In CONVERSATIONS on July 11, 2011 at 12:13 am
Logo of the anti-RFID campaign by German priva...

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The challenge for banks these days is to know which customers are the most important as they walk in the branch. Today we don’t know who you are until you identify yourself — and if you’ve been standing in a line for 20 minutes waiting to speak to someone, you may not be in the mood to engage in a conversation that is about deepening your relationship with the bank.  (Banking on the future, P 21)

In Conversation #4 above, we ended with the above  paragraph, quoted from Banking on the Future.  So exactly how do these banks plan to “know you without interpersonal human contact of any kind?”

The answer is, through radio-frequency identification(RFID).  RFID  is a technology that uses communication through the use of radio waves to transfer data between a reader and an electronic tag attached to an object for the purpose of identification and tracking. Take note, that not even Geekdom really had any idea of the existence of this radar-like technology and its anti-privacy uses until word got out about its role in Social media, yes, as it came to light in 2010 with the annual Facebook Conference.

So it’s no surprise then to see that on the forefront of RFID Technology, we find the banks. As Brett King puts it:” Another innovative tool banks are using to engage affluent customers is radio frequency identification (RFID) technology.

HSBC started recently with a RFID trial in which the cards issued to their affluent clients were implanted with tiny computer chips and radio antennas to capture private information about these clients, their relationship status, their contact information and their physical location, and to store it.

The dangers of RFID are legion. In the first place this technology differs markedly from all previous systems, systems like bar code scanners and others. A bar code scanner can only scan one item (bar code) at a time, and only if this bar code is held at a right angle in close proximity to a scanner.

As a matter of fact, RFID tags (labels) are heard by interrogators (also known as readers), and not seen. The advantage of this, is that one interrogator can listen in on hundreds and hundreds of tags at one time, and the tags can be “heard” irrespective whether they are hidden, boxed, packed or stored. No tag can hide from the “ears” of the interrogators.

Also, the interrogator can “listen” in on tags that’s completely out of its line of sight. Because it is more accurate to say that it listens, it can listen to a tag that is out of sight.

The opportunity for serious clandestine listening, for surveillance of the most dangerous kind, is created everywhere, and its easy to use technology. The carrier of the tag, does not have any way of knowing (a) whether it has been tagged, or (b) who is interrogating its tag. You might, in a future world, be tagged – even at MacDonald’s by ingesting a milkshake. And this tag might be listened to, interrogated, by hundreds of “ears” listening to your behaviour. Privacy has just become not only impossible, but an immediate thing of the past.

And, then there is HSBC and Brett King and the banking criminals, who say: TRUST US. We will not abuse this TECHNOLOGY. EVER. We will be good boys. Banks are the pillars of society!”

When a tagged individual enters a HSBC Branch, RFID Interrogators will immediately hear him and identify him as a priority client. Besides making one ill because of its basic un-American dishonesty and its heartless discrimination where those who matter less are mercilessly swept aside, shoved aside so that the important ones can skip the line, it is fairly creepy too.

However, as the banks view this, such RFID communication will dispense with the needless waste of time spent in the most wasteful practises of human interaction. Things like greetings, identification of the clients needs become obsolete, and according to the intelligent networks the banks employ, they believe they will be able to predict what you want from them without asking you. They will know before you do. They will automate you as an individual into a part of the machine. Indeed, these people will technically be speaking the “machine’s language.”

Take note, the focus of the banks are to (a) tag you, (b) to interrogate your tags as frequently and as completely as possible, and (c) to use this information in an endeavour to increased ability to recognize valuable clients. In other words, to surf the RFID for clients, to ensnare only individuals with the required set of pre-programmed functions, and to blatantly ignore everyone else to the extent that not even a nod will be required.

It is also expected that our banks will employ these tags to the advantage of the chosen ones at point of sale interaction. When you shop, your tags will be interrogated and RFID communication will be rabid whilst you may be silently browsing the bookstore. But as soon as you get to the point of sale, your tags – and the subsequent baggage you carry, will most likely inform the retailer, and make it possible for him to maximise his income from you based on this “inside” information he has.

What is more, these tags can have a life as long and “viral” as the “inseminator” wants it to be. Three types of tags are manufactured. Tags can be without battery power, passive. Another type, running on battery power, always transmits wherever it is, irrespective who might be “listening”. And a third type, carrying auxiliary battery power, that will only be activated once it gets close to a RFID interrogator. Passive tags sell for as little as 5 cents each, whilst highly specialised intelli-tags that can withstand gamma radiation, and can intelligently monitor assets or environmental conditions, sell for between $3.00 and $100.00 each.



Fixed RFID readers are stationary and set up in specific zones that can be fairly tightly controlled. Thanks to manufacturers like Motorola, Intermec and Impinj, Sirit and many others, handheld portable readers, in the industry called mobile readers, are available everywhere. These include handhelds, carts and, from the sound of it, something straight from horror movies, vehicle mounted RFID’s as well.

No broad controls exist to prevent the use of RFID against the people. Many groups fight and struggle for and claim to be in control. They are: The International Organization for Standardization (ISO), The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), ASTM International, The DASH7 Alliance and EPCglobal. The Financial Services Technology Consortium (FSTC) has set a standard for tracking IT Assets with RFID, The Computer Technology Industry Association CompTIA has set a standard for certifying RFID engineers; The International Airlines Transport Association IATA set tagging guidelines for luggage in airports.

It’s important not to under-estimate the power of this technology. In practise, it’s so powerful that a supermarket containing millions and millions of items, can do an immediate stock take of its entire store every time the till rings up one item. It can do this over and over again, millions of times a day, calculating and re-calculating stock, sales, and all kinds of black box functions, today. The technology is there, and it’s already being used. Look at Facebook. Look  around you. You are being tagged. You are being interrogated. You are being recorded.


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