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The Almighty Buck

Europe Adding RFID Tags to Euro Currency 449

An EETimes article a few days ago reports that the European Central Bank is planning to add RFID tags to euro bank notes. This would allow each bill to be tracked whenever it is used, and if the chip includes writable memory, to even record its own history.
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Europe Adding RFID Tags to Euro Currency

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  • Smart Money... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by The Great Wakka ( 319389 ) on Thursday December 27, 2001 @02:23PM (#2755547) Homepage Journal
    These bills must be expensive to print, though. One question remains: how does one read the chip? Wireless? Huh... Perhaps this could be used in tracking down counterfiters (sp?). Anyone else think of uses for this?
    • Re:Smart Money... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Average ( 648 ) on Thursday December 27, 2001 @02:30PM (#2755589)
      Sure... I can think of a use. Knowing which 'ducks' are carrying lots of cash. Useful for..

      a.) Street criminals
      b.) Their brethren in Southern State Highway Patrols who rake in more money from non-trial seziure than from state budget allowances. Now we go from Driving While Black to Driving While Black with > $200.
    • Re:Smart Money... (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Triv ( 181010 )
      perhaps you could have read the article?

      The things keeping this technology out of paper currency currently are:

      1. Cost
      2. Chip size (large chip = more info stored = higher cost
      3. manufacturing process (current chips are too large and too thick and therefore can't stand the kind of abuse money goes through)

      It's got two primary uses as well - yes, to track counterfeiters, but more so to prevent counterfeiters for even trying.It's preventative.

      I think it'd be kinda interesting to take a bill and track exactly where it's been and how far it's travelled, personal freedom issues aside.

      Besides, they say this tech won't be even close to available till 2005. So quit worrying. :)

      Triv
      • Besides, they say this tech won't be even close to available till 2005. So quit worrying.

        That's three years from now. I expect to be alive in three years and expect to still value my privacy and personal freedom. And I *would* like to have at least one form of payment that is strictly anonymous-- i.e. cash. If this does away with that, even for mostly good intentions, I think we should all be afraid. Of course, I'm an American, so I've got bigger worries than this generally....
        • Well the government prints the money, and it is owned by them, I'm not sure it's an invasion of privacy, it's their property and they have the right to know who has possesion of it. You have a form of payment that is strictly anonymous... barter (we'll ignore registered property like vehicles) you don't have to use government issued currency you choose to.

          Not that I particularly like the idea, just pointing out the facts.
          • barter (we'll ignore registered property like vehicles) you don't have to use government issued currency you choose to.

            I suspect that you would be on the receiving end of some "interest" from the local taxation authorities if your bartering became too..*ahem* visible.

            Sad but true.
    • Uh? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by autopr0n ( 534291 )
      Perhaps this could be used in tracking down counterfiters

      Well, only if the counterfiters are stupid enough to put real chips in their fake money...
  • At least maybe we'll no get ecash. If the physical stuff is traceable the primary disadvantage of the elctronic stuff is gone. Not that I have anything to hide ;)

    And yes, that's a pretty poor silver lining.
    I wonder if they'll declare the currency worthless if you were to tear out the chip (or otherwise fry it - how possible is that?)
    • Maybe a nice EMP burst?

      Semi-OT, but would anyone have ideas on how to construct a money-tag-zapper on a student's budget? :)
      • That's a little ironic - these chips are powered by inducing current from radio waves; and a powerful EMP wave could theoretically sizzle the transistors in the circuits themselves. Ok, maybe it's not as ironic as I originally thought. Still a possibility though.
        I'm assuming that change machines, vending machines, etc. would use the RFID chip to determine whether or not the bill was valid (they currently optically determine this?). But then a bill gone past its lifetime, undergone a lot of physical stress, or had the RFID chip rendered useless some other way would be valueless. Isn't currency supposed to be resilient? If there is a tear in my good 'ol USA $, it's still worth the same as before it was torn (as long as it's not torn apart ...)
      • by kigrwik ( 462930 ) on Thursday December 27, 2001 @02:38PM (#2755627)
        Related News:

        The European Federal Bank commented recently that a low-orbital nuclear explosion
        would not only wreck all cash dispensers, computers and electric razors for 5000 miles around, it would also rob 300 million of europeans of their pocket change.

        Cautious people are already storing water and food supplies.

        Tom's Hardware ran a video showing a 50 euros note frying in flames due to massive overclocking ( up to 500 euros ) after the thermal dump was removed.
        • by plover ( 150551 ) on Thursday December 27, 2001 @02:47PM (#2755668) Homepage Journal
          The infamous "50 euro note going up in smoke" video was proved to be a faked demo, put together by Intel and a group dedicated to keep the British pound from joining the euro.

          Further testing by AMD showed that overclocking a 50 euro note to 100 euros and then removing the 1 euro coin (acting as the heat sink) would simply cause the 50 euro note to fail to respond, but it was not permanently damaged.

