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Airport To Tag Passengers With RFID 262

denebian devil writes "A new technology is to be trialled in Debrecen Airport in Hungary that will involve tagging all passengers with high-powered RFID tags. From the Register article: 'People will be told to wear radio tags round their necks when they get to the airport. The tag would notify a computer system of their identity and whereabouts. The system would then track their activities in the airport using a network of high definition cameras. "[The tags] have got a long range, of 10m to 20m," said Dr. Paul Brennan of University College London's antennas and radar group which developed the tags, "and the system has been designed so the tag can be located to within a meter, and it can locate thousands of tags in one area at a given time."' The system is being touted for 'Improving airport efficiency, security and passenger flow by enhanced passenger monitoring.' BBC is also reporting this story, and brings up such hurdles to the project as 'finding a way of ensuring the tags cannot be switched between passengers or removed without notification.' As for any mention of the 'hurdle' of people's rights, the article vaguely and briefly states that 'The issue of infringement of civil liberties will also be key,' but doesn't bother to go into any pesky details."
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Airport To Tag Passengers With RFID

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  • Dog collars. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by teh loon ( 974951 ) on Saturday October 14, 2006 @07:48AM (#16435099)
    From the desciption, it sounds like the passengers will end up wearing dog collars. Anyone reminded of Battle Royale? It's one thing to be security conscious, but another thing to be paranoid.
  • Luggage? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Richard Allen ( 213475 ) on Saturday October 14, 2006 @07:53AM (#16435111)
    Perhaps they should invest some of this energy into tracking luggage?
  • Why. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ColaMan ( 37550 ) on Saturday October 14, 2006 @07:58AM (#16435137) Journal
    What the hell's this for? Forensics after the fact?

    "Yes, and as you can see that the terrorist loitered a lot near the toilets. Of course, quite a few people do that as well while waiting for relatives to finish their business, so we can't use that as a reliable indicator of evil intent. But I'm sure, in time, we'll find something that will show us for certain. Please, we need more funds for research."

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 14, 2006 @08:03AM (#16435173)
    Great, the system can track everyone at all times, but how can anyone make any sense of this information? And what exactly is it meant to prevent anyway? Would tracking the 9/11 bombers have helped? Would it have stopped the shoe-bomber getting on the plane? If something happens we'll know exactly where the perpitrators were AFTER the event, but that won't really help. This is about as useful as knowing what colour all passengers underwear is. It's all about the appearance of doing something rather than actually doing something.
  • Security? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by subreality ( 157447 ) on Saturday October 14, 2006 @08:06AM (#16435183)
    I can believe the bits about passenger flow and efficiency, but what security is this supposed to add? The security in airports is theoretically based on keeping Bad People (by whatever definition) out. Assuming some Bad Person gets in, what is tracking their movements within 1m ever going to do to indicate that they're doing something Bad?

    To me, this sounds like an efficiency study that they tacked on the word "Security" in order to sidestep the civil liberties issues. We've seen this done plenty of times before, but I'm amazed at how transparent it is here.
  • A matter of trust (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 14, 2006 @08:08AM (#16435201)
    Now all we need is trust those terrorists won't remove the tags from their necks before doing evil stuff. The perfect system.
  • by RobotRunAmok ( 595286 ) on Saturday October 14, 2006 @08:09AM (#16435203)
    The right to walk through an airport and not be watched?

    When you leave your home, you may be monitored. In the old days, it was by a plainsclothes detective popping stay-awake pills and eating doughnuts in his car parked across the street. In modern times, it is through camera surveillance and RFID.

    "You" have a right to try and elude the surveillance, by sneaking out the back door (then) and wearing tin-foil underwear (now), and "They" have the right to raise the ante by hiring smarter policemen and designing more powerful scanners.

    That's the game. Play, or stay home. If "They" start spying on you in your home, *then* you can call the lawyers.
  • 10m to 20m? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rholliday ( 754515 ) on Saturday October 14, 2006 @08:09AM (#16435207) Homepage Journal
    If their maximum range is only 20 meters, I would certainly hope they can be accurate to within 1.
  • by A beautiful mind ( 821714 ) on Saturday October 14, 2006 @08:12AM (#16435219)
    We're talking about a small airport! Possibly a few dozen people at best on a busy day. As a hungarian I'd preferred to have a better story posted about Hungary, but heh. Domestic flight is really small, given that the country isn't so large either. It is misleading to say that this airport is a major one, I don't think it is a terrorist target at all.
  • by Gothmolly ( 148874 ) on Saturday October 14, 2006 @08:16AM (#16435227)
    People began screaming "Make us feel safer!" to the gubmint and airlines shortly after 9/11. The vast majority of people I know will welcome this, they'll sit there smugly thinking they're safe, indeed, they'll be safe in their cattle car all the way to the Final Destination.

