Sanding our assholes with 150 grit.

RFID license plates - how much of a privacy threat?

I'm not usually a privacy zealot or a conspiracy monger, but my first reaction to this is visceral disgust:

"The British government is preparing to test new high-tech license plates containing microchips capable of transmitting unique vehicle identification numbers and other data to readers more than 300 feet away.

Officials in the United States say they'll be closely watching the British trial as they contemplate initiating their own tests of the plates, which incorporate radio frequency identification, or RFID, tags to make vehicles electronically trackable."

http://wired.com/news/privacy/0,1848,68429,00.html?tw=wn_tophead_1

This justification is particularly absurd: "Proponents argue that making such RFID tags mandatory and ubiquitous is a logical move to counter the threat of terrorists using the roadways." As if there's some kind of bit in the RFID signal that says "Hey everyone, this car has a terrorist inside!"

Seems like with this technology it's just a matter of time before the government decides they can track vehicle movements at their whim. And they're going to sell it to a clueless public with the old "it'll help keep you safe from evildoers" story. Puke.

Am I overreacting?
Permalink John C. 
August 9th, 2005
Currently transponders such as that are used to 'tax' vehicles per-trip as they drive on toll roads.
Permalink Christopher Wells 
August 9th, 2005
One of the mid-term aims of the New Labour Government is general road pricing, RFID is a half way house measure that's cheaper than satellite monitoring, though that will be happening soon with road freight.
Permalink Simon Lucy 
August 9th, 2005
Get used to it. Privacy is bad. All public movements need to be tracked and recorded and made available to anyone.
Permalink Chris McKinstry 
August 9th, 2005
Some toll-road organizations in the U.S. do use the "EZ-pass" or whatever they call it to pay tolls. You put down a deposit and pick a transponder unit from the Departement of Motor Vehicles, registering a bank-account they can get funds for your tolls from.

Then there are special lanes you can drive through, which query the transponder in your car, and debit your account for the toll.

Now, this system CAN be used to identify your car. In New York City, they use this to determine the amount of time people are taking to cross the George Washington Bridge, and post these times at the start of the bridge so people can select the upper or lower level, whichever is faster.

In Boston, there was a proposal to use these for Big Dig transit times -- but that fell through with data privacy concerns, and with the amount of time and money already spent for the BigDig traffic flow automation system.

Bottom line: if privacy concerns are not taken into account, these could be mis-used pretty easily. However, privacy concerns are usually taken very much into account when DMV's try to use these in ways not intended by the manufacturer.

Note "true" RFID tags don't have the 300 foot range being talked about here, so this is a more specialized system.
Permalink AllanL5 
August 9th, 2005
MOOLTI-PAHS
Permalink muppet 
August 9th, 2005
"Get used to it. Privacy is bad."

I've got no objection as long as the lack of privacy is universal.

Since TB's Jag has it's number plate obscured when it's on TV, I'm suspecting he and his cronies will all get to have untrackable cars.

I have got things to hide. So has everyone. What I object to is mine being made public while certain elites are excused that.
Permalink Katie Lucas 
August 9th, 2005
I bet they will break quite nicely when you bump into that lampost.
Permalink Peter 
August 9th, 2005
What's the difference between electronic video monitoring and identification (I went through that just this morning on the 407, where the computer analyzed an image of me passing through an area and read my license plate number), and RFIDs? RFID is just more efficient.
Permalink Chubby Chaser 
August 9th, 2005
++I've got no objection as long as the lack of privacy is universal.

ACK! Screw my rights, as long as you screw everyone else's too!?? Oh dear.... I can only hope the end really is nigh.

True that it is only more efficient than cameras. I object to the cameras. The efficiency brought about by such a system like this trivializes storage and retrieval of the information for nefarious purpose or otherwise. There is very little data that exists in the world that is not obtainable. Data with such a value of this WILL be compromised unless under the most astute of watches. In such a case, I do not think the economic viability of legitimate reasons for having the data would outweigh the costs of protecting it.
Permalink I am Jack's infinite id 
August 9th, 2005
Yes, but the lack of privacy (if applied universally) would end a lot of the corruption and brutality that goes on.

c.f. that article about truly transparent societies and how the police end up having to behave because they don't know who's watching.