          Meanwhile, a group from Norway has announced a Linux port to the 500 euro note. Slashdot trolls have announced they can not afford to make beowulf clusters of these notes.

          John

          • > Slashdot trolls have announced they can not afford to make beowulf clusters of these notes.

            ROTFL !!
            :)

            In recent news, the British Parliament presented the new series of bank notes.
            According to Lord Smith, a 10 PoundXP note will have a higher buying power than
            a 10 euro note.
            The European Federal bank introduces the 50 euro note as a response.

            Richard Stallman calls to the European Bank to free the printing process for bank notes.
            "People need Free Money, it's in the nature of Man."
            Wired ran an interview of Craig Mundie: "Euros are anti-American. In the interest of American businesses and consumers, euros shouldn't be allowed as a currency inside the US."
          • And now, "going to get a new computer" means going to the bank ATM machine.
      • At the risk of continuing the offtopicness... :-)

        This ZDNet story [zdnet.com] contains information on creating a H.E.R.F. (High Energy Radio Frequency) gun.

        This article was picked up and discussed on Slashdot here [slashdot.org].
    • Since the chip is going to have to be less than 1mm square, it seems that a needle would do the trick nicely, once you know where to poke.
  • Velocity of money? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by kurisudes ( 258390 ) on Thursday December 27, 2001 @02:24PM (#2755557) Homepage
    It's interesting that they will actually be able to measure the velocity of money which is a key concept in some economic theory...

    However I don't think that the government really needs to know where it's money has been... This seems a little intrusive into individuals lives.
    • Try looing at Where's George? [wheresgeorge.com] for stuff about the velocity of money. Their members record the serial numbers on all the bills they get and the system tracks them across the world. Not as detailed as a chip in a bill though.

      Maybe I should just start stealing everything I need so I won't be tracable through my money.
    • > It's interesting that they will actually be able to measure the velocity of money which is a key concept in some economic theory...

      Well, the velocity of a European banknote anyways, but what about African banknotes?

  • Privacy concerns? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Stavr0 ( 35032 ) on Thursday December 27, 2001 @02:25PM (#2755560) Homepage Journal
    Maybe zapping the bills with a tesla coil would help. Would a defective tranceiver still be accepted as legal tender?
  • Privacy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Artagel ( 114272 ) on Thursday December 27, 2001 @02:26PM (#2755569) Homepage
    What's in my wallet is my business. If a storeowner, or anyone with the right equipment can read how much money I have in my pocket, that bugs me. Heck, for all I know a well-equipped hacker/mugger will be able to spot targets using them.
    • Though they'd probably be bulky, I suspect it would spawn a whole new "security wallet" industry. A faraday cage inspired wallet that could prevent information leakage from your own damn money.
    • Unless the range was kept small.
      • And then only people crowded with you on the tubes could find out. Brilliant!

        So, a store owner that is on his way to the royal bank doesn't have to worry about the people around him that could find out and mug him.

        I really think that the money should just emit a signal up to the clouds, like the bat signal or something, when the person carrying the money is in trouble. Now, the obvious market is just lead wallets!
    • What's in my wallet is my business.

      Exactly why many people use cash. If everyone knew how much loot you had in your wallet, then you wouldn't be able to negotiate prices. Not to mention that anyone closing their store at night, and taking the cash register deposits to the bank would instantly become targets.

      I can see how this stupid move would spell a quick end for any currency.

      • "Not to mention that anyone closing their store at night, and taking the cash register deposits to the bank would instantly become targets."
        And this is different from now how exactly?
    • Thank God for debit cards, huh?
    • Sorry, not true, you don't own that currency, it is the property of the federal government. I don't like it either but that's the way it is.
  • ... that will cause the citizenry to vote out their government (or in this case, demand withdrawal from the EU).

    people need to hide their vices. therefore they need (untraceable) cash.

    once again, porn and drugs will withstand the onslaught of governmental interference.

  • One small run in a microwave and the electronics are toast. and until you make the currency required to be rf active at all merchants the idea is stupid.

    the ONLY way to remove counterfits and "illegal activities" is to go to a credit only system but then people will find ways around that too.
  • durability (Score:5, Informative)

    by Alien54 ( 180860 ) on Thursday December 27, 2001 @02:29PM (#2755582) Journal
    [...] embed radio frequency identification tags into the very fibers of euro bank notes by 2005, EE Times has learned. [...] would create an instant mass market for RFID chips, which have long sought profitable application. [...] no bank notes in the world today employ such a technology

    I wonder how they would survive spin, wash, dry, and iron cycles. or drying in a microwave oven.

    Their has got to be a wide range of applications that would ruin the chips. I can see civil rights volunteers subotaging currency in the safety of their homes, a sort of grassroots thing.

    the thousand lira notes in italy used to have a thin silver wire embedded in them. It was really easy to pull those out.

    • The clothing and laundry machine industries are already gearing up to put rfid tags in garments. The idea is that your washer and dryer will watch what you put in them and then behave accordingly or warn you that you are about to turn all your underwear pink.

