Category Archives: Technology

RFID Worst Case Scenario Has Arrived

The people over at CASPIAN have warned about how companies are trying hard to get RFID tags into all their products without people knowing. Well, now they will. The anti-theft tags that nearly every product currently has will be combined with RFID technology so that nearly every item you walk out of the store with will also transmit a unique identifying number to any reader nearby. Theives, marketers and big brother are salivating.

You don't believe that companies are desperately interested in what you do every waking moment? Then you haven't been paying attention.

Harsh Penalties for Making a Game Map of Your School

Apparently, a student made a game map of his school and uploaded it for his friends to play on. What this means is that anyone who plays on that map could play a given game and have a virtual shootout at the school.

People have lined up on both sides of this issue saying that it was harmless and others who think it encourages school shootings. To each I ask this question, if a neighbor kid had made a game map of your house and yard where the goal was to break into the house steal, rape, and kill the people inside, would you be ok with it?

Make all the custom maps you want, but if you want to model real structures then you'd better be prepared to justify it.

(H/T to Slashdot for the link)

Consumer Affairs on Video Game Violence

I'm not ready to say that video violence leads to real violence, but I do know that fantasy violence is desensitizing (after 7 years of CSI, I don't even flinch anymore). More importantly about this article is the discussion of gamer addiction which is a very real problem and likely to get much worse.

The title is the Addictiveness of Virtual Violence, but even by admission of thier own article, it's not the violence that's addictive, but the psuedo-social aspects as well as the feeling of building something worthwhile. "If I just work another 8 hours, I'll gain a level (whee!)".

On that note, you might be interested in my article about avoiding gaming addiction while still playing the game. In my case, I play the far less popular City of Heroes (as opposed to the massive audience of WoW), but the principle still applies.

California Working to Ban RFID Tagging of School Kids

From the "thank god someone is paying attention" department, California is working on a bill to ban RFID chipping kids.

Legislation approved Monday would prohibit public schools from requiring the implementation of radio-wave devices that broadcast students' personal identification and monitor their movement around campus — information the mechanical horrors could theoretically use to turn our children into livestock.

More RFID bills led by Simitian are currently being sent through California committees. One bill places a similar temporary ban on RFID technology in California driver's licenses. Another will place privacy safeguards on any existing RFID-enabled government IDs. Simitian also has led a bill that would restrict forced RFID chip implants in people.

Nice. Yeah, California!

Rush Defends Gaming in Aftermath of VT Tragedy

Despite what many people think, violent games really has little to do with why people choose to commit violent crimes and apparently Rush Limbaugh agrees.

But how many people are playing video games out there? How many millions of people play video games, and how many millions of people have guns?

If you start blaming the video games, you may as well demand video game control because it's the same thing when you start trying to blame guns for this.

Putting Parental Fears In Perspective

For those who weren't paying attention, fears of child abduction and abuse are fairly overblown.

Although statistics show that rates of child abduction and sexual abuse have marched steadily downward since the early 1990s, fear of these crimes is at an all-time high. Even the panic-inducing Megan's Law Web site says stranger abduction is rare and that 90 percent of child sexual-abuse cases are committed by someone known to the child. Yet we still suffer a crucial disconnect between perception of crime and its statistical reality. A child is almost as likely to be struck by lightning as kidnapped by a stranger, but it's not fear of lightning strikes that parents cite as the reason for keeping children indoors watching television instead of out on the sidewalk skipping rope.

Why is this important? Because companies that want humans to accept RFID implantation will try to use fears of child abduction to sell their products. The industry wants this badly (and possibly the government too), because once people begin implanting children, no one will get them removed as adults and eventually, every citizen will have them. Once we are all tagged, we can be tracked whereever we go and whatever we do. Imagine how easy it is to control and manipulate people once you know all that about them.

(H/T to Schneier's Blog for the link).

Forced RFID Implantation Illegal in North Dakota

From the "don't forget we're people, not products" department, North Dakota is the second state to ban forced RFID implantation. However, even if this is a step in the right direction, does it do enough? It doesn't ban voluntary implantation and last I checked a lot of things that aren't really "voluntary" are treated such under law. Here's a quote from the article of someone who agrees with me:

But Michael Shamos, a professor who specializes in security issues at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, believes the law is too vague to do much good. For instance, it only addresses situations where a chip is injected, even though RFID tags can also be swallowed. And it doesn't clearly define what a forced implant really is; someone could make chipping a requirement for a financial reward.

"Suppose I offer to pay you $10,000 if you have an RFID [chip] implanted?" he asked. "Is that 'requiring' if it's totally voluntary on your part?"

It's a poor example, but the right idea. Instead, what if you are offered a high paying job and move your family to a new state, get settled and begin the orientation process for your new job. You find out that they require RFID implants for "security" (which has been proven to weaken security). How much free will do you have in this instance? Can you really afford not to take the job now? You'd have to have an almost religious mentality to refuse it at this point.

Another example, perhaps not so drastic. Companies push and push and finally get most everyone to use RFID implants as identification and method of payment. Because you're smart enough to know what a bad thing this is, you refuse, but find yourself inconvenienced everywhere. You can only shop at certain stores that still have non-RFID checkout. You pay an extra "cash handling" fee for not using the new methods. You have to drive 20 miles away to the only gas station around that's equiped to take non-RFID transactions.

Is it still a choice?

Note that both Spychips.com and Privacy.org are carrying this story and that Spychips lists Ohio, Colorado, Oklahoma, and Florida as more states with anti-implantation bills in the works. The first state to pass such a bill was Wisconsin (note the same flaw as the ND bill).

