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Social Consequences and Effects of RFID Implants? 531

kramdam asks: "Even with all the talk about privacy and security, there seems to be a growing community of people who are implanting themselves with RFID chips. Being a developer myself, I am intrigued about building applications and solutions that will open my doors, unlock my car, log me on to my computer and control home automation. I'm seriously considering jumping into this head first, being on the bleeding edge, and going with an implant. I have looked at resources like Mikey Sklar's site, and Amal Graafstra's site, since they are two pioneers on this subject. For research, I have started TaggedLife to document my own journey. I was wondering what the Slashdot community think about this. What do you think are the social, security, privacy, and health risks associated with this? What are the pluses? Would you do it?"
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Social Consequences and Effects of RFID Implants?

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  • Well... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by borisborf ( 906678 ) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @11:48PM (#15259753) Homepage
    Inplantable RFID tags are just not for me. Sounds a little to, well, end-times-ish. I would rather have an RFID watch or something. Sure, it could be stolen, but what about a central control website where if it was stolen, I just deactivate the code from it and put in the code for my new watch. Problem solved.
  • Why? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by neostorm ( 462848 ) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @11:49PM (#15259758)
    Why exactly do you need an implant for this? This reads more as an attempt at resistance-numbing the public to the concept of implants themselves, because franky there's no viable reason you can't have all the features you listed in your keychain or wallet instead. I don't see the threat of lost or stolen hardware to be worth it.

  • by maillemaker ( 924053 ) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @11:55PM (#15259791)
    Since it seems security devices are always being compromised, I'd hate to have to cut myself open every time one of these things had been likewise compromised.

    I agree - an RFID watch would be much better - perhaps an RFID watch that can identify the person wearing it biometrically, even.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @11:57PM (#15259808)
    In the countries considering RFID (US and many more, unfortunately), the governments' thinking with respect to RFID seems to be flawed in many ways:
    • They (incorrectly to their own knowledge) deny implications of RFID (in passports or otherwise) for the bearer's personal safety
    • They want to force RFID chips inside passports
    • Then they promise to shield it so the passport needs to be opened anyway - but could still be identified as e.g. a US one even when closed, and potentially still be read out with special (i.e. simply more powerful and/or sensitive) equipment, despite the apparent perception of security
    • Unlike with optical reading, where the document can simply be put out of sight, the bearer has no way of knowing whether and when an RFID shield actually works
    • Why pretend that only governments (or "the good guys" in general) would be able to procure RFID readers? This technology is not rocket science, and it could be every thug's dream come true (especially as the European Central Bank even seems to consider putting it into their money) - so "finally" for the nastier elements of society, remote assessment of who might be a "promising" victim e.g. for abduction, robbery or worse becomes possible
    So there is always certain inconvenience -if not danger- to the bearer, but not a single valid reason for embedding RFID into a passport: If it needs to be opened anyway, and faster machine-readability than with the current (already standardized) printed text is required, a simple printed barcode would do, at much greater reliability. Make no mistake, if RFID is enforced even though it does not have any benefit in the proposed application, there have to be ulterior motives for its use - then, however, it is no conspiracy theory to suggest that future mischief is implied in this scenario.

  • Re:Carry it? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by udoschuermann ( 158146 ) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @12:16AM (#15259902) Homepage
    That's right. Implanting the RFID tag robs you of the option of leaving it home when you really don't care to have it around and be trackable, unless your real intention is to explore the psychological implications of being robbed of that choice and having to learn to live with yet another freedom abridged (by free will, no less... how twisted is that?)
  • You are correct that keys (in the case of, say, a door or car) are adequate security in many cases. If you need better security, use a "thieves lock" (it actually unlocks in the reverse direction than normal, with the normal direction causing the lock to disable itself until reset).

    However, let's assume that this person WANTS the most high-tech solution imaginable. RFID tags are dumb devices with no meaningful logic, which means you can't do encryption key negotiation - or, indeed, any form of encryption at all. Anyone with a scanner can lift ALL of your keys with a simple RFID reader and can then impersonate you with impunity with ALL electronic devices.

