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Radio Frequency Identification and Related Issues

The term RFID is everywhere these days. Consumers are seeing RFID blocking wallets, credit card holders, and passport covers as the holidays approach. However, many still do not know what it is and how it is used in their every day life.

What is RFID?

RFID stands for “Radio Frequency Identification” and is a term used to describe technology that makes identifications via radio waves. It is usually discussed in conversations and articles about the Internet of Things because it is a form of automatic identification. The term automatic identification covers a broad range of identification technologies, from bar codes to retinal scans, used by machines to make identifications. The identification of people or objects occurs through the use of microchips that store electronic information. The microchip has an antenna and the information is picked up through a reader using radio waves. The microchip can be as small as a grain of sand and made out of silicone. Although, this technology has been in use since World War II, it has only become widely used in the past two decades as costs have decreased. RFID technology is now used in certain products and businesses. Walmart and other stores use RFID technology to keep track of products and consumer activities. They use RFID to do anything from detecting an item about to be stolen as it exits the door, or trigger cameras when an item is removed from the shelf. Anyone who has ever used the EZ-Pass toll roads has experienced the use of RFID technology as it is used to identify cars with EZ-Pass. Nonetheless, this is just a limited representation of the use of RFID technology to track consumers and products.

What are the concerns and disputes connected to RFID?

Security and privacy are the main issues facing the use of RFID. Even though RFID technology is used everywhere, it recently started to become a term recognized and used to promote RFID blocking products. RFID theft and tracking can be blocked with certain metals and materials. Travelers and consumers are now using products containing these metals to protect themselves from high-tech pick pockets and companies tracking consumers. This is because thieves around the world have had to adapt to the changing technologies. There is little cash to gain from a wallet when people rarely carry cash, but the information gained from scanning a credit card can be valuable. The hardest part of using an RFID reader to obtain information is to decode the information. Although, security is a large concern, privacy of consumers is also an issue for the government. As of now, nineteen states have implemented RFID privacy laws, not including the laws governing RFID use in driver’s licenses, bar codes, or other usage. There is a widely-held concern that companies are starting to track consumers. Consumers are tracked to see what they are picking up from the shelves or target them for advertisements, which compliment their recent choices. Civil rights and consumer privacy groups are now expressing their concerns over the use of RFID.

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