Product: RFID Tag
RFID Privacy Jammer   (+3)  [vote for, against]
Essential tools for the truly paranoid

RFID tags are tiny radio responders that can be attached to anything for inventory, theft prevention and other purposes. They work in the same manner as devices like “EZPass” and "SpeedPass" that allow you pay tolls and buy gasoline without any interaction. A radio signal transmitted nearby provides the energy, and the transponder responds by echoing out a serial number in a radio response.

The miniature tag versions are just now starting to work their way into the economy. Recently Michelin announced that soon every tire they make will have an RFID tag, and Gillette signed a contract to buy millions of the tags.

Many people fear that with little automated inventory tags on everything, our privacy could be invaded in new and insidious ways. The theory is that you could be surreptitiously scanned in many public places, and the RFID codes from your clothing and personal belongings could be used to track you. Some stores have promised to erase the tags somehow at the checkout so they cannot be used that way, but how can we be sure?

Regardless of whether this fear is valid, its very existence creates a market for mitigation products. I propose a dual function handheld device that can attack this source of paranoia on two fronts.

First, it will be a radio transmitter that knows how to emulate the output produced by the major brands of tags, but does so in a constant stream of gibberish. The idea is to overload any reader that is near you with hail of false data so it will be unable to read any tags on your person. I imagine that because of different vendor tag formats it will probably have to support a range of frequencies to cover them all. You might want to turn this feature off when in the checkout aisle ten years from now, or the clerk (if there is one) will get very confused.

Second, you can switch the transmitter into a high power mode, to blast any tags you can’t remove from the products in a way that makes them non-functional. This is exactly like the tag erasers that the vendors claim they will install at the checkout, but controlled by you of course.

Marketing for this product will naturally occur in UFO magazines, tabloids, and other publications known to cater to the paranoid.
-- krelnik, Mar 07 2003

Other RFID ideas on the bakery http://www.halfbake...archexpression=RFID
[krelnik, Oct 05 2004, last modified Oct 17 2004]

Declan McCullagh discusses RFID privacy issues
Many supporting links within. [krelnik, Oct 05 2004, last modified Oct 17 2004]

Story about Bennetton's use of RFID,1382,58006,00.html
Many privacy concerns mentioned within. [krelnik, Oct 05 2004, last modified Oct 17 2004]

RFID backlash prompts 'kill' feature http://www.eetimes....ry/OEG20030428S0074
Apr 28 2003: "Concerned over public perceptions ... several chip makers are building a “kill” command into their upcoming RFID chips." [krelnik, Oct 05 2004, last modified Jan 04 2006]

Claim: RFID Will Stop Terrorists,1848,59624,00.html
Aug 08 2003: "Facing increasing resistance and concerns about privacy ... retailers will try to win consumer approval ... by portraying the technology as an essential tool for keeping the nation's food supply safe from terrorists." [krelnik, Oct 05 2004, last modified Oct 17 2004]

RSA Security is now baking this!
Aug 27 2003: "The labs at RSA Security on Wednesday outlined plans for a technology they call blocker tags, which are similar in size and cost to radio frequency identification (RFID) tags but disrupt the transmission of information to scanning devices and thwart the collection of data." [krelnik, Oct 05 2004, last modified Oct 17 2004]

RFID-Zapper https://events.ccc....iki/RFID-Zapper(EN)
Someone is baking the second component of my idea. [krelnik, Jan 04 2006]

I was going to post nearly the same idea, as a Shoplifter's Bag. Which is what I, no, forget I said that, people I have heard about would use it for.
-- DrCurry, Mar 07 2003

Luddite! Succumb to the inevitable, treat it as a baseline and be creative from there. The tide will not be stemmed.

Such jammers will likely appear and will, just as likely, be outlawed.

The thing to do is to always carry a bunch of diverse RFIDs in your pocket so that a scan of your person won't yield any particularly useful cluster.
-- bristolz, Mar 07 2003

I think the correct term is "Resistance is futile!"
-- DrCurry, Mar 07 2003

I think it would be cool to be known for inventing a device that was later outlawed.

//carry a bunch of diverse RFIDs in your pocket//
Mind you, I'm not one of these paranoiacs myself, I just seek to exploit them. However, I think the theory is that any random RFID on your person might eventually get associated with your identity somehow. Say, in the supermarket checkout it reads an RFID on you and correlates that with the credit card you swipe through the reader. So just carrying a bunch of the tags would not need to insure the reader can't recognize you in any way.
-- krelnik, Mar 07 2003

Change them every morning.

