Posts Tagged ‘RFID’

Silence of the Chips

July 9, 2009

If you’re thinking deep-fried slithers of Maris Pipers and a monastic vow of silence, or a cheap re-make of the Anthony Hopkins/Jodie Foster blockbuster, then this piece is not for you.

The chips in question are RFID chips, which the EU wants to sprinkle liberally in our urban environment in order to kick-start a world-leading tech industry (a very rough summary). However, there’s been such a kafuffle over the potential for privacy invasion that the EU now wants to start a debate about whether or not people should have the right to ‘disconnect’ from this networked environment.

The problem is that in this vision of the future there will be perhaps 70 billion Internet-enabled, computer-like devices plus countless other everyday physical objects and consumables that have been tagged with RFID. In effect we will be surrounded by a kind of permanent, ‘always-on’ computational fabric woven into our physical surroundings. In a recently announced action plan, the EU poses the question of what rights we should have to be able to disconnect from this networked environment, which they call the ‘right to silence of the chips’.

The action plan is very sketchy on details of what such a right might consist of. Would it, for example, apply permanently or just for certain periods of time? How will we be reassured that we have genuinely been ‘disconnected’? When the chips are down, what do you think they’ll put first – big business or the right to privacy?