Is RFID Technology Easy to Foil?

Is RFID Technology Easy to Foil?

Er, that’s a pun. Wired is reporting that aluminum foil will block the signals emitted by the radio tags that will replace bar-code labels on consumer goods. Some quotes:

Makers of RFID (or radio frequency identification) tags, along with the retailers and suppliers who plan to use them, are saying the technology they spent millions of dollars developing is too weak to threaten consumer privacy. Metals, plastics and liquids, they say, all block radio signals before they reach RFID reader devices.

“Any conductive material can shield the radio signals,” said Matt Reynolds, a principal at ThingMagic, which develops RFID systems. “There are all kinds of ways to render the tags inoperable.”

That means Coca-Cola, which eventually wants to put an RFID tag on every can of soda it sells, will have a hard time getting around the metals, plastics and liquids that block the radio signals from the tags.

Reynolds was speaking this weekend at MIT’s RFID privacy workshop, where privacy advocates squared off with companies planning to replace bar-code labels on their goods with stamp-sized RFID tags. He was one of several speakers downplaying the threat to consumer privacy posed by the tags, which assign a unique identifying code to each item.

Engineers at the meeting also presented proposals for devices that could deny RFID readers access to a tag’s information, or disable the readers by overwhelming them with useless data. They also demonstrated a device that could be used to disable, or “kill,” RFID tags at store exits.