Before someone leaves a comment saying "well, you complain, but don't offer solutions!", here's the wording I would add to each of these bills:

Futher, any company who offers RFID based services must also accept non-implanted RFID for those same services (ie, a RFID enabled card or token). Any company who offers incentive plans or otherwise implements hurdles, difficulties, or hardships for customers who chose not to use implanted RFID will be in violation of this law and subject to fines, per day per offense.

Any company who provides chip implantation services must make their customers aware of this law and have them sign a disclaimer before implantation. Should such a company be found to have misrepresented the law, minimized the law, or made it appear as if implantation were artificially superior in order to influence the customer to proceed with the implantation, that company shall be liable for the full cost of removing the chips at their expense and may additionally be fined or decertified.

There. That's a good start.

P2P Filesharing Speed Increase with SET

The article is here, but for those who can't follow it:

Say your file is this string of letters:

aabbcc

And you try to download from the one guy in the world who has this file, but he goes offline before you finish it. With SET, they've developed a scheme where anyone with any kind of file that shares sections of bits with your file can be sources. Before you needed this one guy, but if you find people with these files:

bbgggeeeyyy and iiuucc

Because they have the code chunks you need, you can download it from them instead (and it doesn't matter what kinds of files are involved, only that the code chunks match.

RFID Shield in the Works

This is cool. Some people took an offhand comment from the world's leading RFID privacy expert, Katherine Albrecht, and is trying to make it a reality. Some Dutch researchers are working on a portable RFID shield.

I wonder about their ability to actually block the RFID transmission of a target chip rather than just interfere with the transmission.

UPDATE:

I contacted the author of the RFID Guardian research to ask the following question:

Just one question. Does this actually prevent a tag from reporting to a reader or just give the reader fake data so that the reader can't tell which one actually came from the tag?

And her response:

The RFID Guardian actually jams tag responses from reaching the RFID reader.

Neato.

Corn Bio-fuel Not Our Future Says DoE

Looks like someone is paying attention.

"The United States' Department of Energy is stating that corn based fuel is not the future

In related news, Fidel Castro is blasting the production of corn fuel as a blatant waste of food that would otherwise feed 3 billion people who will die of hunger.

I've heard that it's an inefficient fuel and the same hunger-related argument against it before.

Digital TV Coming, Current TVs Will Need Converter

Did you know that the government is discontinuing broadcast television? At least the way we know it. That means that for any TV you own that you want to be able to recieve television over the air (with your rabbit ears or whatever), you will need a digital converter.

"If we don't get this transition right, then (we will be) dealing with constituents," said Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Pa. "The government has broken their TV sets."

The government is offering incentive discounts for people to get the converters:

To help consumers absorb the cost, Congress set aside $1.5 billion to subsidize converter box purchases. Every household, regardless of whether it needs a box, will be eligible to receive two coupons, each worth $40, that can be used to buy two converter boxes. The coupons, to be distributed on a first-come first-serve basis, must be requested between Jan. 1, 2008 and March 31, 2009.

15% Human Sheep For Organ Harvesting

In a disturbing, yet reassuring article, we find out that some sheep have been created that grow some human organs. The idea is to use them for organ harvesting which is sad and terrible, but better than the alternatives.

The first thing I thought of after reading this line was the movie "The Island" (which I just watched this week).

The process would involve extracting stem cells from the donor's bone marrow and injecting them into the peritoneum of a sheep's foetus. When the lamb is born, two months later, it would have a liver, heart, lungs and brain that are partly human and available for transplant.

Perhaps the stories of exuberant human harvesting will end. And hopefully, we won't have a future where our custom clones are raised and then killed secretly in an old underground military bunker.

Washington State Dumb as Dirt – Uses RFID in Licenses

In an act of supreme stupidity and ignorance, Washington state has passed a law allowing residents to purchase an "alternative" drivers license that could be used in lieu of a passport at the Canadian border.

Citing the 9/11 Commission's support for more secure documentation for U.S. entry, Chertoff pointed out that U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents currently must look at more than 8,000 different forms of identification, whether birth certificates, driver's licenses or other documents.

So their answer to the problem?

The alternative license will contain a Radio Frequency Identification chip, commonly known as RFID, which the guard booths will use to scan the license as a traveler or trucker pulls up to the booth. U.S. passports issued since late 2006 already contain RFID chips.

They're going to offer a license that has no shielded covers like passports do that border guards will now just non-chalantly swipe across a reader rather than take the time to inspect. Brilliant. Maybe next, they can just put the readers out for the people in the vehicle to use making it even more convenient. That way, the criminals wouldn't have to bother changing the photo on the ID since no one would be looking anyway.

You'd think no one in Washington has been keeping up with the news about RFID passports.

Not to Be Outdone – Barak Obama Uses Yahoo Answers

From that "Ha ha! That's so awesome" department, Senator Barak Obama, not to be outdone by Hillary, has posted some questions to Yahoo Answers.

Technically, Hillary has been on Yahoo Answers since last fall, but she's only asked three questions

Hillary's Questions

For the two older questions, it's interesting to see what answers she chose as the best. (note to track her questions, click here for her profile).

  1. How can we help to prevent and someday eradicate breast cancer, which has touched the lives of so many people?
  2. Based on your own family's experience, what do you think we should do to improve health care in America?
  3. How can we as a country promote alternative energy, use less foreign oil and reduce global warming?

Barak's Question

His specific question, which I find far more useful than Hillary's so far, was "How can we engage more people in the democratic process?" I hope he reads my answer.
(Barak's profile here).