What is RFID?

information. This isn’t magic — it doesn’t provide GPS and you should ensure your contact details are up-to-date with the microchip company. It’s just a way for the pet to have unique identification information. The same technique can be used to associate a unique identification number with other animals — tiny RFID chips have even been used to track the movements of ants.


Security and Privacy Concerns
Some people are concerned that attackers could use a handheld device in a crowd to read RFID information from nearby credit cards with contactless payment information embedded in them. Identity thieves could read the same information from an RFID-enabled passport, or a security access card with an RFID chip. In 2006, a Dutch passport was read from ten meters away. That’s why some people purchase RFID-blocking wallets, card holders, or passport cases. These just work by including a metal material that blocks the radio waves of an RFID reader.

Other people are concerned that RFID could be used to track people’s movements. Perhaps the RFID chips in products we buy or in our credit cards themselves could be tracked by readers in various locations as we move around. This isn’t too crazy — in 2013, a company was using recycling bins around the city of London to collect information from nearby smartphones as they searched for Wi-Fi networks. They used this information to track people around the city of London and show tailored adds to them. Companies could attempt to do the same with nearby RFID tags.

No, you shouldn’t panic and start smashing your RFID-enabled credit cards and passports with a hammer. RFID is one of the many ways technology makes life more convenient, but can lead to new security and privacy problems. This is just something to be aware of.


RFID could be used for other purposes in the future. One old idea is that RFID could be used for shopping. You’d go to a grocery store and place all the items you want in your cart. Each item would have an RFID chip in it. When you’re done shopping, you’d simply walk out of the store and an RFID reader near the exit would automatically read all the RFID tags to determine what you’re buying. You’d be billed for those products without any scanning required. We seem a long way from that future, but it’s the type of thing RFID could do.

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