    If someone wants an implant - genuinely, truthfully, absolutely would die without one - then they should implant an intelligent device, preferably a small embedded general purpose computer. General purpose? Yes, then you only need one implant, which you can then program for ALL of your devices you want to control, rather than having one implant per device.

    Strong, crypto would utterly defeat the RFID attack on cars mentioned in an earlier Slashdot story. It would also make the computer "unscannable" the way an RFID tag is, because it's no longer just a passive device. Further, an intelligent device could do ANYTHING you wanted, whereas an RFID tag could not. An embedded computer could monitor your temperature and control the thermostat accordingly, for example. An embedded tag could do nothing more than get crushed as the blood vessels expanded.

    Personally, I would avoid implants. Implants can be thought of as deliberate splinters or deliberate cysts, depending on size. Both of these, when they occur naturally, can potentially turn nasty. The body really doesn't take kindly to foreign objects, if it detects them. When you've any kind of device that was probably not assembled in a clean-room environment, sterilized and completely clensed, there's a good risk that implants could carry unwanted hitchhikers. Even when it's all done properly, a good bruise near the implant could turn nasty. That's ignoring any chemical reactions between the implant and the body, which may have other unexpected consequences.

    (You should also be aware of materials used. Materials that have a higher-than-normal level of alpha-particle emitters could seriously screw things up. The skin is thick enough to absorb alpha particles, in typical real-world conditions, which is just as well - soft tissue tends not to react too well to such things.)

    The embedded computer shares ALL of the health problems of an RFID tag, though scaled up because it is more complex and involves more components. It also needs a power source, so you'll occasionally need to rip yourself open to replace the lithium batteries.

    Now, there ARE ways to embed a computer in a person in a way that would minimize hazards on a day-to-day basis. However, there you're talking major surgery for the implant plus for each recharge. Surgery is, itself, extremely dangerous and not something you'd normally do just to add a gadget to your life.

    It's possible to imagine surgical implants that COULD be recharged with less effort - such as enlarging the skull and using some of the space added, with a power outlet the bone can grow around - but we're talking serious sci-fi medical techniques here. Sure, there have been experiments involving wiring EEG devices directly to the human brain. Sure, even Stone Age medics could drill holes large enough to run a power outlet or an ethernet port. Sure, there are societies even today that deliberately reshape the skull. But to combine all of this AND enlarge an adult skull, not just reshape a child's... That is probably too complex for existing technology.

    However, were implants to be a useful thing for society as a whole, a deep implant (such as in the chest cavity - if you can staple a stomach in half safely, you can wedge a matchbox-sized motherboard in there with absolutely zero impact), or a skull implant would seem to be far more resistant to damage, far more powerful, far more useful, far less toxic and far less likely to trigger an immune response.

  • Re:Why? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by aemain ( 678301 ) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @01:44AM (#15260249)
    Damn. Just listen to this guy []:
    Today I got a confirmation that my implanter is on the way. So excited about that! As I'm thinking about this project, I sometimes get overwhelmed with what can be done with RFID.

    I also got the super small chips in the mail today. They are much smaller than the 'small' chips out there. (Cool!)
    Damn. Its like MySpace, only even creepier!
  • Open source it (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Yvanhoe ( 564877 ) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @04:15AM (#15260604) Journal
    I'll go for a fully specified and documented chip that comes with OSS software. I'll also hope that the impantable "chip" will be a bit more than a plain passive RFID tag (come on, there's room in there!) and so i'd want it to be able to "shut off" to maybe be flashable, to have some sort of memory, etc...
  • by Bongoots ( 795869 ) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @06:54AM (#15260942)
    I have a plastic tube from my brain to my stomach. It works wonders for me socially! :\

    To find out more, do some reading up on Non-communicating Hydrocephalus :)

    It's not really plastic, though, the substance is actually silicone-plastic ("silastic" - polydimethylsiloxane).

    On a side point, I've had this tube (yes, the very same one!) in me since I was 10 weeks old back in mid-86. There's no need at all to replace it unless there's a complication, so I'll most likely have it in me until I finally go 6 feet under.

