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Little Brother may also be watching soon

Houstonian Online | April 1 2005

Crank up the "Twilight Zone" theme song and pull out your copy of George Orwell's "1984"; it looks like we're in for a meeting with Big Brother. According to a report released this past Tuesday, the Department of Homeland Security is starting to use "contactless chips."

Many people have never heard of these microchips. They're not magical floating potato chips or magnetic poker chips -- they're human tracking devices. Until recently, these "contactless chips" were called radio-frequency identification tags.

An RFID tag is a microchip attached to an antenna. This tag transmits information to a device that reads the information from a few inches to several feet away. They're currently being used in E-Z Pass automatic toll-paying devices and ski-lift tickets.

Department of Homeland Security will be issuing employee ID cards tagged with "contactless chips." These cards will include fingerprint records and other personal information of the employee. They plan for this process to speed up workers' access to secure areas.

The Department of Homeland Security does not want their ID cards to be related to RFID tags. They have called this technology "contactless chips" to avoid using the word radio-frequency identification tags. They're avoiding using the term "RFID" so the public won't be concerned about their use of this technology to track people.

Can you say doublespeak?

Homeland Security is evaluating pitches from several RFID tag manufacturers for an RFID-tagged passport containing biometric data.

It sounds pretty crazy, right? If the government employs this technology on our passports, they would be able to track all of our comings and goings with ease.

Not only would the government be able to track our movements, but also so would anyone else with a reader device. According to Barry Steinhardt, director of the American Civil Liberty Union's Technology and Liberty Program, these reader devices can be purchased for less than $500.

Take a moment and imagine what this all means.

Aside from the fact that the government can track us, this will make identity theft much easier. Because some of the chips can be read from up to 30 feet away, people can read your information without you even knowing.

Do we really want just anyone sitting in an airport to obtain all of our personal information including our own fingerprints?

The government calls this idea a new way to track terrorists and other criminals. The scary part of this concept is that it puts everyone in the same grab bag, regardless of guilt or innocence. People have all kinds of fears of being watched by the government. They feed off of conspiracy theories and drama. This could be looked at the same way. It could be, but it shouldn't.

This is yet another attempt to single out a few by placing the masses under surveillance.

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