      Oh look, I went searching for a link, and even found one on slashdot [slashdot.org]
    • It doesn't matter, because if you destroy the chip, the note stops being legal currency.
  • Nice try (Score:2, Informative)

    by b1ng0 ( 7449 )
    I saw this on the news a couple of nights ago. Hitachi makes the RFID [hitachi.com]. According to Hitachi the chips only contain 128 bits of ROM which is most likely only enough for a unique ID to trace the product or passport, etc. Perhaps another flaw in their design is the use of the 2.45GHz band which is already in use for 802.11b and microwave ovens. What's going to happen if they scan my passport while my portable microwave generator is outputting 100mW? That's surely enough to interfere with all RFID chips in the local area. I am also curious as to how these devices will power themselves considering they are .4mm^2.
  • by uslinux.net ( 152591 ) on Thursday December 27, 2001 @02:33PM (#2755600) Homepage
    A few thoughts about why this isn't worth implementing right now:
    • Cost. Obviously mentioned in the article, the cost to place one of these chips in each bill is quite high ($.20-$1.00). Limited use only in large bills isn't helpful, since counterfeiting often involves bleaching smaller currency (eg $1.00 bills) and creating $50 or $100 bills.
    • Usability/strength. How many people wrinkle up their dollars and stuff them in their pockets/socks/etc? Would one of these transmitters hold up? How about if they were run through some sort of "demagnetizer"?
    • Other currencies. The article makes a point to note that this is aimed at preventing counterfeiting of what will soon be the most used currency in the world. But, unless other countries like the US do the same, it will just redirect counterfeiting efforts to other countries bills (like the US). This also includes the part mentioned in the article about someone demanding a ransom of unmarked bills, and how this would prevent that - well they'll just demand unmarked, US bills.

    All security measures will be defeated. Besides, crime is becoming more "virtual" - that is, people would rather break an unpatched IIS server and nab 10,000 credit card numbers than try to counterfeit $10,000,000.
  • What's amazing, is that it took no less than three minutes for Slashdot to demonstrate the futility of those electronic tags, i.e zapping currency in the microwave.
  • by Jimmy_B ( 129296 ) <[slashdot] [at] [jimrandomh.org]> on Thursday December 27, 2001 @02:36PM (#2755611) Homepage
    Further, a tag would give governments and law enforcement agencies a means to literally "follow the money" in illegal transactions. (from article)
    Anyone else disturbed by this? Previously, while credit cards, banks, checking, and money transfers involve giving up privacy with your purchases, cash was an anonymous, almost universally accepted form of payment. What's to stop a retailer from reading the tags on the bills they get to see who their customers are, and spam them? What about banks, where all currency eventually ends up? There's a lot of potential to use this for tracking people's purchases, and that's a bad thing.
    • by Ooblek ( 544753 )
      I don't know if there is any metric on how much illegal commerce adds to a country's GDP, but I'm guessing they will find that it is significant if they can track illegal transactions. Of course, the definition of "illegal" may be pretty broad. If I give my brother a bill for a gift or I buy a jacket at a garage sale, someone should be counting the money I give them as income. Now that all those transactions can be tracked, I wonder if they would be considered "illegal" if they weren't reported as taxable income.
  • The company I used to work for was dealing with a lot of Motorola smart card technology, and implementation schemes for it. One thing I don't get about smartcard/chip/cash technology is: Why bother with writable memory on-chip? It sure is useful if you're individualizing peoples' ID cards at a convention, but otherwise there's no point to it.

    If someone is tech-savvy enough to hack the on-chip filesystem and change the path that piece of currency followed, then it wouldn't make a lick of difference where the cash has been. If they're tracking it at airports, train stations, or even every doorway, then a centralized database can handle the data mining without worrying about someone changing the non-static ID tags.

    Although, increasing the price of currency production with useless features is pretty helpful if you plan on printing huge quantities of it... so watch out.
  • or more like hurdles and issues. First off, I see too many ways this could be used for Pure evil. As many have already said, the Gov knowing where, when and how I spend my money is none of their damn business (though they seems to think it is).

    Since I'm going to guess that the RF in RFID means radio frequency, how long before your average pick pocket/mugger is using a detection device see just how much is in your wallet. An rightly so, I think that the store owner needs not know what's in my wallet either as I already can't stand it when they try to sell you up, imagine how much harder they will try if they can see how much your holding on you.

    Now, onto the hurdles. I think they will have a hard time getting this to work since things like water, micro-wave emmissions, the crushing force of being sat on in a wallet are all factors that could destroy an RF device. Top that off with the need for a system that can read that signal while also keeping it secure so that average criminal's can't use it for thier own needs.