On Mondays: Gap, Nikon, Tiffanys, Nordstrom, Tektronix, Smith and Wesson

Tuesdays: Banana Republic, REI, Bergdorf, Bally, Truvelo, Zeiss

Wednsedays: Eddie Bauer, Kirkland, Colt, Ann Taylor, Contax . . . and so on.
-- bristolz, Mar 07 2003

You'd have to make sure you never wore one of these random tags twice into the same place that had a reader, to be sure you never got tracked. Too much work.
-- krelnik, Mar 07 2003

One could build a business out of providing tear off sheets of random RFIDs. No harder to deal with than picking your underwear for the day.

Rather have that than carrying around a jammer that needs a big power cell because it is competing with mains powered transmitters.
-- bristolz, Mar 07 2003

Thanks! You just invented my company's second (lower-cost) line of products. The check is in the mail.

//needs a big power cell because it is competing with mains //
Nope, not at all! It doesn't need to compete with the transmitters in the stores, it needs to compete with the _other tags_. Those are naturally low power, and in fact can only be read from a few feet away at most.
-- krelnik, Mar 07 2003

Yeah, I'm foolish but persistent.
-- bristolz, Mar 07 2003

I read an article about these, and they said something about a handheld EMP emitter that'd fry 'em. So that may be baked by now.
-- galukalock, Mar 07 2003

I recently received an urban legend via email (from the CASPIAN organization) to the effect that RFID's can be disabled by nuking them in a microwave oven. On the other hand, when searching the web for articles on this, I found information to the effect that one of RFID's uses is the automagical programming of microwave ovens.
-- LoriZ, Mar 11 2003

You know, I'm acctually a big fan of the RFID tags, but in a very controlled way. They can have the tag on and active until the second I own that item. After that, the tag should die. (Except in the case of groceries where having an RFID-readin fridge could give you an inventory and expiration date for every item in it - but groceries are by their nature not mobile or permanent).

As to a changable "set" of RFID tags, why not lay low for a while, then when they are widely accepted for profiling, you simply incorperate 10+ of them into a single "patch" that you could wear and get preferential service for?

Pach #1: Gucci, Rolex, Armani, etc.

Heh.. walk into a mall with /that/ :)
-- JackandJohn, Mar 11 2003

As a side note: I would carry a targeted jammer wth a switch.

If a store chooses not to deactivate /my/ tag, I will do it myself.
-- JackandJohn, Mar 11 2003

Superb, krelnik. I'm geeky enough to want to RFID tag everything, but paranoid enough to worry about the consequences. A wristwarch sized gizmo that saps energy from the transponder frequencies, listens to tags it hears and is capable of repeating everything it has heard in the last two weeks at the push of a button is... well... it restores my faith in... um... something or other. Croissant (RFID tagged to scan as a pair of Anne Summer peekaboo latex briefs, once owned by Dick Cheney).
-- st3f, Mar 13 2003

"8th of 7 is currently located in 10-forward..."
-- RayfordSteele, Mar 13 2003

Aug 08 2003: Wow, now retailers are claiming RFID tags will help save us from terrorists. See link.

Aug 29 2003: Also, it appears RSA Security is now baking almost exactly what I described here! Its still in the labs, and they are looking for a manufacturer to sign on. See link.
-- krelnik, Aug 08 2003

Check out we have a patent pending product that will protect the RFID cards and ID's in your wallet. To make it work you slide it in your billfolds dollar slot. It works extremly well and costs $10 per unit. Seriously if this issue concerns you have to check it out. Email me with any questions or with ideas.
-- RyanShore, Nov 23 2005

I think [bris]'s idea of carrying around a bunch of random RFID tags has some mileage in it, and is also cheap and easy to implement. I also see no reason why specific groups of tags shouldn't be marketed to make you appear to be a particular kind of person.
-- hippo, Jan 05 2006

The comment about disabling RFID tags using a microwave oven is correct. The small strip antennas inside the tags just carry that high-frequency, high-power RF to the chip, burning it out in less than a second. Don't believe it?

I was reading something written by a fellow radio amateur about lightning strikes and damage to property. He once saw a telephone cable cut precisely into small pieces of exactly equal length, it turned out to be standing waves of RF energy in the microwave range generated by the lightning strike.

Your jammer device would work, but isn't legal per FCC part 15 regulations in the United States. What would work, however, is a device with a contact plate that pinpoints RFID tags in products, then zaps them with a burst of RF energy in the unlicensed 2.4 GHz range or higher. Assuming the antenna of the device isn't resonant at the frequency you blast it with, if you hit it with enough power, you'll chop it up via the phenomenon of standing waves.

Croissant for you, your idea has great implementation, and I'd buy one.
-- Headcleaner, Jan 06 2006

random, halfbakery