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TSA Concept Video Shows Future RFID-Enabled Airport
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 braced for the rollout of the
controversial technology in passports last month.
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.
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.
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