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January 28, 2006

RFIDs in ID Cards?

I think I’d better ask for a professional opinion here.

Only last month, Andy Burnham, the Home Office minister, said in a parliamentary written answer that there were "no plans to use radio frequency identification (RFID) tags in ID cards".

However, a leaked letter from Mr Burnham indicates that the chips will use radio frequencies to allow "contactless" reading of the card by special scanners.

The Home Office said the signals emitted would be picked up only at a distance of a few inches. But Phil Booth, co-ordinator of the No2ID campaign, said receivers could easily be boosted to receive signals from much further away. This would allow anyone carrying the card to be tracked in the street or entering a building.

Mr Booth said that unlike normal RFID technology, which simply broadcast a number as a means of identifying an individual holder, the chips envisaged for use would transmit personal details.

Can such RFID chips be used in the manner that Phil Booth claims?  Or, to put it another way,  is Andy Burnham a lying scumbag? Sorry, I realise the redundancy of that question, he’s a politician so of course he is but is he so on this specific and discrete point?

Are we, literally, going to be carrying our own tracking devices? That can be read by a reader  placed strategically?  And even if the Govt doesn’t use the higher power ones, might others? 

Final question, would wrapping the card in Al foil mean such a system wouldn’t work? Can see an interesting little online business there, marketing ID card holders. Little Faraday cages with "Fuck the Database State" on the cover.

January 28, 2006 in Your Tax Money at Work | Permalink


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» RFIDs in ID cards? from Taking Aim
Tim Worstall has been digging, and wonders whether, despite denials, the goverment is actually planning to incorporate RFID tags into ID cards. He quotes from a Telegraph report: a leaked letter from Mr Burnham indicates that the chips will use ... [Read More]

Tracked on Jan 29, 2006 10:37:22 AM

» The Parking Attendant Nails It from L'Ombre de l'Olivier
Obviously all that wandering around in the brisk British winter gets the brain cells going because he manages to explain in words of few syllables why RFID chips in ID cards are a really really silly idea. Of course 99% of his rant applies to ID card... [Read More]

Tracked on Jan 29, 2006 9:28:46 PM


You mean like this:

I wonder if that's what gave them the idea...

Posted by: Pete Gray | Jan 28, 2006 12:09:11 PM

Pah! It completely removed the link.


Posted by: Pete Gray | Jan 28, 2006 12:13:46 PM

Not aluminum, but surely lead, at the least. I smell a business opportunity. Know anybody who sells bulk metals?

Tim adds: Err, me? But why stop with lead? Why not make the cases out of thallium, thus poisoning those who handle the cases? But Al should stop an RFID chip. Copper certainly would.

Posted by: Dan | Jan 28, 2006 6:37:00 PM

ID cards are just too juicy for the government to resist. They are coming whether we like it or not.

Posted by: johnny bonk | Jan 29, 2006 1:59:32 AM

Yes Aluminium foil will work to shield your "contactless chip" ICAO standard biometric passport or ID card


just like it does for our Transport for London Oyster Cards


However, you then risk setting off metal detectors and being treated as a suspect if you are scanned with passive millimetre wave or backscatter x-xray "see under your clothes" scanners like that being tested on the Heathrow Express platform at Paddington station in London.


RFID snooping is only a matter of a non-standard antenna or of illegal power amplification. The world record was demonstrated last July - 69 feet through the roof of a hotel, for RFID tags which have a normal working range of about a metre or less.


For tracking purposes, if you can read the Passport or ID Card details remotely that is a bonus, but it is not necessary.

All the International CIvil Aviation Authority standard passports or ID cards will all have a "unique" number which has to be transmitted by radio in the clear, before any (optional not mandatory)cryptographic handshake is established. There not enough memory on the chips to store a list of the thousands of "authorised" readers, let alone digital certificates belonging to each one or other pre-shared secrets.

The worrying scenarioa is that the terrorists who are currently building bombas and booby traps in Iraq using infra-red detonators, would be able to use such "unique" EFID tags to target either individuals or to wait until a certain number of , say US or British passport or ID Card holders were within range before exploding.

How will this make us safer overall ?

Posted by: Watching Them, Watching Us | Jan 29, 2006 6:45:35 AM