September 10, 2004

Could RFID opposition be theological, not just ideological?

RFID and EPC By: ams

Interesting opinion/recap piece this morning on a perceived alliance of interest between libertarians and Christian millenariast (‘mark-of-the-beast’) folks to oppose RFID (specifically, when used for humans — no word on the privacy rights of cats and dogs 🙂

This piece is supposedly triggered by reading recent reader feedback mail about some RFID apps, including the infamous Spanish nightclub VIP pass for buying drinks and getting into the lounge…

RFID tags: The people say no | Perspectives | CNET News.com by Michael Kanellos, Editor-at-Large


“When our society reaches the point that credit cards can easily be faked, look for a push to implant a chip that will take over our trade institutions,” reader Jeff Phelps wrote.

A large number of letters also asserted that human RFID tags are a demonic tool.

“I can assure you the resistance to this will be very strong from Christians…You will see tens of millions refuse this chip, even when it means great personal suffering will ensue.”

…this is going to be one long, ugly, uphill battle. The issue has united people with fairly strong religious beliefs and libertarian privacy advocates. That doesn’t happen often.

On the other hand, the relationship between consumers and industry isn’t even close to a crisis point. At the turn of the last century, corporate leaders often faced assassination attempts, and striking factory employees sometimes got shot. Try to double-park in front of, or across the street from, an office of J.P. Morgan Chase. Private security officers will immediately shuffle you away, the legacy of a 1920 bombing at the financial institution’s New York offices.

Many wrote to say they fear that the tracking technology will be exploited to monitor our private lives–but that won’t likely happen. Governments and companies won’t have the time or energy to sift through all that data. Even if they do, what will they figure out? That car thieves are among the most loyal consumers of Sunny Delight?

On a gut level, I think that much of the antagonism against the technology is rooted in a general distrust of large institutions. Anyone who has been stuck on hold when phoning for help knows that the standard of customer service continues to plummet.

But in the end, people distrust RFID, I believe, because it forces people to get tagged like a circus bear so that an already overpaid executive can obtain a bonus for cutting costs. If companies want to win the public over to this technology, they are going to have to be the ones jumping through hoops.

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