Consumer privacy expert Katherine Albrecht(1) was our special guest in Streamlink's(2) Live Chat on Tuesday night for an in-depth Q & A. Below are excerpts; members can view the entire transcript(3).
What exactly is government doing to prevent privacy violations? Who is doing it?
The government is not doing anything at all to protect us from the RFID threat. On the contrary, they are falling all over themselves to promote the industry. We just watched an RFID labeling bill go down in flames here in my home state of New Hampshire. There have been over a dozen attempts to get labeling legislation passed around the country, and all of them have been killed by the lobbyists. I have gotten quite a political education in the last several weeks. None of it pretty.
Katherine, how do the grocery store ID cards relate to RFID?
The grocery store cards played a crucial role in conditioning people to allowing marketers and retailers to track and monitor their purchases. I recently had a chat with a 15-year-old who said to me, "It's great you're fighting these cards, and I hope you win, but I just have one question. If you win and they get rid of the grocery card, how will the store know what you bought?" The problem is that many young people today can't remember a time when you didn't need a grocery card to get a decent price on your groceries. I bet few of us can remember a time before credit cards. And the next step is to issue us frequent shopper cards with RFID tags inside, that can be used to track us around the store.
Katherine, how long do you think it will be before it is made law that the public get the chip?
Chupa: I don't think it will come about that way. I think it will be voluntary for the general public, with lots of "perks" attached. (Think of the grocery store "discount" cards -- no one forces you to sign up, but you'll pay a lot more for your groceries if you refuse to comply.) A carrot tends to work better than a stick. And all the better if their carrot is an illusion, like the supposed savings from the grocery cards. What I do believe, however, is that if we're not careful, people will start clamoring for that *other guy* over THERE to get chipped. Lately a lot of people who ought to know better say things to me like, "Well, I don't want to be chipped. But I know of one good use for the implant -- put in the sex offender, or the immigrant, or the felon, or the [fill in the blank]" That's really dangerous logic. To save from retyping it, here's a link to a blog entry I did on this -- with the Chinese proverb: "The fire you kindle for your enemy often burns you more than it burns him." spychips.com/blog/2006/03/be_careful_what_you_wish_for_y.html
How do your peers at Harvard or in academia view your "end times" beliefs?
My religion is not something I wear on my sleeve. In fact, I ran CASPIAN (Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering) and did this work for years (since 1999) without it really coming up much. It's only been in recent months, especially with the publication of The Spychips Threat (the Christian version of Spychips) that I've become so open about my faith. Let me tackle some of the questions about that topic next...
Maybe this is just a piece of technology and not the Mark of the Beast.
Kristal: To someone who does not view the world through a lens of good and evil, your comment is absolutely logical and spot-on accurate. From where I sit, however, things do have a cast to them, and history has larger trends. Martin Luther King once said, "The arc of history bends towards justice." At first this sounded true, but the more I thought about it, the more it struck me that the arc of history actually bends towards tyranny , with occasional and periodic corrections that jerk it back on a track to justice. But what did occur to me is that one could write a novel in which the arc of history could be shown to bend towards the mark of the beast. The bar code was a necessary step, if you want to create a Mark type system (one of the reasons I am in agreement with the people who raised that alarm in the 1970's). By the way, did you guys know that the world's first computer was called "The Mark?" It's housed in the science center at Harvard -- I walk past it all the time. And did you know what it's first major act was? To enable the creation of the nuclear bomb. Amazing.
Even if the Mark of the Beast turns out to be something else other than this technology, it's hard to argue that this technology will take humanity in a better direction.
I don't believe that RFID, in its present form, will be the mark of the beast. Here's an analogy: Let's say I board a train in San Diego, and let's say that the one place I don't want to wind up is Washington D.C. As the train takes off from the station, I have no idea where it's going. But as it makes stop after stop, I notice that we're definitely heading towards D.C. In fact, I can draw a trajectory on a map that shows that, IF WE KEEP GOING ON THE ROUTE WE'RE ON (ant this is the crucial part) we will eventually wind up in DC. It's kind of like that with the Mark. The bar code was like stopping in Oklahoma City. One stop closer, further confirmation of the route, but not the mark itself. That's how I see RFID.