow. This is an
attack on the system by storing malicious instructions in a buffer which is then overflowed to
allow an unexpected use of the process, by altering various memory sections (Jamali, Cole,
and Engels 151). As can be seen, many problems have arisen from the introduction of RFID
technology. One might think, perhaps, that RFID system will bring more harm than good to
us.
Besides not being a guaranteed improvement to our security system, the implantation
of RFID chips might not be ethical. Inserting RFID tags into individuals might even cause
physical risks to them (Sade 80). This is because the tags are small, which allows them to
move around under the skin, making it potentially hard to remove the tags. Additionally, it
may interfere with electrosurgical devices and defibrillators as it may cause electromagnetic
interference (80). These are problems that cannot be taken lightly. Furthermore, the
implantation of chips in ones body might not be voluntary. For example, President Alvaro
Uribe of Colombia told a U.S. senator that he would agree to the requirement of Colombian
citizens getting implanted with chips in order to gain entry into the United States for seasonal
work (qtd. in Foster and Jaeger 86-87). These workers would no doubt have to agree,
especially if they really need the job and money for a family back home. Thus even though
they have a choice, they would not view it as something they can refuse (87). Moreover,
having tags implanted in workers for identification draws resemblance to branding used on
slaves in the past. It contradicts our basic human right (87). In addition, implanting RFID tags
goes against Muslims and Christianity beliefs. The Bible states He (the Beast or Satan) also
forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right
hand or on his forehead, so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the

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name of the beast or the number of his name (qtd. Radio Frequency Identification Tags).
RFID tags are now approved for implantation in humans, and while it is not compulsory, it
ostensibly has many benefits that will convince individuals to accept the implantation of the
chips under their skin. Potentially, it might become compulsory for individuals to get
chipped, in order to find work, buy food, and continue their daily lives, something which
corresponds to what is stated in the bible (Radio Frequency Identification Tags). Likewise,
Muslims might not be supportive of RFID chips as it is considered a form a body
modification, which is forbidden in their religion. Adding something inside ones body feels
as though someone is forced to change themselves, something that does not feel right (Foster
and Jaeger 88). Therefore many people might view the implantataion of RFID chips in the
body as unethical.
In view of all the points that I have mentioned above, I believe that RFID technology
should be banned. There are many risks associated with this new system. As different
religions have different viewpoints about RFID technology, this could cause conflict which
will eventually lead to severe ramifications within our society. Not only does it bring about a
lot of issues in the religious community, it also does not necessarily improve our security.
Every new technology introduced will inevitably bring about new problems. In this case,
RFID chips would aid identity theft amongst other crimes. Additionally, it sacrifices our
privacy. Anyone and everyone with a reader would be able to intercept the chips frequencies
and read or change sensitive data and personal information. Lastly, it does not feel right to
implant chips in ones body in order for identification. With great technology comes great
responsibility. One can only hope that this technology will not backfire on us.

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Appendix

Figure 1. Cover image of Pedro M. Reyes RFID in the Supply Chain.

Figure 2. Cover image of Roman Espejos RFID Technology.

Figure 3. Cover image of Peter H. Cole and Damith C. Ranasinghes Networked RFID
Systems and Lightweight Cryptology; Rasing Barriers to Product Counterfeiting.

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Works Cited
American Civil Liberties Union et al. RFID Technology May Threaten Privacy and Civil
Liberties. RFID Technology. Ed. Roman Espejo. Farmington Hills: Greenhaven Press, 2009.
33-47. Print.
Davis, Donald. RFID Technology May Not Protect Passports and Enhance Security. Ed.
Roman Espejo. Farmington Hills: Greenhaven Press, 2009. 64-76. Print.
Dimov, Daniel. Human-implanted RFID chips. Infosec Institute. np., n.d. Web. 5 August 2014.
< http://resources.infosecinstitute.com/human-implanted-rfid-chips/>
Foster, Kenneth R., and Jan Jaeger. RFID Human Implants May Not Be Ethical. Ed. Roman
Espejo. Farmington Hills: Greenhaven Press, 2009. 83-93. Print.
Jamali, Behnam, Peter H. Cole, and Daniel Engels. RFID Tag Vulnerabilities in the RFID
Systems. Ed. Peter H. Cole and Damith C. Ranasinghe. Adelaide: Springer, 2008. 147-156.
Print.
Newitz, Annalee. RFID Technology May Be Vulnerable. Ed. Roman Espejo. Farmington
Hills: Greenhaven Press, 2009. 17-27. Print.
Potential Uses of RFID. Sumlung Tech. n.p., n.d. Web. 5 August 2014.
<http://www.sumlung.com/en/component/content/article/229.html>
Radio Frequency Identification Tags (RFID) - The "Mark of the Beast"?. Worshipping
Christian. n.p., n.d. Web. 5 August 2014. < http://worshippingchristian.org/rfid_mark.html>
Reyes, Pedro M. RFID in the Supply Chain. United States of America: McGraw-Hill, 2011.
Print.
Sade, Robert M. The Safety of RFID Human Implants Has Not Yet Been Established. Ed.
Roman Espejo. Farmington Hills: Greenhaven Press, 2009. 77-82. Print.
U.S. Department of State. RFID Technology Enhances Passport Security. RFID Technology.
Ed. Roman Espejo. Farmington Hills: Greenhaven Press, 2009. 57-63. Print.