Homeland Security or Homing Device?

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Bill Scannell, oft cited around these parts for watchdogging government overreach in the name of travel security, sends word that the State Dept. wants to put Radio Frequency Identification chips in all American passports. From the RFIDkills.com website:

This RFID chip will contain the same information currently on our passports, including the passport holder's name, date and place of birth, passport number and photograph.

In a dangerous world where Americans are targeted by thieves, kidnappers and terrorists, the RFID-chipped US passport will turn tourists into targets, and American business travelers will transmit their identities to kidnappers wherever they go, thanks to the US State Department.

Close up, the information broadcast from the RFID chip can be read by anyone with an inexpensive electronic reader. Farther away, the RFID chip can be activated enough to identify the passport holder as an American.

From identity theft to identity death, an RFID-chipped US passport means good news for the bad guys.

Julian Sanchez peeked at RFIDs in the March issue.

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  1. So what’s the penalty for killing the RFID chip in a passport? I’m sure as hell not going to go around abroad with a working one.

    It seems a little too close to trying to track one’s every move. Sort of like the freakish high-tech world in the movie Impostor. (Philip K. Dick rocks!)

  2. And anybody with a Heathkit level of electronics knowledge can probably connect together an RFID reader, a microcontroller, and some explosives to make a nifty anti-American mine.

  3. Why don’t they just skip a step and shove the chips right up our asses.

  4. Seriously, I’m asking… What legal price would you pay for disabling a passport RFID?

  5. I’m not so worried about the presence of the RFID chip in a passport, since it’s easier to disable than falling off a ladder.

    My main concern is the legal cost of doing so.

  6. “And anybody with a Heathkit level of electronics knowledge can probably connect together an RFID reader, a microcontroller, and some explosives to make a nifty anti-American mine.”

    In one stroke my failure to apply for a passport has been converted from run-of-the-mill apathy to wily survival strategy. Thanks, Mark!

  7. So far, only fourth-grader Martin Prince has agreed to wear the new chip under his scalp…if only more students had agreed to wear the tracking device, er, RFID chip.

    This will work so much better than running through the streets yelling, “Yoo-hoo! Terrorists! Over here!”

  8. New business opportunity for some bright person to come up with a passport case that masks or distorts the RFID signal when the passport is in the case. They’d probably sell pretty well.

  9. Is it too much to ask to have a Farady cage built into the passport cover, so that the RFID tag could only be activated when the passport is physically open?

  10. Why are you people complaining? Don’t you care about THE CHILDREN?!?!?!?!?

  11. Thoreau-
    No.

  12. All right, I’ll be the guinea pig. If I get shipped off to gitmo, you’ll know to be careful when deactivating your passport RFID.

    (Just a hint… You can disable RFID chips by taking it to a store and dragging it across a U-Scan self checkout counter. See how easy it is?)

  13. Is it too much to ask to have a Farady cage built into the passport cover, so that the RFID tag could only be activated when the passport is physically open?

    I asked Barry Steinhardt about this last week and he (no joke) advised using a tinfoil envelope.

  14. Alison,
    So will that mean the proper nomenclature for paranoids will be “tinfoil envelopers” or “tin ‘lopers” for short.

  15. (Just a hint… You can disable RFID chips by taking it to a store and dragging it across a U-Scan self checkout counter. See how easy it is?)

    Is it then permanently disabled?

  16. Solitudinarian,

    That is correct.

  17. Thanks kmw. And here I was going to put mine in the microwave. 🙂

  18. Mo,

    Ordinarily I’d do the microwave, but I wouldn’t want to melt the photograph on the passport. That’s probably the one thing they’ll probably insist on being pristine.

  19. I fell in the Rhine (yeah, I was drunk) and microwaved my passport to dry it out and the picture did melt a bit.

    Only problems I had during the next few trips was a Polish border guard who said, “If you do not have this replaced there will be trouble.”

    Still, I didn’t replace it until it expired.

    Wouldn’t work today as I imagine the various grenzenschutzen would freak!

    SP

  20. “Just a hint… You can disable RFID chips by taking it to a store and dragging it across a U-Scan self checkout counter. See how easy it is?”

    kmw, why do you think that would disable them?

  21. Brian,

    Because I’ve used it to fry other RFIDs before.

  22. kmw, I’d be intersted in the theory behind that – what is causing the “frying?”

    And which RFID’s did you use?

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