Alternative RFID infrastructures

This is a design brief, one of many themes that the Touch project is investigating.

The landscape of RFID technology is focused on surveillance, efficiency and control. The near-future possibility of RFID implants, identity cards and passports is focused on the ability to efficiently and accurately identify people. The rush to replace barcodes with RFID is pushed by a desire to have more control and efficiency in supply chains and to reduce the risk of counterfeiting. Much of which ignores the human perspective and the imposition of this new technology is running into trouble as it begins to cross paths with public opinion, perception and protest.

But new infrastructures can certainly be designed to support useful, private, secure, bottom-up, ad-hoc and people-to-people interactions, not just transactions controlled by banks, transport systems and governments. There are open identity systems that should allow RFID to be used in a way that gains people’s trust, that allows individual control over its use.

This project should look at the issue of trust and technological innovation and adoption. It should take RFID or NFC as a case study and look at the various viewpoints that are taking control of the emerging debate. Without going into technical solutions the project could look at people-based or social scenarios around sharing, trust, privacy and perceived security in various defined contexts.


Rob van Kranenburg at How I learned to love RFID. “It is naive to say that RFID tags do not contain information, and thus cannot be linked to individuals: that disregards the whole history of data mining. Transparency is important, individuals should certainly have access to the information that their tags carry. This view has been fuelled by the Nokia phone that reads and writes tags.”

Matt Ward, Rob van Kranenburg, Gaynor Backhouse. RFID: Frequency, standards, adoption and innovation. PDF

Why Technical Breakthroughs Fail: A History of Public Concern with Emerging Technologies. “In the face of various public concerns, some of these technical breakthroughs have been successful while many others have been unsuccessful. This white paper examines five cases of technical launches that have taken place during the last fifteen years.”

Public Policy: Understanding Public Opinion. “As the Centre prepares to launch its EPC network it is therefore important to anticipate how the public will perceive this new technology, to anticipate any concerns and to explore ways in which the network can be improved, in order to ensure consumer’s confidence.”

Spychips: how RFID will compromise privacy, security, freedom

Privacy-Enhancing Radio Frequency Identification Tag: Implementation of the Clipped Tag. “The privacy-protecting tag, called the “Clipped Tag” has been suggested by IBM as an additional consumer privacy mechanism. The clipped tag puts the option of privacy protection in the hands of the consumer. It provides a visible means of enhancing privacy protection by allowing the transformation of a long-range tag into a proximity tag that still may be read, but only at short range – less than a few inches or centimeters. This enables later use of the tag for returns or recalls.” PDF

Smart and Secure RFID tags “The philosophy of the RFIDsec tag is that all users can read and access the part of the tags information that is authorised for their specific use, and nothing else. Strong encryption, even on passive tags, ensures that the levels of access are not jeopardised. The Access Management software ensures simple and secure user control. Hence it is possible to have data on tag. The RFIDsec tag can even operate in Silent Mode, thus eliminating concerns about leaking information and consumer privacy.” Link

See also references for RFID and the everyday

Read more about these design briefs.

Related things:

  1. iPhone RFID and NFC peripherals We are beginning to see RFID and NFC peripherals beginning to be released for the iPhone. Since our conceptual video prototype of the iPhone object-based media came out in April, we’ve had thousands of......
  2. FoeBud: How we learned to stop RFID FoeBud are a German group of privacy activists that has has a long history of public interventions in privacy and RFID. Rena Tangens and Padeluun presented their work at the recent workshop How I......
  3. Recalling RFID Recalling RFID was exceptionally successful at creating a space where diverse viewpoints on RFID were expressed, shared and debated. The level of understanding of the issues from all sides was very high. This resulted......

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