November 15, 2006 | By Derek Slater

Tell DHS to Help Keep RFID out of Government-Issued ID

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chips are being used in new US passports and may be part of new standards for state-issued drivers licenses', among other government issued IDs. But a report from none other than the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) might prevent inappropriate implementations of this privacy-leaking technology -- and you can help make sure that DHS' criticisms are made loud and clear.

Recently, the chorus of RFID critics was joined by DHS in this draft report:

"RFID appears to offer little benefit when compared to the consequences it brings for privacy and data integrity. Instead, it increases risks to personal privacy and security, with no commensurate benefit for performance or national security. Most difficult and troubling is the situation in which RFID is ostensibly used for tracking objects (medicine containers, for example), but can be in fact used for monitoring human behavior. These types of uses are still being explored and remain difficult to predict.

"For these reasons, we recommend that RFID be disfavored for identifying and tracking human beings."

Unfortunately, this sage advice could be swept aside. In a report by Wired News, Cato Institute fellow and ID expert Jim Harper states that, "The powers that be took a good run at deep-sixing this report.... There's such a strongly held consensus among industry and DHS that RFID is the way to go that getting people off of that and getting them to examine the technology is very hard to do." That may be why the report is still merely a draft, not DHS' final published analysis.

DHS needs to hear that you also support privacy and security safeguards in government-issued IDs. On December 6, the relevant DHS committee will be holding a meeting, and they've invited public comments on RFIDs. Write to privacyworkshop@dhs.gov and privacycommittee@dhs.gov now and tell DHS that:

  • You disapprove of RFID of government issued IDs.
  • RFID should only be implemented with the highest privacy and security safeguards.

More information and the draft report can be found here. For more info on RFIDs, check out EFF's issue archive.


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