    Another question would be, how much will this technology cost per bill and will it have an effect on the bills worth? While Europe seems to be very heavy in the way of tracking it's people (camera's everywhere) I think this is one way that will give them nothing but fits.
  • by chundercanada ( 520279 ) on Thursday December 27, 2001 @02:39PM (#2755631)
    Every normal paper bill has a serial number on it. ATMs could easily scan each bill as it is handed out, associating the person's account with that bill. When merchants turn in bills they can be scanned again. Or merchants can have point-of-sale bill scanners (to detect funny-money, of course). Clear all this data in a central location, apply some fuzzy-logic, and you have a prety damn good idea of who spent money where.

    How many times do they need to find bills from your ATM withdrawl in the pot dealer's deposit bag before they knock on your door?

    This idea was written up at DEC SRC years ago if I am not mistaken.

    • It seems that the post office can track not only where mail is sorted, but exactly when it went through a specific sorting machine and what went before and after. This came out in the anthrax investigation where they could say when the lady in CT had her letter pass through a machine and which letters came before and after.

      I'd suggest tracking money is even more interesting the tracking mail to many in a position of power. Are you all sure it isn't already happening -- there is little incentive to tell anyone.
    • Given this theory, I am quite amazed that they haven't put a bar code on paper bank notes to make it easier to scan them using readily available hardware.

      • Given this theory, I am quite amazed that they haven't put a bar code on paper bank notes to make it easier to scan them using readily available hardware.
        That's because if barcodes were used to identify currency bills, only a photocopier would be needed to fool the machine.

        The US federal government is spending millions a year to have a certain warehouse guarded, and has been doing so for the last 27 years. The warehouse holds worthless gas rationning vouchers printed during the 1973 energy crisis.

        Why are they guarded, even though they are worthless? Because they happen to have George W.'s face printed on them, and as such, they register as US $1.00 bills when read by bill readers...

        • The question that comes to mind regarding those rationing vouchers is why they don't make a point of destroying the ones they have, and destroying any that show up from circulation. If the supply dried up eventually these things should have a collector value greater than a buck, then the likelyhood of them showing up in change machines would be small and change machine operators who did run across one would have a pleasant surprise instead of being cheated.

        • by Chris Mattern ( 191822 ) on Thursday December 27, 2001 @03:44PM (#2755923)
          > Why are they guarded, even though they are
          > worthless? Because they happen to have George
          > W.'s face printed on them, and as such, they
          > register as US $1.00 bills when read by bill
          > readers...

          Took me a couple of seconds to figure out exactly
          what you meant--at first I thought you were saying
          they had George W. Bush's face on them, which made
          no sense.

          In any case, it sounds totally bogus. Why not
          simply incinerate the stuff? Urban legend.

          Chris Mattern
        • That doesn't make sense. Why wouldn't they just
          destroy the vouchers?

          Not that the government doesn't do plenty of
          nonsensical things, but I wouldn't repeat your
          story as fact before seeing some documentation
          of it.
  • Now you can buy $100 worth of Euros and get $200 worth of RFID gadgets to sell and hax0r at your leisure. Hot damn.
  • If you want an insider's view of the origins of the European Central Bank, run, don't walk, to amazon.com and order a copy of this book.

    Attempting to track the flow of currency is fully in line with your typical French bureaucrat's view that all good comes from the state, and that the state must be in charge of all aspects of life.

    IMHO, the voters of the UK, Denmark, and Sweden are going to look very smart in the very near future.
  • Anyone who can come up with something that will pass Money Abuse Tests has an amazing product.

    Like for the US dollar, a machine rolls up the money into a very tight cylinder, then crushes it flat. The holograms that were being tested were totally destroyed by this test, so they don't appear on US money.
    • They talk about having to miniturize them below 1mm on a side. Presumably, at that size, the device can be sufficiently rigid to protect itself from flexion, without either tearing out of the note or cracking. A fold would just divert to one side or the other.
  • RFID basics (Score:5, Informative)

    by EMIce ( 30092 ) on Thursday December 27, 2001 @02:45PM (#2755660) Homepage
    I noticed some people asking basic questions like if RFID is wireless. RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) is inherently wireless, it works on the same principal our AC power transformers use. There is a coil inside the bill that is a certain number of turns. It is energized by a high energy coil placed where the bill needs to be tracked. The high energy coil induces a current in the bill's coil and causes it to modulate a unique stream of bits on a preset frequency. It's pretty nifty technology, it never needs batteries and will work indefinitely.
    • It should be two smaller coils with a completely different signature, or not?.. given that a small hole in a bill shouldn't upset anyone.. of course depends on how many coils you'd put in, wouldn't want it to look like a swiss cheese.

      Kjella
      • At least the federal governernment and banking system is VERY eager to replace mangled, broken, burned, shredded and otherwise humiliated money at no extra cost. You just send in your bucks, some specialists do puzzling and replace the money for you. I think this will continue with the DM leaving and the coming.

        Another point I have not seen stated around here is the fact that the implementation will not become reality before 2005 for cost reasons. And for the very same reason only notes with a high value (they talk about 200+ which exchanges to a little less thatn $180 or something). So you could just get small notes from the cashier.

