[linux-elitists] Two on RFID from Politech: Hack the tech, & Gilmore's dystopia

Karsten M. Self kmself@ix.netcom.com
Wed May 26 23:16:01 PDT 2004

on Mon, May 10, 2004 at 09:59:26PM -0400, Donnie Barnes (djb@donniebarnes.com) wrote:
> On Mon, 2004-05-10 at 21:12, Teh Entar-Nick wrote:
> > 	If you're hoping for privacy with an automobile, then you have
> > already lost.  Why bother complaining about RFID tires when you're
> > already tracked by license plate and tollway pass, and drivers license
> > databases are swapped around like trading cards?  
> License plates don't (yet) transmit data electronically (but boy, a
> license-plate-seeking-missle would be cool).  I live in a sane part of
> the country (ie. no toll roads, and at last check you can still pay
> those with cash anyway).  Drivers licenses don't (yet) transmit data
> electronically.

True, but roadside...and tollbooth...and parking garage...and
speed...and stoplight...and j. random snooper cameras are all over the

> This is all about tracking.  I don't have to flash my license to enter
> and exit an expressway, nor is anything but redlight and speeding
> cameras shooting my license plate (and they don't *yet* exist en masse
> enough to track me with much resolution anyway).

That may be true where you are.  Here, I'm shot every time I cross a
toll bridge, and on many streetside cameras.  Cameras have recently been
deployed for "HOV" lanes (you know them as car-pool lanes).

If you look around you, you may find that the visible cameras are more
prevalent than you think.  Then there are the invisible ones....
> Another semi-related item that *should* also bother people is that ODB
> computers on cars are beginning to *store* data (for something like the
> previous 72 hours).  So you hit someone in an accident and they sue you
> and subpoena the data from your car only to find you were driving 56 in
> a 55 zone when you hit them.  Or that at some point in the last 72 hours
> you were doing 90MPH.


There's been some discussion (most of what I've seen is via Slashdot
and/or comp.risks) that this data would be considered personal and
private.  Which still doesn't mean it can't be used against you.  Just
that a warrant would have to be issued.
> Of course, the answer to that is to only drive pre-OBD cars.  I'm not so
> worried about that, personally, since I don't plan on hitting anyone. 
> But it's out there...
> I don't know.  The philosophical implications are there, but the reality
> is that in my lifetime I've never known a government organized enough to
> even be *able* to pull off the kind of Big Brother activity that people
> are worried about.  Doesn't mean the the beast can't organize itself,
> but it just doesn't seem likely.  Maybe they are lulling me to sleep
> with that myth just to get me to submi...

It's not just governments.

Gal I know was on a busy IRC channel the other day when a comment showed
up with her full name, street address, phone number, and drivers license
details, including class and number.

I'm working my way slowly through David Brin's _Transparent Society_.
A few points stick in my craw:

  - It's not Big Brother, or even Big Business who I'd be most concerned
    about (though more below).  It's the Little Dick -- the person who
    gets a hair up their backside to make your life miserable, for
    whatever reason.  Could be a boss, a slighted associate, whatever.
    It's the individual with malevolent intent who's got access to
    tremendous amounts of data.  Been close enough to there myself that
    it's kinda scary.  Of course, as I counseled said gal:  it really
    isn't *that* difficult to turn up this data, and from the major
    commercial sources, it's available for as little as $0.10.

  - A constant refrain is that it wasn't until modern times that people
    had _privacy_ in any real sense.  Sharing a household with a half
    dozen or dozen family members spanning a few generations, in a small
    villiage where everyone knew everyone else's business....  But:  you
    *knew* you were watched, and by whom.  They had to be there to do
    it.  And while everyone knew your business, everyone also knew who
    the town gossip was.  Today, the issue is that you don't know who's
    got your data.  Though, for the most part, you can put a pretty safe
    bet on where they're getting it from.

  - On big brother/business:  On a practical basis, most of these are
    mostly concerned with more effective operation.  It costs money to
    keep tabs on everyone, even when disk is cheap.  It also costs money
    to make the various associations between data sources.  For a 100m
    interbank credit card merge, the value I heard was ~ US$5m.  Returns
    to scale mean that the $0.05/account cost _doesn't_ scale down.
    Still, there's the rogue interest alluded to above.  There's also
    the systematic pain which can result from automated application of
    various targeting (aka:  discrimination) methods.  Selecting _for_
    preferred customers is very much selecting _against_ those excluded.
    I worked (very briefly) for a credit card bank who paid a $100m+
    fine for its practice of luring marginal credit risks into expensive
    accounts for which a long and lucrative revenue stream (read:  late
    fees and useless services) could be extracted.  I've got my severe
    doubts about the current US home mortgage, refi, and home equity
    loan markets.  Unsecured credit is one thing.  Losing the house
    quite another.

RFID isn't a wholly new phenomenon, but it is a new twist on a trend
that's been developing for decades.


Karsten M. Self <kmself@ix.netcom.com>        http://kmself.home.netcom.com/
 What Part of "Gestalt" don't you understand?
    Save Bob Edwards!       http://www.savebobedwards.com/
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