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RFID: mark of the beast?

Picture of Turkish angora kittenMad sorties across the sitting room on legs spinning like Tom's chasing Jerry in a Hanna-Barbera cartoon. Constantly supervising his hosts while giving them lots of affection: a Turkish Angora kitten has arrived at home. The breeder had him RFID tagged, which will identify him and may renunite him with us if he gets lost. It also helps the vet to maintain her records.

The thought of humans tagged in this way fills us with horror. Some allude darkly to the "mark of the beast" referred to in the Bible's book of Revelations. Others aren't concerned about eschatology and worry about tags on high street goods: could they be used to track us or our credit card use? Or could criminals target homes by scanning trash for the tags on the packaging of expensive new appliances, like TVs or mediacentres?

A previous post reported the ease with which encrypted data held on RFID tags on prototype passports had been accessed—so there is cause for concern. I recently chaired a seminar at Intellect, the UK IT industry's trade body. Delegates agreed that RFID tags should store only an ID number—which anyway is the original concept. Related patient-based data should be stored on more secure IT systems. This may give the anxious some comfort.

Mind you, some members of the Baja Beach Club in Barcelona are happy to be tagged with a subcutaneous Verichip for ease of entry and card and cash free payment. Cool for cats, maybe?

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