        Also, it is a small coil, there can't be too much transmission power. Maybe it would work to have the money wrapped in tinfoil before you can exchange it for smaller notes.
  • by jdclucidly ( 520630 ) on Thursday December 27, 2001 @02:45PM (#2755662) Homepage
    This technology has existed in access control systems for years. It's important to note that they're not 'chips' in the common sense of the word... they're actually coils of copper etching.

    The coil is 'read' by emmitting a radio signal and reading the reflected frequency from the coil. This makes the currency immune to all forms of defacing short of cutting the coil out of the currency or cutting it in half. If the bank was smart, the coil spans the entire currency so it's impossible to complete remove it. It can be read from up to twenty feet away. However, it's difficult to discern different signatures or how many signatures there are when the coils are in close proximity to each other.

    And no, microwaves will only serve to ignite your currency. But hey, if you've got money to burn, go for it, honey.
    • by Zathrus ( 232140 ) on Thursday December 27, 2001 @03:23PM (#2755834) Homepage
      Actually, put several coils or strips together and you will change their reflective signature. Generally in ways that aren't readily predictable (so, no, you couldn't get a signature back and say "that's two 10 Euro notes!"). So no, people aren't going to be able to magically read how much money is in your pocket. At least not unless you carefully make sure that none of the strips are aligned in the same direction, none are touching each other, etc.

      It's also defeated easily by wrapping other foil around the primary strip/coil/etc. - as silly as it sounds, if you wrapped your wallet with aluminum foil, it'd be as good as scrambled.

      Finally, tracking systems break pretty fast. Go to the ATM, get some Euro notes that now belong to "you". Go to lunch with a friend and have him pay by check, credit, whatever and you pay him in cash. That's an untrackable transaction. These kinds of transactions happen constantly, and there's no way to trace them. (Yes, get paranoid - do the above enough with one person and They will figure out that You and Him are friends, and then They will watch both of You. When you want to step back to reality, let me know).

      Didn't this kind of thing come up when the US Treasury started adding magstripes to $100, $50, and $20 bills?
    • Almost right. An etched copper coil (or more likely aluminum, it's cheaper) can form the antenna, and also a small capacitor/inductor circuit to restrict the response to a narrow band of frequencies, but it can't store serial numbers. The cheapest way by far to do electronic serial numbers is to use a small IC containing the PROM plus interface circuitry. That does have to be connected to either several inches of wire (for the simplest antenna) or to an etched coil (for a more versatile antenna circuit). If you want to read it from several feet away, you probably must have the etched circuit, but the simple wire is enough to read it from a bill inserted into the machine, in a known orientation.

      I think antitheft tags use the etched circuit alone. This will echo a signal from a scanner several feet away to tell that a not-paid-for item is walking out the door. The tags aren't unique, but it's not necessary to know _which_ item. If anti-counterfeiting was the sole concern, etched circuits would be nearly as good as a chip-based circuit, and a whole lot cheaper. Each denomination would be tuned differently (so if you bleached a 1 Euro bill and re-printed it as a 100, the scanner would still see it as a 1). Scanners would start at about $50. The biggest counterfeiting threat lately has not been the few "professionals" (they get caught), but thousands of amateurs who get past that bad time before payday by a little work with a color scanner and printer -- it's not real good, but it will get past anyone who doesn't look too close or take time to really feel the paper, or hold it up to the light to check for watermarks and special threads woven in -- so there's about 1% chance a minimum wage clerk or a busy bartender will catch a funny 20 in the US. Any sort of RFID would stop these amateurs.

      Professional counterfeiters are rare and usually spend most of their lives in prison because anyone who can etch printing plates, print the money, and sell it, and doesn't take those skills to a legitimate job is either nuts or extraordinarily greedy. So they'll build the business up until the distribution end gets too big, someone gets caught, and turns in others. It might take the T-men a few years, but they persist until the printer is doing 10 to 20, if he's lucky and whatever mobsters are involved don't make sure he won't be around to testify against them.

      With or without chips, RFID wouldn't entirely put the pros out of business, but it would make things harder for most of them. Some already have "connections" wherever the paper for currency is made, and since the antenna, and chip if any, have to be added to the papermaking process, they'll get the RFID's too, but probably at double the cost. Those who somehow treat commercially available paper to make it pass for currency paper would be out of business until they figured out how to make the RFID, take two pieces of very thin paper, bond it together with the antenna inside, and still somehow make it look and feel right -- sounds like years of work to me... And if there are any that make their own currency paper, now they have to learn _another_ skill.
    • Isn't this the same technology that is being used in shops as an anti-theft measure? Somehow the clerks at the register seem to be able to disable it so that the alarms on the doors do not beep.. The bigger ones get taken off but I mean the ones that have been stuck between book pages and glued on the bottom of a bottle of vitamins etc..
  • 1 Strippers garter
    2 Strippers garter
    3 Strippers garter
    4 Strippers garter
    5 Strippers garter
    6 Strippers garter
    7 Strippers garter
    8 Strippers garter
    * End of History
  • Reminds me of the Where is George [wheresgeorge.com] Dollar Bill locator.

