Sunday, July 12, 2009

RFID Chips and State Power

This both illustrates the general desire for personal freedom in the American public, and the government's desire to circumvent it.

Climbing into his Volvo, outfitted with a Matrics antenna and a Motorola reader he'd bought on eBay for $190, Chris Paget cruised the streets of San Francisco with this objective: To read the identity cards of strangers, wirelessly, without ever leaving his car.

It took him 20 minutes to strike hacker's gold.

Zipping past Fisherman's Wharf, his scanner detected, then downloaded to his laptop, the unique serial numbers of two pedestrians' electronic U.S. passport cards embedded with radio frequency identification, or RFID, tags. Within an hour, he'd "skimmed" the identifiers of four more of the new, microchipped PASS cards from a distance of 20 feet.

There are many centers of power in the United States, as by design, and this has prevented a consolidation of centralized power - and maintained bourgeoise democratic rule through many periods of crisis. 'Checks and Balances' hinder the move from republicanism towards dictatorship, as happened with the Roman empire. But growing inequality, and the resulting desire to control a potentially restive population, puts pressures on republican and democratic institutions.

The U.S. has a comparatively strong tradition of internal democracy compared to other nation states. (Not against an ideal, of course) These type of I.D. programs, which use to technology to eliminate personal privacy, put 'the people' overtly at odds against their own government. This could undermine the political foundation of the United States over time.

No comments: