Thursday, January 20, 2005

This is not a good idea.

Well, after the Mexican officials who unwisely had RFID radio identifier chips implanted in their bodies as a (probably counterproductive) precaution against kidnapping, and the Barcelona nightclub whose habitu├ęs can jump the queue by waving their radio-identified bodies at a reader, this depressing trend has landed in Britain. Back in July, I argued that this kind of technology was likely to succeed first in the zones of friction between the rich and poor worlds and then to proliferate rapidly:
If you can use your RFID tracking gear in Mexico City, why not in London? It is in the nature of complex and interdependent systems that changes in the ephemeral surface can bring about major changes to the structure. When computers were installed as furniture in office buildings, the building services had to change, which could mean quite radical changes in the architecture. The Mexican officials with their microchips have effectively drawn the frontier between Raymond Aron's "world of order" and "world of chaos" on their bodies - kidnapping as a common crime seems to be a phenomenon of those cities on that frontier, like Mexico City, Sao Paulo or indeed Baghdad.
Well, now it's here, in Glasgow. The sheer stupidity of this can be simply demonstrated by this analogy: imagine carrying a credit card that anyone within 20 yards of you could swipe - without you even knowing it. Would you be willing to do that? How would your answer change if you were told that the equipment required is freely available and the technical details are part of a publicly available standard?

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