  • by RAMMS+EIN ( 578166 ) on Saturday October 14, 2006 @08:18AM (#16435239) Homepage Journal
    What I don't get is how this system is supposed to improve security. I mean, this whole scare is about suicide bombers, right? So you tag everybody, and then they magically aren't going to be doing their thing? I don't see how these tags prevent people from blowing themselves up, taking a gun and shooting people, smuggling packages on planes, etc.

    Worse, this system is actually going to make matters worse: it costs money, people need to be watching the system, and people need to investigate whateven "suspicious behavior" occurs. All this takes resources away from more effective measures.

    At least, that's how I see it. Maybe I'm missing something. Maybe this system is dumb. Or maybe it actually rather cleverly serves a purpose _other_ than security (e.g. putting money in the pockets of the designers).
  • by geoff lane ( 93738 ) on Saturday October 14, 2006 @08:29AM (#16435273)
    Exactly how does this increase security? Terrorists are very rare. Tourists are both very common and very stupid. The only result will be security running around fishing tags out of toilets and vending machines.
  • by autOmato ( 446950 ) on Saturday October 14, 2006 @08:39AM (#16435311) Homepage
    There are active RFID devices, that have their own power supply.

    See: []
  • by DrXym ( 126579 ) on Saturday October 14, 2006 @08:52AM (#16435355)
    Okay, so they can keep close tabs on you in the airport. Yet, if you were intent on doing mischief, wouldn't you have done all your preparation before you even got there?

    I'd be interested to know exactly what problem tagging everyone is supposed to solve. Airports are already compartmentalised and people must show their boarding card / passport to move from one area to the next . So what difference would an RFID tag make? It might actually weaken the system since humans will be less attentive than they are now. I suppose it might have marginal benefits such as when you're trying to locate a person exactly but it hardly appears to warrant the expense of the system.

    Besides, a bad person who is intent on blowing themselves up on the plane makes every effort to abide by the same rules as other passengers. How does this system do anything at all to detect them? And terrorists who just want to kill a bunch of people at the airport can do that easily too - there are enough densely packed queues in airports to easily facilitate mass murder whether the terrorist has a valid passport, ticket, id or RFID or not. I'm surprised that it doesn't happen all the time. The queues are out the door on some days of the year.

  • by maxume ( 22995 ) on Saturday October 14, 2006 @08:53AM (#16435359)
    Sort of. I'd personally rather not have an obnoxious government screaming about how they are protecting me from myself. If I don't believe that the costs of a program are justified by the benefits, speaking up about it is a great idea.

    In that sense, as long as I can fly a Cessna full of gas into the passenger cabin of a airliner that is about to take off, I don't think we need to worry about exactly where people are inside the airport.
  • by Loconut1389 ( 455297 ) on Saturday October 14, 2006 @09:10AM (#16435439)
    They already do know what color everyone's underwear is- or at least a sufficient random sampling. What do you think the 'extra' screenings are for?
  • Re:Security? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 14, 2006 @09:30AM (#16435511)
    Actually, this sort of data is any AI-researcher's wet dream. My first thought would be to implement some algorithm that learns how people move through the airport, based on the set of all locations over time per person. Once the algorithm successfully predicts the movements of people, you let it analyse what everybody is doing in the airport. People whose movements don't match what the algorithm predicts are tagged as 'outliers', and security can at any time simply request the n people that deviate most from the norm, and keep an eye on them with their high def camera's.

    The problem with these techniques, of course, is the normalizing effect. Everybody that does something weird, or out of the ordinary gets observed. Little charming quirks in your personality, like sitting down on the floor in some empty space instead of sitting in on a bench in the crowded waiting area, will instantly arouse suspicion. Do what everybody does, or you'll be suspected, watched and usually, gently prodded back in line. All human societies have an inherent normalizing effect. In this case the reason isn't just security, improving efficiency usually means weeding out the weirdos as well. And all technology does in these cases is amplify that effect. Just think of the whole slashdot moderation thing, it works beautifully, but it also makes the groupthink a lot stronger (and the slashdot crowd is on the whole a relatively intelligent and critical subset of society).

    Of course any real terrorist will make sure that he (or she) acts as normal as possible. In fact with the amount of attention being paid to air travel, terrorists are probably just looking for less secured areas (like the the Spanish train bombings or the London subway).
  • by v1 ( 525388 ) on Saturday October 14, 2006 @10:00AM (#16435683) Homepage Journal
    the article vaguely and briefly states that 'The issue of infringement of civil liberties will also be key,' but doesn't bother to go into any pesky details."

