Are they nuts?


Now this I hadn’t heard of. The US State Department is planning to begin putting RFID chips into American passports.

This is the roughly the same as requiring you to carry around a big sign with your name, passport number, birthday, and place of birth on it whenever you carry your passport in your pocket.

Anyone can scan that chip. And you won’t know that they’ve done it.

And they’ll also be able to grab your passport photo.

Terrorists and criminals could take advantage of the electronic passports to target Americans, according to the Business Travel Coalition, a consumer advocacy group that has been lobbying against the plan.

“American business travelers have taken steps when traveling abroad to maintain a low profile,” a BTC statement says. “While most U.S. citizens do not expect their government to protect them while traveling in foreign lands, they do not expect to have their government knowingly put them in harm’s way.”

The main thrust of opposition to this plan seems to be based on terrorists and kidnapping scenarios, and there’s no doubt that they are very realistic concerns. But the simple fact that, with off-the-shelf equipment, someone else can read your passport info from nearby without your knowledge is pretty serious, I believe.

While the exact range that these things could be read at is debatable (and I have no small personal knowledge in the subject), a reader embedded in a doorway would almost certainly pick it up when you passed through.

Put that in a restaurant or bar in some corner of the world and you could pick your marks without getting up from the computer in the back office.

The victim [American citizen] isn’t totally defenseless. A large problem implementing RFID chips in logistics chains is the fact that many materials, particularly certain metals and most liquids, severely restrict the range that RFID chips can be read at. I’ve also got it straight from the Department of Defense that Prell shampoo does the trick.

I guess we should keep our passports underneath our tinfoil hats.


  1. What BS! The real criminals & terrorists will quickly develop a means of defeating this step forward in technology. The rest of us will be stuck with the unintended and unwanted consequences of it! Kinda like social security.

  2. Kinda like copy protection. I bought a game a couple of days ago, installed it, it won’t run. Tells me to insert the game disc. I tried putting it in all three of my drives. I found & downloaded a crack in about 2 mintues which let me play it. So, do you think that copy protection stops people from copying the game? I’m sure this is the same situation. Someone will work out how to write this info onto new RFID chips, or simply steal them. Then they’ll sell them to criminals and such. So their problem will be solved, but you poor sods will still be stuck broadcasting your personal information around randomly. That’s what I don’t get about these controls. All someone has to do is (a) steal one or (b) pay someone to get one and then ‘lose’ it and they’ve defeated the system. Doesn’t exactly take a genius. (Obviously if you steal it you have to do it in such a way it isn’t immediately noticed, which is why the second option is probably best. It basically amounts to stealing it and paying someone off not to report it right away).

  3. It seems to me that the solution to this real danger would be a small metal case. I remember having a nice metal case at one time for business cards that snapped securely closed. You know, the kind that looks real fancy, and at the same time is very practical. Something similar, but larger should do the trick. That said, the chip is a bad, and dangerous, idea