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Spotlight on: RFID - Articles

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Fifty miles off the coast of Nantucket, 250 feet beneath the Atlantic, lies the RMS Republic and her secret treasure. As soon as Republic sank, rumors spread of a precious cargo, but the ship has kept her secrets intact for over a century, until now. Life-long treasure hunter Martin Bayerle joined Connie Willis (email) for all four hours to discuss how he has devoted the past 35 years of his life researching the shipwreck and proving the existence of her reputed cargo of 150,000 American Eagle gold coins, a bounty worth a billion dollars in today’s economy, and his quest to recover the it on his second attempt at the Republic.

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Spotlight on: RFID

 Spotlight on: RFID

One of the technologies that tonight's guest, privacy advocate Katherine Albrecht has sounded the alarm about is RFID. Radio frequency identification technology or RFID, involves miniature computerized tags that can be embedded in merchandise. These tags are capable of beaming out specific information such as serial numbers to nearby scanners.

According to a website(1) created by AIM (a data capture association), RFID "is an automatic way to collect product, place, time or transaction data quickly and easily without human intervention or error." The transponder or tag contains a computer chip that derives its energy from a radio signal sent by the scanner, which enables it to send back information that can then be accessed by a central computer.

In a recent piece in Business Week titled "Playing Tag with Shoppers' Anonymity(2)," Albrecht expresses concerns over a possible global network of millions of receivers. "Imagine if these chips are in clothes and tires and shoes. Companies could know where you are at any time, anywhere in the world," she said. But AIM counters these fears, by suggesting that such an elaborate infrastructure to track citizens would have astronomical costs and be highly impractical. Further, they assert that "the data generated from the use of RFID should be private and proprietary and include the same protections on privacy that are currently in place."

--L.L.(3)

1. http://www.aimglobal.org/technologies/rfid/
2. http://www.businessweek.com/technology/content/jul2003/tc20030721_8408_tc073.htm
3. http://archive.coasttocoastam.com/info/about_lex.html

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