    That's because the people setting all this up consider "civil liberties" to be one of those "pesky details".

    Civil Liberties is not a set of rules that inconvenience you, that you should work to find ways around. If you are trying to find ways around laws designed to protect the public from abuse, you are not assulting the law, you are assulting the principles and ideals that the law was made for, and endangering those people whom those laws are designed to protect.

  • by Alchemar ( 720449 ) on Saturday October 14, 2006 @10:07AM (#16435741)
    What makes you think that you can get a refund. Getting escorted from an airport for "security reasons" does not entitle you to a refund. It was "your choice" to act in a manor that did not allow them to put you on a plane. You will also be reported to the authoraties as having suspicious behavior, and placed on a U.S. watch list. It doesn't matter what country your are from or what country you were in when it happened, you will be placed on a U.S. watch list. You will probably be placed on several list for several other countries. You are now a suspected terrorist, you have forfieted any rights as a human being, and the rights of anyone associated with you. I hope you don't have to travel for business, they will probably let you on the plane if you don't mouth off during the now required body search anytime you want to get on a plane. Maybe it is your sister that needs to travel for business, after missing a few flights due to searches taking a little too long, she will be looking at you for a new source of income.

    The idea of collars sounds horrible, but after people realize that the consequences of "their choise" to not wear one are much worse, people will start to accept them.

    Stay citizen, come here citizen, fetch your papers citizen. Good citizen, here is a boarding pass for you.( Pats citizen on head )
  • by DrXym ( 126579 ) on Saturday October 14, 2006 @12:57PM (#16437139)
    Is there any need for access to the system? I know with a certainty approaching 100% that if I choose to travel on certain days of the year, that there will be queues of people everywhere. I know if there is a strike or some other disruption that there will be queues everywhere. Queues at checkin, queues to go through X-ray. As a terrorist, all they need do is pick the right day, walk in the door, head for the nearest queue and kaboom. In some ways extra security has made it easier for the terrorist since the lines are longer.
  • by davidsyes ( 765062 ) on Saturday October 14, 2006 @01:34PM (#16437413) Homepage Journal

    1. Don't kill off the SALES man! This is the fine work of government to RFP for bids. Lockheed can win global contracts and then farm them out to their privileged few subcontractors.

    2. I suspect the anti-tamper feature will incorporate some sort of stun mechanism.

    3. Imagine being pulled into an on-site interrogation room and being asked:

    - WHY did you visit the bathrooms 13 times. WHY THOSE 13?
    - WHY did you hug THOSE two people? Do you know they hugged 3 others elsewhere in the airport?

    4. Maybe they should design the collars to be more like harnesses. Then, tie together everyone on the same flights, like kids on a field trip.
  • Re:Dog collars. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by menkhaura ( 103150 ) <> on Saturday October 14, 2006 @01:54PM (#16437597) Homepage Journal
    Well, I've got only two words for this:

    Terrorists Win!
  • by cicho ( 45472 ) on Saturday October 14, 2006 @02:49PM (#16438001) Homepage
    The authorities should drop the veil altogether and quit using the word "security", because security is not what such measures are about. _We_ (whoever would object to wearing a dog collar at the airport or having their personal information freely shared with foreign intelligence agencies just because you're getting on a plane) should quit using that word too, because we're giving them a free ride.

    The word is enforcement. Better still, control. These measures are all designed to control the population, not to ensure its security.
  • by badfish99 ( 826052 ) on Saturday October 14, 2006 @03:12PM (#16438149)
    That article says that an expensive RFID tagging system would allow the airport to open up more security checking lanes when the existing ones were busy.

    Are airport operators really so stupid that they need to pay someone huge sums of money to tell them when there's a long queue of people at security? Are they blind?
  • Re:Security? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by badfish99 ( 826052 ) on Saturday October 14, 2006 @03:15PM (#16438185)
    And you put up with this shit?

    People wouldn't be treated like sheep, if they didn't behave like sheep.
  • by Beryllium Sphere(tm) ( 193358 ) on Saturday October 14, 2006 @03:24PM (#16438259) Homepage Journal
    >I'd be interested to know exactly what problem tagging everyone is supposed to solve.

    The cynical answer would be, the problem of people who think they are free citizens.

    Is it just me, or has commercial air travel hit the floor of tolerability already?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 14, 2006 @03:57PM (#16438511)
    I'd be interested to know exactly what problem tagging everyone is supposed to solve.

