RFID Blocking and Personal Privacy


courtesy of sitdu.org
courtesy of sitdu.org

Protect Your Personal ID Information

As more and more forms of ID and credit cards get radio frequency identification chips put in them, it's becoming easier to not only access our own data but to have that data stolen. It can be extremely convenient to just swipe or wave a card to do business but how do you feel about someone being able to get all your information just as quickly and quietly?

Imagine someone walking past you and suddenly having a copy of all the information stored on your credit card? How do you feel about the idea of total strangers (or the government) being able to follow you down the street and see where you go and what you do all day? Those are the darker and less convenient concepts that arise from the application of RFID to everyday objects and items. On the good side, it makes for ease of transactions and allow a lot of information to be stored in the smallest of spaces. On the bad side, it's broadcasting that information to anyone who has the means to read it.

RFID-Secure Passport Holder

Travelon RFID Blocking Passport Case, Black, One Size
Travelon RFID Blocking Passport Case, Black, One Size

Passports containing radio chips are one item many travelers want to protect as these often contain more than just basic information.


What Would An RFID-Open World Be Like?

Did you ever see the movie "Minority Report?" There's a scene where Tom Cruise's character has been given another human being's eyeballs so that his retina scans make him appear to be someone else. When he walks through a mall, billboards and holograms come to life, scanning his eyes, pitching him products and greeting him as this other person.

RFID can work much in the same way. It allows information to be read and tracked remotely, which could be used to identify things or pinpoint location. The military has been debating whether or not to embed RFID chips into dog tags, which would allow medics to get a soldier's full medical history instead of just the most basic ID information. However, with the right kind of tag reader, it might be possible for the enemy force to read those tags, not only being able to find solider's in the field but gain detailed information about each soldier.

How would you feel if you walked into a store and the employees immediately knew your name without asking you and knew every product you'd ever bought from them, what your size was and started to try and sell things to you based on all that information instead of you making the choice?

In an emergency, most people like the idea of help being able to find them quickly... but what if there was no emergency? What if someone could just track you because they felt like seeing where you were and what you were doing?

RFID Blocking Purse

Travelon Anti-Theft Classic Messenger Bag, Black, One Size
Travelon Anti-Theft Classic Messenger Bag, Black, One Size

In purses, whole pockets inside offer RFID protection. Be aware, an RFID purse may not block all phone function unless it's in a fully-lined and closed pocket.


How To "Faraday Cage" Your Phone

Where is RFID being used?

RFID can be implemented just about anywhere these days. Here are just a few examples of the more common uses:

  • Automatic toll bridge "fast passes" for cars.
  • Credit cards
  • Identification of pallets and containers in warehouses
  • Keyless devices for automobiles
  • Passports
  • Timers for participants in marathons and sports events
  • Identity badges at companies and hospitals

More and more uses for RFID chips are being explored all the time. Different companies and groups are looking into ideas like using RFID to track golf balls (hey, that sounds sort of good) and firearms (hmmm, could be good or bad) and surgical implants (wait, isn't that just like that movie "Repo Men" where they hunted people down and ripped out their artificial organs when people couldn't keep up with the payment plan?)

Paint Out RFID Signals

Y-Shield RF Shielding Paint (1 liter size)
Y-Shield RF Shielding Paint (1 liter size)

This paint actually blocks RFID signals! Wish you could have dinner with the family without anyone's phone ringing? Here's how!


What to do about Radio Frequency Tracking?

The most important thing you can do about RFID safety is to be aware of just what devices and items in your life are using this technology. Knowing what you are carrying or using that is embedded with radio frequency identification information about you is key to being able to protect or manage that data.

If you have concerns about RFID theft, you may wish to limit the amount of this technology that you have in your life. Be aware that you may come up against instances where the situation is moving to convert entirely to using these devices (bridge and road tolls, or passports) and that you may not be able to avoid them entirely without making a large change in your behavior or giving up personal freedom.

Adopt methods to manage and control the RFID devices that are in your life. Protect passports when you traveling. Keep the bridge toll fast pass in a shielding pouch in the glove box of the car when it's not needed for day-to-day driving. Reduce the number of credit cards you have and shield the one or two you keep with an appropriate wallet or purse liner.

And if you want to go "all the way," there are a couple of technologies you can consider. You can get an RFID shielding paint that will block cell phone and other signals. It's pricey but if you want a quiet family dinner without anyone's cell phone interrupting, it's a thought for when you redo the dining room decor. There is also a Wi-Fi/signal-blocking wallpaper that is being developed which supposedly will become available in early 2013 which can work to contain or block electromagnetic signals (as you choose).

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Comments 23 comments

relache profile image

relache 12 months ago from Seattle, WA Author

I just read about how kids toys with wireless access is how smart homes are mostly going to be hacked, so there's those chips to watch too.

