Manufacturers, users and exploiters of RFID technology maintain that the things are as good as foolproof. It simply isn’t so. Here are some of the things that can go wrong with these devices.
Just like Wi-Fi and cell phone networks, energy transmission at the correct frequency will jam every RFID chip in range. That may simply be an irritation to shoppers at the checkout but it will be far worse than that if the disruption is aimed at military and medical use.
A tag cannot react to more than one contact at the same time. Just as, in the early days of Local Area Networks, careful programming had to be used to ensure that data transmitted simultaneously by more than one user was not corrupted by collisions, RFID readers have to be carefully sited and programmed.
RFID Tags Can Be Read Surreptitiously
When someone reads a barcode, they can be seen doing it. That is not the case with an RFID tag; it is not always (or, indeed, usually) obvious that the tag is being read and that makes it open to illicit reading, or reading by people who you don’t want to have access to that information. Some people may not mind being scanned as they enter a store to see what they are carrying, or the idea that they could be offered a purchase simply on the basis of what is already in their bag that they didn’t believe anyone knew was there. But some people might. And who could blame them?
The Japanese government has led the way in proposals for an improvement in the way RFID tags are used. Their suggestions include:
- That all products containing an RFID tag must clearly state the fact
- Information should be available in the store telling shoppers what information is stored as a result of reading tags, where it is stored and what it is used for
- Allowing consumers to check stored private information and request its removal