    It's not supposed to solve any particular problem. It's just one more aspect of the elaborate security theater that the public is willing to go along with because it makes them feel safer, somehow. I'd be willing to bet that most people don't think about it that hard, they just comply.

    In reality, this sort of thing won't do a solitary damned thing to increase anyone's safety. All it will do is turn them into compliant sheep. Most people are more at risk of slipping on a bar of soap in their bathroom and breaking their neck than they are of being victim of a terrorist attack. If you build a list of ways that you are likely to die or be harmed, terrorism is way down toward the bottom. Yet, let's all put on government-issued collars, stand in line at security checkpoints, and submit to continous surveillance so they can "protect" us.

    I weep for this species.
  • by multiplexo ( 27356 ) on Saturday October 14, 2006 @05:30PM (#16439127) Journal
    Well let's beat the shit out of your fucking stupid arguments, one by one by one.

    1. Being able to locate passengers in areas that are off-limits

    Sounds good on the surface, in reality it's really fucking stupid and it's obvious that you have no idea of how security works. Where I work we wear keycard badges and have access controlled areas (labs, machine rooms, etc) that the badges will let you into. If you are in one of these areas and you see someone who doesn't have a badge and who you don't know you're supposed to ask who they are and what they are doing there, I'm certainly going to do this if I find someone in my machine room and I don't know who they are and they don't have a badge. At the airport you do the same thing, you restrict access to certain areas and you require anyone who works in those areas to wear a badge. Anyone who doesn't have a badge isn't supposed to be there. Passengers shouldn't ever be able to get into areas that are off-limits and placing guards at the access points of the restricted areas and having a few that roam the restricted areas checking up on things is a cheaper, less intrusive and more effective than tagging everyone and implemeting ubiquitous surveillance. Also all someone has to do is take this tag off, in which case your magical locating system doesn't work any more, unless of course you're advocating shoving them up everyone's ass or something.

    2. In the event of a catastrophy sic being able to find passengers that are missing or potentially injured and being able to get there quicker to potentially save a life.

    Sounds nice, but it's blatantly stupid. What kind of catastrophe are we talking about here? Airports are limited areas, if something bad happens finding people is going to be pretty easy, unless of course it's a WTC style collapse, in which case all that those RFID tags are going to tell you is that you've got a lot of corpses in the rubble. Also if something really bad happens any conscientious group of rescuers is going to have to check the whole area anyways in case someone's RFID tag was damaged or torn from their body.

    3. Locating lost children

    I'm not wearing a dog collar so that some breeder can find his fucking kids. Keep an eye on your fucking brat and stop trying to restrict my freedom or take away my dignity by saying "it's for the children".

    4. Making sure the amount of passengers that are checked in / checked out / boarded at any time eliminating any discrepancies should a problem arise.

    We already have this. Well we don't in the US, but that's because our airport security is shit, despite TSA's claims to the contrary. But if you fly through London Heathrow or Munich or Frankfurt or Schiphol your bags don't get on the plane unless you're on the plane. If you are late boarding the plane, and I've had a couple of close calls at LHR, your bags will end up staying at the airport and will go out on the next flight. This is the biggest security threat we have, bombs in luggage, not knowing where everyone is at all times. Implementing positive bag matching would do a lot more to improve secuirty than requirinhg everyone to wear an RFID dog collar.

    5) From a marketer's perspective - selling the data to the shops / food stands inside. Selling the data to advertisers and designating high value areas where there is the most traffic.

    Marketers are shit and should be rounded up and sent to death camps, anyone who advocates making me wear an RFID dog collar so it's easier for marketers to track me and get data about me without my consent should be gut shot and left to die on a lonely stretch of desert highway on a hot summer's day.

    6. If there is a problem, checking that passenger's last known whereabouts to see what they were doing from the moment they checked in. If they met with airport staff posing as an insider prior to boarding etc. With that information, it could lead to the quicker arrest and breakup of other terrorist cells.

    Great, ex post facto law enforce

  • Re:Dog collars. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Memnos ( 937795 ) on Sunday October 15, 2006 @04:55AM (#16442311) Journal
    Excuse me, but this would be so easy to get around for anyone intent upon doing so. Unless the RFID tags were quite complex, and could effect something even simple like a challenge-handshake protocol, they could be read and copied easily, in real-time. Even if so, the system could be fooled. The average traveler, perhaps even the average diamond smuggler, would not bother, but a terrorist easily could. Oh, by the way, where was that guy Osama again?

"No, no, I don't mind being called the smartest man in the world. I just wish it wasn't this one." -- Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias, WATCHMEN