Marisa Wright profile image

Marisa Wright 12 months ago from Sydney

Aha! Yes they are the same in Australia, though I haven't seen them anywhere in the UK yet.

relache profile image

relache 12 months ago from Seattle, WA Author

In the States, bridge tolls are tagged to chips you must mount on the inside of the front windshield, adjacent to the rear view mirror mount, so there's no shielding those at all. In fact, it's now one of the preferred ways to instantly locate stolen cars. Thieves have not yet realized you should peel and ditch those bits immediately.

Marisa Wright profile image

Marisa Wright 12 months ago from Sydney

I already have my passports and credit cards in RFID shields, bought on eBay. Hadn't thought of the bridge toll cards though!

Like you, it annoys me that I'm forced to participate in this technology even though I don't want to.

relache profile image

relache 2 years ago from Seattle, WA Author

RFID is a really interesting topic to follow.

peachpurple profile image

peachpurple 2 years ago from Home Sweet Home

interesting, we never had this kind of stuff in asia countries, voted up

relache profile image

relache 2 years ago from Seattle, WA Author

NFC is a specialized subset of RFID, so yes on that one. ApplePay is a brand-name of a mobile payment service technology that is going to combine use of a particular app, a special chip, NFC technology and a fingerprint reader. So while ApplePay itself is not RFID, it is going to use a specific form of RFID with a bunch of extra security.

Wm Cowie profile image

Wm Cowie 2 years ago from Denver, CO

Question for you: does NFC and Apple Pay come under the heading of RFID?

relache profile image

relache 2 years ago from Seattle, WA Author

Aaron, yeah it is and it's only going to get more intense.

AaronBurton profile image

AaronBurton 2 years ago from US

Holy crap thats intense lol

relache profile image

relache 2 years ago from Seattle, WA Author

I often think the paint could be good for restaurants and movie theaters.

RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 2 years ago from the short journey

Yes, interesting to think this through, and important. That paint is speaking my languageā€¦ :)

relache profile image

relache 2 years ago from Seattle, WA Author

As with most things, people will go along blindly until the day the gathered info gets used against tem.

Express10 profile image

Express10 2 years ago from East Coast

I don't like the fact that there really is very little privacy for the vast majority of people. Even those who have never touched a credit card with an RFID, a computer or cell phone do not have the privacy that many would assume. I have trouble understanding why so many people simply rollover and take the ever-increasing loss of privacy intruding from all angles of daily life. You have written a useful and informative hub.

relache profile image

relache 2 years ago from Seattle, WA Author

It's getting trickier to stay mindful of all the developments.

Sunnyglitter profile image

Sunnyglitter 2 years ago from Cyberspace

Very interesting. I'm not a fan of RFID in most cases, so it's good to know how to block it.

relache profile image

relache 3 years ago from Seattle, WA Author

I do admit I sometimes think of tagging a whole bunch of stuff at my mom's house with RFID tags to see if that would help her not loose track of everyday items, but the thought of inanimate objects tracking me as I walk downtown is disturbing.

DzyMsLizzy profile image

DzyMsLizzy 3 years ago from Oakley, CA

I've been saying for year, "George Orwell was right; he just got the year wrong."

This sort of technology has, as you point out, both its helpful side and a much darker side.

I don't trust that the darker side won't be exploited. Even though we don't have credit cards anymore, what about the banks' habit of periodically re-issuing "new" debit/ATM cards? Might those also be infected with this technology, and we'd never know?

It makes me shudder if I stop to think about it for too long.

Voted up, useful, interesting, and wishing for a 'scary' button....

relache profile image

relache 3 years ago from Seattle, WA Author

Barry, it's one of those things that is becoming unavoidable, and where we as the consumers aren't being given a choice.

barryrutherford profile image

barryrutherford 3 years ago from Queensland Australia

I bought a wallet that prevents scanning. Given that the banks sent me a chipped cards that I did not request...

tirelesstraveler profile image

tirelesstraveler 3 years ago from California

Most airports read your passport several times before they ask to see it. Some airports don't even ask the scanners can read your passport from a good distance. It is almost refreshing when you go into third world countries and they ask to see the passport.

relache profile image

relache 3 years ago from Seattle, WA Author

I'm considering getting an RFID purse to hold my iPad, as it might not be too much longer before my city had garbage cans that are tracking and advertising to me.

Glenn Stok profile image

Glenn Stok 3 years ago from Long Island, NY

Interesting Hub. Yes indeed -- RFID is being used in so many ways now that is affecting our privacy. Where I live I see electronic signs along the road that tell you how long it will take to get to the next major cross road. The information changes in real time based on the speed of the traffic.

The technology works by reading the Speed Passes of cars that pass one point and again when they pass a later point. Unfortunately this same technology can determine if any particular driver is speeding between those points. I haven't heard of this being used to give speeding tickets yet. But who knows, that may be coming.

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