Human Nature Nuggets

Unlike sheer instinct, human nature involves individual thought as to how we should handle or improve various situations. As homo sapiens, we never know what will happen as a result, but each of us tries by doing what we think is the best solution. Here are some examples…

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I am a writer at heart, a proofreader by trade, but without a soul if it were not for the nuthatches crawling down my trees, the robins, chickadees, cardinals, and yes, the much-maligned jibbering starlings that create their own unique concerts. I have wildflowers and perennials squeezed into my front and back yards and along the curb of my house in the city. My greatest job: I was a reporter for a locally-based newspaper, where I wrote human interest and news articles, but now I am a freelance writer, both online and in print. See MY ONLINE ARTICLES on how to ATTRACT BIRDS and BUTTERFLIES, and the HEALTHIEST NATURAL FOODS at my contributor page

Thursday, January 05, 2006

RFID Tags—Big Brother is Getting Under Our Skin and Growing

Imagine you’re a small business owner, and the police have called to say a first-time offender has broken into your store. At this moment, he’s pilfering your goods. They’re still on their way there, yet they already know he has taken $50 from your cash register. There are no witnesses, yet they know the looter has blue eyes, a moustache and short blonde hair. They even know his name, weight, and where he lives and works.

Obviously there’s peace of mind knowing the criminal will be apprehended. But since you haven’t installed any cameras or even an alarm, and there aren’t any witnesses, how did the police know he was there? If this is his first offense, he isn’t on release from prison and wearing a bracelet. Also, how do they know he’s taken $50, or anything about him?

Welcome, not to the Twilight Zone or George Orwell’s fabricated society, but to the real world, where Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is threatening to obliterate the last vestiges of privacy in our lives.

In the January 2006 issue of National Geographic Magazine, there’s an article entitled “Who Knew?” written by Joel Achenbach, a Washington Post staff writer. To best explain RFID, he uses the premise that you’re alone at a party and want some romance, but don’t know anyone there or anything about them. “You’ve got a gizmo that beams energy at microchips in everyone’s name tag,” Achenbach writes. “The chips beam back name, occupation, hobbies, obsessions, phobias…” This, in essence, is how RFID works.

“An RFID tag with a microchip can be embedded in a product, under your pet’s skin, even under your own skin,” Achenbach continues. “Passive RFID tags have a tiny antenna, but no internal energy source—batteries are not included because they’re not needed. The energy comes from the reader, a scanning device that sends a pulse of electromagnetic energy that briefly activates the tag.

“Unlike traditional bar code label, a tag carries information specific to that object, and the data can be updated.”
At this point I envision a slew of live human bodies being dragged like a sack of potatoes across a grocery store scanner. The feeling of invasion increases when Achenbach goes on to say, “Already, RFID technology is used by highway toll plazas, libraries, retailers tracking inventory, and it might appear in your passport.

“Doctors can implant a silicon chip under the skin that will help locate and retrieve a patient’s medical records. Coroners are using the chips to keep track of Hurricane Katrina victims. At a nightclub in Barcelona—and at its counterpart in Rotterdam —the same implant gets you into the VIP lounge and pays for a cocktail with the wave of an arm.”

True, there are so many humane ways in which this new electromagnetic energy technology can be beneficial. So perhaps I’m being overly paranoid, but I find it alarming that every bit of our personal identity can be included in those chips. Our entire lives will become vulnerable to anyone who learns how to scan, download and take advantage of the information stored there. As is, computer hackers keep finding new ways to break into online accounts. Eventually, hackers will also be able to crack into the data on our chips. Do the benefits of RFID technology outweigh what could happen to us due to misuse? Then again, how we feel about it probably doesn’t matter, because the invasion has begun and is growing, and we can’t do anything to stop it.


Blogger pb said...

This is truly scary, but it brings to mind the chips we can implant in our pets. They do not fail, and bring peace of mind to dogowners. And, I suppose, catowners. Although here in Elmira, New York, cats are expected to walk on a leash!

I can speak as an indulgent GrammaDog that I'm glad those chips were invented. If the GrandDog were to be lost, I can always hope to have her returned by a veterinarian, shelter or pound.

1/06/2006 8:32 PM  
Blogger Rob said...

It is scary...but then there is more to a human being than information...and as you say there is not a lot we can do about this ever-increasing assault on our privacy.

1/07/2006 7:26 AM  
Blogger Darlene said...

pb: You're absolutely right!Achenbach used this as one of his beneficial examples of how the tags are currently being used. I just didn't include it, so the post wouldn't be so long. They truly are a blessing to pet owners.

rob: True, there is more to a human than information, but what scares me is how if that information gets in the wrong hands, it can be used against us.

1/07/2006 1:21 PM  
Blogger Godknows said...

Very infomative webblog. Thanks for sharing

1/07/2006 5:44 PM  
Blogger Zareba said...

An interesting post,makes one think about the future. Like all progress, it is a double edged sword. The technology is neither good nor bad, only the uses it can be put to. Thanks, ...Z

1/08/2006 4:24 AM  
Blogger Darlene said...

godknows: Thanks so much for the compliment!

Zareba: You've summed it all up in a nutshell!

1/08/2006 10:11 AM  
Blogger kathy said...

Hi Darlene! Thanks for this! hope your weekend is great! today is a lazy sunday for me.

1/08/2006 3:51 PM  
Blogger madcapmum said...

Really horrifying. They're talking about chipping all the cars in Britain, too, to control driving habits, tax people, etc.

1/08/2006 6:01 PM  
Blogger Mark Walter said...

The potential for misuse is too great. And having something under my skin? No way.

I can just imagine being 'required' to have one of these, and then all of a sudden one day... whoosh... it's gone blank, and there I am, just standing around with no name, no bank account, no nothing. Hmmm, sounds familiar - the no nothing part. :)

1/10/2006 7:57 PM  
Blogger Darlene said...

Mark, I agree. Just the mere thought of it gets under my skin. Creepy!

1/11/2006 5:07 AM  

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