    What is the life expectancy of an RFID implant? Are they truly non-destructible and will stay with the wearer for life?
  • Re:Well... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Nurgled ( 63197 ) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @07:07AM (#15260974)

    The car and computer thing are both daft, but the home automation goal has some merit. If you have a house where more than one person lives, having a home automation system that can track the movements of each person individually would be a major boon. Most current attempts at home automation are based around whether someone is in a room, rather than tailoring to each person.

    Of course, you could ask what it would do when two people with conflicting preferences are in the same room, but that's just a software problem and is thus much easier to refine over time.

  • by jasen666 ( 88727 ) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @08:21AM (#15261228)
    They proved on mythbusters that an MRI will not rip metal out of your body. It is damn strong though.
  • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @09:26AM (#15261626) Homepage
    RFID watches are brain dead easy to make. I made my watch band into my Mobil Speedpass in 5 minutes of screwing around with a dremel.

    an implant is nuts unless you really need to unlock your car and do other things naked.

    I find that carrying a card in my wallet or in my cellphone works great for everything the poster wants to do. Watch is the step to make it more with you always as well. A Ring works well too. I have a iButton Java Ring that works really well for door access at home.

    High end home automation from vantage (inFusion line of processors specifically) already supports RFID tracking as well as other things that the poster want's to tinker with. but that's the difference between a $35,000.00 automation system and a bunch of parts running misterhouse and X10 modules.

    Finally why is it that engineers are taking the lazy approach and simply sticking a transmitter in your head/body? are they not creative enough to use biometrics so we do not have to perform surgery for these tasks? Why cant a fingerprint reader be placed on a car door handle or your home door handle?
  • Re:1984 (Score:2, Interesting)

    by DesertWolf0132 ( 718296 ) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @10:31AM (#15262209) Homepage

    I'm with mrraven on this. The whole idea is a bit Orwellian. Adding to the government is the horror getting your info is the private corporations. Imagine walking into a store to glance at an item and by the time you get to the shelf they have run a full credit check and are ready to offer you a starting APR of 8% with no payments till January. Or worse, walk into a store you owe money to and they immediately deduct it from a credit card attached to your RFID. Then of course you have the identity theft implications as we know every Black Hat H4X0R will be working on that encryption. Why go through all of those risks just for the ability to shave a few seconds off of entering your car or home?

    It's not paranoia when they really are out to get you... Now where is my tin foil hat and Rambo knife...

  • Would I do it? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by slashdyke ( 873156 ) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @11:36AM (#15262824) Homepage

    For some it may be cool to have a light turn on when they walk by, or have their computer log log them in automatically. Not for me. Cool to me is knowing the tomato in the spaghetti sauce I just made, was vine ripened in my back yard, rather than sitting in the back of a truck for a week. Cool is knowing that my well insulated house, with solar and geothermal heating and cooling reduce my energy consumption and help out Mother Nature. Cool to me isn't the gadgets I own, it is the love and joy in my life.

    Besides, the soviets banned cell phone use due to potential effects from having a radio transmitter so close to your head. Meanwhile we of the western world loved them. Reports have since started coming out about the negative effects of the radiation from cell phone on peoples brains - increased frequency of tumours and the like.

    If that doesn't hint at my answer to putting an RFID in my body, I'll be blunt. No - not me!

  • Non security (Score:2, Interesting)

    by GumbyDamnIt ( 705891 ) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @01:29PM (#15263845)
    Don't they realize how easy it is to walk by one of these implanted persons with an RFID reader; then with your copy of their transmitted ID, make your own and impersonate implanted wearer? It doesn't stop there; you could re-program their device with another ID, perhaps with the ID of a known felon or such. All this can be done a few feet away from the carrier. It has even been proven possible to re-program an RFID to arrange a buffer overflow against the reading application, or just attack the reading system from the start. Sounds like a bit of trouble for a non-secure ID system; cachet zero.

I go on working for the same reason a hen goes on laying eggs. -- H.L. Mencken