    In theory this could make counterfeiting very difficult, or simply raise the stakes, as counterfeiters ply Central Bank employees for materials to counterfeit with. Still, with enough sophistication, merchants would be able to scan money and stop the bills quick. A possibility you wouldn't find in the US with all the whining merchants would put forth on increased costs of doing business, etc.

    I wonder how well they'll survive a trip through the washer and dryer, though.

  • Great, I thought that as long as I used cash only (most of the times) for my consumption, I can keep my consumption behavior pretty private. That last means is being "worked on" too, eh?

    Good thing the technology is not very practical at this point, and I doubt it's going to be implemented, as it is described in the article.
  • This is absolutely unacceptable, am I going to have to carry USD to buy hookers and drugs while in Europe now?

    Seriously though, does the government need to know that I spent the hundred euro note that I got from the bank at the widget store or whatever? Refuckindiculous. I guess those who want privacy will have to switch to prepaid visa cards, purchased with the change made from a fairly anonymous purchase (use a 500 euro note to buy some donuts or something?)

    • Re:Unacceptable (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Arlet ( 29997 )
      I don't see what the big deal is. As other people have already said, this is likely to be used only on the big bills (500 Euro). Cash machines don't issue these bills, and most banks will not give them out to customers unless requested, or when withdrawing very large amounts of money. For many people, even holding a 500 Euro bill will be a rare event. Spending it is not easy too, as most stores are unlikely to accept it for payment of small items, such as donuts.

      And even if you're handling these kinds of bills, it's not easy to tie the bill's serial number to a particular person, and it's fairly easy to circumvent by trading it for somebody else's 500 Euro note.

      Compare this with credit cards where every single transaction, no matter how small, is already logged in a database, with full details about the owner, product, place, date and time. How come those aren't "unacceptable" ?

      I get tired of all those claims that the "government" is going to see what I buy in the store. Honestly, the government has better things to do that watch me buy a loaf of bread, a can of coke, and a magazine, when they don't even have enough detectives to solve a significant part of real crimes.
      • 500 euro, BTW, is a pretty large chunk of cash in itself, it's equivalent to about £300 or $450. I'm not entirely sure what the point is, though...
      • It's not the government tracking the purchase of a loaf of bread that worries us.

        How would you like to explain to your boss, or your wife, why the police came by to ask how money you withdrew from an ATM ended up in the possession of a drug dealer? Or a prostitute? History is absolutely clear on this: the "big fish" have the resources and motivation to bribe officials (or "trade" information for leniancy), it's the little guy who gets hit with 10-years-without-parole mandatory sentences or has their car (or house!) confiscated as "tainted"... and innocence is often no defense. With the "seizer gets the goods" laws, there's also clear evidence that many (not all) police deliberately target the weak for institutionalized theft - ask anyone who had their car confiscated on some southern interstates because they couldn't prove that the car (which does not have constitutional protection) was "innocent."

        The stupidest thing is that these laws will have absolutely no impact on the low-level criminal activities. The *only* thing criminalization does is close the courts to people with small disputes, forcing them into big disputes. If a guy rips you off in a used car sale, you can haul him into court, possibly even file a criminal complaint. If you're ripped off in a drug deal of the same size, your options are to either absorb the loss (and be marked as an easy target for future abuse) or kill the bastard. Gee, is it any wonder why "low level drug dealer" and "dead" appear in the same sentence so much? Ditto "street walker" and "victim of sadistic mass-murderer"?

        The proposal, today, is to only mark large bills. But it won't be long until the standard bill coming out of the ATM is marked (due to inflation and cheaper second-generation technology). Once the bills are marked and tracked, some grandstanding politician will be unable to resist the "get tough on street crime" temptation, esp. when data farming machines are powerful enough to track this information.

        It will only catch the stupid drug user, john, etc., but what will the street find as a currency to replace it? I think most of us would prefer the occasional streetcorner transaction than, oh, a 2400% increase in petty burglaries because the street trade now uses small untracked items like CDs and the like.
        • > It will only catch the stupid drug user, john, etc., but what will the street find as a currency to replace it?

          Drugs are often used as a medium of exchange, particularly where street prostitution is involved. (e.g. pussy is sold for crack.)

          Now, given that your typical john doesn't have the capacity to make crack, we still have a supply problem, namely, where does John get his crack? He gets it from his dealer. But if the dealer won't take cash (or John doesn't want his trackable cash found on the dealer), what does John do?

          John uses legal, but heavily-taxed, drugs - alcohol and tobacco - as currency. Smugglers make a living by moving goods from low-tax to high-tax jurisdictions, providing supply to John through local merchants.

