"How would you like it if, for instance, one day you realized your underwear was reporting on your whereabouts?" —California State Senator Debra Bowen, at a 2003 hearing
You better watch your back(side) if you shop at Walmart because that's not just the paranoid ramblings of someone who needs her Risperdol dose upped. The RFIDs are here, there, and everywhere, and they may just be in your Fruit of the Looms.
For those who are less tech-savvy than myself (is anyone less tech savvy than myself? Maybe the Amish?), RFID (pronouned ARE-FID) is Radio Frequency Identification. RFIDs are little transmitter thingies that can be programmed to transmit information about whatever object they are attached to. They are used now in Easy Pass Smart Lanes where the RFID on your transponder sends a signal to the reader in the toll lane, and your toll is automatically deducted from your account. Some libraries use them instead of barcodes to keep track of who checks out books and which books are in their inventories. Stores have begun using RFIDs to keep track of inventory also. By having an RFID on each item as it leaves the distribution center, that item can be tracked to a store, to a shelf, to a customer. The store knows when more items need to be ordered. Eventually, lines in grocery stores may become passe as a scanner "reads" the RFIDs on each item in your grocery cart as you walk out the door and automatically deducts the money from your bank account.
Walmart is a big proponent of RFID technology. They claim it will save money by helping them keep track of inventory and decrease theft. As Walmart goes, so go most other big retailers.
Many identity documents, such as passports, credit cards, loyalty cards, etc. already have RFID technology embedded in them. Soon, many of our purchases will also. All of this is convenient, efficient, and smart, but consider: Do you really want a record of where you go, what you buy, what you read available not just to the people and/or companies who are "supposed" to have the information (what happened to privacy anyway?) but to anyone who is smart enough to figure out how to hack into the system? And if they can hack into the system to get your information, what about hacking into RFID systems to change information? "No, really, honey, I didn't check out the complete Marquis de Sade and buy a leather whip and handcuffs! That must be someone else's info!"
I've heard that RFIDs can be disabled by putting them in the microwave for a couple of seconds. Maybe after I remove all the labels on any new undies, I'll nuke them for a second or two just to be sure. I'll have nice, warm undies and they won't be able to rat me out!