Applied ununiversally, it means that we get perfectly working speed cameras because they're useful to the Government and non-working CCTV cameras in hospital car parks because they're only useful when people are attacked there...
Permalink Katie Lucas 
August 9th, 2005
Ah, Katie, haven't you learned from Communism yet?

If nobody has a "right to privacy", then the only people who have privacy are those who can afford it. The utopia you hope would exist would quickly be mis-used by those in power.

Thus YOU would be fully exposed, but the guy in the trench-coat in the backroom with all the monitors would NEVER show up on the cameras.

Any time you give up rights, hoping that losing those rights will protect you, you should be aware the benefit is usually much less than the cost. "Only the guilty have anything to hide" is a very innocent point of view.
Permalink AllanL5 
August 9th, 2005
(as closely paraphrased as possible)

[Those who would give up any degree of their rights for comfort deserve neither rights nor comfort.]

-Ben Franklin
Permalink I am Jack's infinite id 
August 9th, 2005
IF it's a done deal (as most things are these days), then I want to see it benefit me directly - put sensors on the highways to clock the speed of traffic flow, then put it all on the web so I can see which roads to avoid.

BTW, another wonderful result of this will be auto-ticketing for speeding. Anywhere. Yet again the situation where "we make the laws draconian because we can't catch everybody; but when we *can* catch everyone we've brainwashed everyone (including ourselves) to the point that we don't think about easing the laws"

Philo
Permalink Philo 
August 9th, 2005
I think its a good thing. Personally, I think that road users should pay for roads.

To use New York as an example, the NYS Thruway Authority pays for all road maintenance on the thruway with toll revenues. So if I never use the road, I don't pay for it.

On the other hand, NYC Expressways and regular interstates within New York are paid for by state tax revenue and federal aid. Why should I be paying for interstates that I never use while trucking companies who fill up in New Jersey or Pennsylvania to avoid high NY fuel taxes pound those roads into rubble 24x7?

The argument used to crush mass transit in the US was that the gov't subsidized rail and trolley lines. I hope to see the same argument crush the road systems that fuel urban sprawl.
Permalink Duff 
August 9th, 2005
I thought the way to avoid being tracked was to leave the mobile phone at home, pay cash and use public transport.
Permalink trollop 
August 9th, 2005
The next thing you know, they'll make us put publicly visible ID numbers on our cars and make us get an ID card before we can get jobs!
Permalink SomeBody 
August 9th, 2005
This has positive tax and environmental implications - roads will be paid for by those who use them, instead of having people who don't use them much subsidise people who use them a lot.

I'm not sure about the privacy issue. On the one hand, I'm inclined to dismiss it, since at least in theory - the government can track me using my mobile phone. On the other hand, I don't like the government being able to track everybody cheaply.
Permalink Colm O'Connor 
August 10th, 2005
I completely fail to comprehend what makes someone complacent to future abuse just because they had suffered a former abuse?
Permalink I am Jack's infinite id 
August 10th, 2005
Well, if it's going to happen whatever you do then making a fuss does seem somewhat redundant.
Permalink Colm O'Connor 
August 10th, 2005
That's the point, Colm -- "it's going to happen no matter what fuss you make" is a false statement. If you (and a million people who think like you) raise a fuss, it's going to make a difference.

If you (and a million people who think like you) conclude making a fuss won't make a difference, so you don't MAKE the fuss, then none of you have made a difference. Not because it was not possible, but because you opted out of the system.

I just wish those who opt out of the system would quit complaining about it.
Permalink AllanL5 
August 10th, 2005
>If you (and a million people who think like you) raise a
>fuss, it's going to make a difference.

It would make a difference as to whether they use RFID tags on cars, but it still wouldn't stop them from tracking mobile phones.
Permalink Colm O'Connor 
August 10th, 2005
"wouldn't stop them from tracking mobile phones"

But did you make a fuss about that? I guess not, and now it's too late. (And get yourself a pay-as-you-go phone if it worries you, then although they can track you they won't know who you are...)
Permalink Mat Hall 
August 10th, 2005

This topic was orginally posted to the off-topic forum of the
Joel on Software discussion board.

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