          As long as the corner store is stocked with smokes or booze (whether smuggled or not - smuggled smokes/booze simply afford the mob an additional profit opportunity at the start of the supply chain), John can legally purchase all the "tobaccscrip" or "boozescrip" he needs.

          If John's lucky, he's got a hooker who's an alcoholic nicotine freak. If John's not so lucky, she's a crackhead or pothead, and he'll have to exchange tobaccscrip and boozescrip for crack or pot at the local drug dealer, before purchasing any pussy.

          If the local mobster controls the flow of legal-but-smuggled goods (cigarettes, liquor), illegal goods (illegal drugs), and the prostitution, he can have an entire economy set up and running in no time.

          Finally, remember that in the underground economy, some currencies literally do grow on trees.

          John could, for instance, cut out the middlemen (and greatly drop his cost of pussy) in his drugs-for-pussy transactions by taking the additional risk associated with growing a plant or two of "hempscrip" in his back yard. Alternately, John could supply an organized-crime warez group with 0-day warez, pre-release MP3z, or various types of pr0n (whether legal or not).

          Currency as we know it evolved from barter. If barter is required to sustain the underground economy, the underground economy may become less efficient -- but that won't end the underground economy. It'll merely provide (like any inefficient market does) those in the market with more opportunities for profit.

  • Why bother with the hi-tech solution when so many people are willing to do it voluntarily [wheresgeorge.com]?
  • I don't know about you, but I'm going to solve this particular issue if it comes to the U.S. by paying for everything in pennies.

    And just in case anyone saw Mr. Show with Bob and David, no, they are not Ass pennies.

    I really should get some sleep ;)
  • by linq ( 163302 ) on Thursday December 27, 2001 @03:07PM (#2755763)
    There have been serial numbers on notes as long as I can remember. This is the same concept using new technology which will make it possible to digitally sign each serial number.

    The scheme will only be used on large notes since those are most likely to be subject to forgery. Applying it to all notes would be to costly but will probably be possible in the future.

    This is no secret project(as indicated by the article) since it has been in the news several times in Europe.
  • by hughk ( 248126 ) on Thursday December 27, 2001 @03:07PM (#2755765) Journal
    There are a number of projects that have been introduced for the further protection of the Euro. There are particularly concerns about the new high-value notes, which are substantially greater in value than is commonly used in many EU countries.

    RFID is just one of the technologies being examined. It has advantages as well as a pile of disadvantages that other have noted here. Certainly whilst you may spend 1 Euro to protect a 500 Euro note, even that is pretty expensive.

    Although in the US, people like to use non-cash methods for large but legal sums, say for a car or a house, in may parts of the EU, people will make major purchases in cash, yes even houses and these people have their cash legally too! Well, some of them. Certainly, there are a lot of quite legitimate users of high value bills here.

    The problem here is that counterfeit money costs the issuer. It certainly costs the Fed for all those dud greenbacks. However, no central banker likes to tell how much counterfeit money is being picked up (I have asked). WHther it costs enough that it justifies RFID tags is another matter.

    The EU certainly likes to support domestic technology, i.e. Siemens and Phillips, but there are limits.

  • by booyah ( 28487 ) on Thursday December 27, 2001 @03:19PM (#2755816)
    say about 30 years? that way I can live the rest of my life out without having to worry about having a chip imprinted in my skin that can be tracked by anyone who wants to throw money at a receiver? or having my wallet surveyed by a potentiel mugger? Or have my cars speedometer turn me in for doing 80 down the turnpike???? Please folks, someone invent a time machine so I can live in 1971 and drive a friggin barracuda?
  • by grub ( 11606 ) <slashdot@grub.net> on Thursday December 27, 2001 @03:28PM (#2755853) Homepage Journal
    Requires: Anvil, Hammer, Nail or Chisel.

    Locate chip, place bill on anvil. Place nail or chisel on chip. Strike nail or chisel with hammer. Repeat if necessary.
  • by bill_mcgonigle ( 4333 ) on Thursday December 27, 2001 @03:31PM (#2755876) Homepage Journal
    Say they bust a drug dealer on the street. They take his money, find the bills that didn't come from his ATM, and find out who had the remaining bills last. I'm betting they'll try for a court order to raid the homes of the people who last had those bills. If you happened to give one of those bills to a street vendor who then gave it to the drug dealer, then, well, thanks for helping out your government - hope that door isn't too expensive to replace.
    The moral of this story is that the system can't work until every point of currency exchange is surveilled electronically, which will effectively be never, which means the information will always be meaningless at best. The risk is making assumptions about the validity of the data (which I'm sure They will).
  • by ZoneGray ( 168419 ) on Thursday December 27, 2001 @03:34PM (#2755884) Homepage
    I wonder if you'll have to upgrade your cash's firmware when they find security flaws.

    Imagine that, you go to pay for something and the serial number has changed to "L337". Sheesh.
  • by glassware ( 195317 ) on Thursday December 27, 2001 @03:38PM (#2755903) Homepage Journal

    Come on. I've read five notable comments in this thread and they all say in effect "How can I disable this protection to prevent the government from spying on me?"

