Homeland Security committee has doubts about RFID

The use of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology for tracking humans took a hit in a recent study released by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Emerging Applications and Integrity Advisory Committee.

The research stated that RFID is helpful in inventory management or when it is embedded within a container or other object in transit. The technology is also useful quickly identifying trapped miners or firefighters in dangerous situations.

Yet, the committee ultimately recommended that DHS look at RFID use unfavorably because it "appears to offer little benefit when compared to the consequences it brings for privacy and data integrity," and increases risk to personal privacy and security.

The research, the committee noted, only addresses the privacy and security concerns of RFID for tracking people, not the use of the technology on general objects, such as clothing or food items.

The technology also creates difficulties in tracking subjects knowing what information they are passing on to scanners, according to the study.

"RFID-tagged identification documents present a significant problem in terms of notice, along two dimensions. First, individuals carrying RFID-tagged documents will have a difficult time determining when they are being identified and to whom," according to the report. "Second, people with RFID-tagged documents will have a difficult time determining what information they are sharing when they are identified using RFID. In a visual ID-check environment, people are aware that the information on the card is what is made available to a verifier."

Last month, researchers cited a number of security concerns in swipe-free credit cards using RFID technology, saying the cards may allow attackers to lift personally identifiable information off the cards.

The research, carried out by experts from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst and RSA Laboratories, concluded that the cards were subject to numerous vulnerabilities, notably live relay and replay attacks and personal identification disclosure.

Click here to email Frank Washkuch Jr.

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