Businesses Are Most Likely to Abuse Ontario’s New RFID Driver’s Licenses - The Intrepid

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Businesses Are Most Likely to Abuse Ontario’s New RFID Driver’s Licenses

Minority Report Gap

Privacy be damned! In June, 2009, residents of Ontario will be getting new driver’s licenses equipped with RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) chips. The chips, which are being touted as a cheap and easy alternative to passports at the border, broadcast personal information to RFID readers at a distance of thirty feet. The new cards are expected to improve border security while reducing wait times. Imagine driving up to the border and instead of having to hand over your passport, the border officer has already gone over your information and is waving you through.

While these chips sound great in theory; in reality, they’re a privacy nightmare, as they never stop broadcasting. The detailed information that the new cards contain will be accessible to anyone with a hundred dollar RFID scanner. Identity thieves are no doubt salivating at this prospect, and although they pose a threat, the real threat to our privacy will come from companies.

What if Best Buy or the Gap decided to scan every customer and then used that information to sell us stuff? We probably won’t be seeing Minority Report style digital billboards that address us by name, but we suspect that many corporate retailers would use this data to create mailing lists to bombard us with product information. Do you really want Best Buy to know how many times you shop there, or worse, how often you leave with a purchase?

Screen capture from the film Minority Report.

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