    Yes, I am concerned about my privacy. I find it really painful that so many people have my phone number, my email address, and my home address. People send me offensive ads every day which I wish I could refuse without inviting more.

    This said, why are people instantly opposed to money with copy protection? I have no objection to this money unless something goes severely wrong, for example:

    The money requires me to input my name and address after acquiring it.

    The money breaks if I don't take good care of it.

    Retailers refuse to accept it because the copy protection is so burdensome.

    The wierd thing is that existing money often has these problems. When I go to the bank and withdraw cash from my account, they ask me for my name and address on the withdrawal form. If I leave a twenty in the wash a few too many times, it might fall apart - sometimes you can get people to still take it, but often not. And most inexplicably, the new US $100 bill that has so many copy protection features on it - I can't use it anywhere! People simply refuse it and say "there's too many forgeries around." Isn't that odd?

    If the ECB puts a 1k data chip on their money, and the money still works like normal money, I will encourage it.

    • by Wonko42 ( 29194 ) <ryan+slashdot@@@wonko...com> on Thursday December 27, 2001 @08:49PM (#2757038) Homepage
      It always bugs me when merchants refuse to allow you to pay for something with certain bills. US currency is supposedly "Legal tender for all debts, public and private," yet merchants can somehow get away with refusing to accept them.

      It's understandable that 7-11 may not always have change for my $1.99 purchase that I pay for with a $100 bill, but as long as I'm willing to let them keep the change, it seems there is no legal way for them to refuse to accept my bill.

      Or have I missed something?

  • This isn't much different from the system already in use in the United States, where the metalized strips in our currency are encoded magnetically. The proposed system for the Euro is potentially more secure, given that information couldn't be read nor written without the correct codes, but is just as big a problem with regards to privacy.
  • by EllisDees ( 268037 ) on Thursday December 27, 2001 @03:45PM (#2755928)
    Could 'disable' all of the money in a bank vault. Seriously, if somebody wanted to undermine the currency, all they would have to do is wait somewhere that large amounts of currency would be passing by and set off an EMF pulse that would fry any circuitry that is put on the cash. Do it to enough money, and nobody would trust it anymore.
  • Voluntary (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cr@ckwhore ( 165454 ) on Thursday December 27, 2001 @03:49PM (#2755942) Homepage
    I'm sure some of you already know about wheresgeorge.com... but if not, its a really fun thing to do. Get an account, and voluntarily track your own bills by entering the serial numbers. Each bill gets marked, and hopefully somebody else will see it and enter the serial numbers again. I've had a bit of fun with it, seeing my bills travel around the country.

    But seriously though, one of the benefits of using paper currency is its anonymity. I buy my copy of 2600 every quarter with plain cash, just because I"m ultra paranoid. Hard currency is used in ways that will boggle the mind, so its somewhat hard to believe the problems that would arrise from money tracking here in the US.

    Its probably unconstitutional anyway.
    • But seriously though, one of the benefits of using paper currency is its anonymity. I buy my copy of 2600 every quarter with plain cash, just because I"m ultra paranoid. Hard currency is used in ways that will boggle the mind, so its somewhat hard to believe the problems that would arrise from money tracking here in the US.

      Hahahahaha.

      I can see now. All of the euro governments are going to get together and force every little mere and pere shop to install RFID readers before they are allowed to accept the new Euros. Right.

      Even if they did that, there still would be the problem of tying each bill with the person who spent it. Will you be required to "sign" each bill as you use it? I doubt it. What about the old bills in circualtion? The article states that this is at least 3 years away. You could hoard all of the remaining "anonymous" bills and use them.

  • by Rasvar ( 35511 )
    I wonder what happens to one of these chips if it goes through the washing machine? Would give new meaning to laundering money!
  • History? (Score:5, Funny)

    by graphicartist82 ( 462767 ) on Thursday December 27, 2001 @04:00PM (#2755984)
    I'm not sure if i'd want to know how many strip joints my money has been in before it gets to me!
  • by morcheeba ( 260908 ) on Thursday December 27, 2001 @07:24PM (#2756840) Journal
    Argh! And I had better text to go with it, too. I should have saved a copy for just this moment. Alas, I'll just recap my concerns from my submission:

    1. Because of cost, this will be probably implemented first only in the larger denomination bills. (stated in the article)
    2. The security model is flawed. The authentication process encrypts the serial number, so without the algorithm you can't tell the bill's denomination. (You can track the bills by the unique encrypted number, irregardless if you know the algorithm).
    3. You put these two facts together, and the mere presence of an RFID bill in your pocket means you have at least ~USD$200. If you have 10 RFID bills, you've got at least $2000. Without bypassing the encryption, you can pick off the most worthwhile people to rob.
    4. Fortuantly, these are readable only at a short distance (~12 inches), but two antennas by the bathroom door will scan a whole lot of people.

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