Jim's Polka

The life of a former software engineer, now a law student

Saturday, April 16, 2005

CFP 2005: RFIDs in Your Passports

Actually, I have to admit, I missed the good part of this panel. The battery in my laptop was running a little low and I wanted to charge it up a little before the next panel. So, I left after about 20 minutes. Professor Felten has already what sounds like a pretty good description of what happened. I'll just add that he doesn't mention the fun part, which was the yelling that I could hear from outside the room. I give the government a lot of credit for bravery for showing up at all, but there was no way that he was going to make this crowd happy. The biggest damage to his credibility came from his claim that the RFID tag they are planning to put in passports will only be readable within 10 cm. The next panelist, Barry Steinhardt from the ACLU, then demonstrated with his own RFID and reader how you could read it from farther away than that. He had a pretty limited setup and the tag was being read from a couple feet away. It's not hard to imagine that someone could do better than that with more powerful equipment.

Anyway, like I said, if you're interested in the substance of the panel, check out Prof. Felten's post.