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The Tentacle

June 1, 2005

Pay Attention to the Rest of the Story

Alan Imhoff

Recently there was an article here on The Tentacle by one of my fellow contributors explaining the potential harm, a seemingly innocuous new national identification card might cause.

As explained in his article, the Real ID legislation - recently passed by Congress - has the very real potential to provide governmental agencies with a vehicle to "keep track" of its citizens.

Was he blowin' smoke, or could it be a possibility?

I have been teaching a course for several years at a local community college that is an overview course for computers and information technology. One of the modules I enjoy most is relating to my students the latest and greatest "stuff" the world is rolling out to make their lives easier and better.

Things like the "smart" refrigerator that will automatically keep track of most of the items inside it through a series of bar code scanners, weight sensors and lasers. When it detects that you need milk or orange juice, it will display a message. It is even being taken one step further over in Scandinavia, where it would send an electronic message to the grocery store that would deliver the products and refresh your supplies through an access door on an exterior wall of the house.

Not to mention the explosion in the use of the "RFID" - Radio frequency identification. These were initially developed for the medical field to contain an individual's medical records that could be scanned in a doctor's office, or more importantly in an Emergency Room.

However, a couple of years ago an article surfaced stated that an upscale nightclub in Spain was asking their patrons to use them instead of carrying cash or credit cards. Implanted in the persons shoulder, the club could just "wave the magic wand" and the person would be charged for their drinks.

And now we have General Motors stating that they will be making the On-Star system available for every model of car they make. The ads are definitely geared to reaching the right audience that is concerned about the safety of the kids - and rightly so. But as you look at the benefit of all this technological advancement, remember there is a "dark side of the force" - to borrow a current phrase.

So what do these examples have in common? YOU!

As we progress in making our lives easier, as writing checks will become a thing of the past with electronic banking and "smart cards." As we look to technology to solve our mundane every day tasks, we begin to give away a little of ourselves through the information we must provide and the personal freedoms we thought we had are not as personal as we think.

Identity theft is a growing field, even with all the wiz-bang security systems and built-in protection safeguards. Every time you "surf the web" looking for that next "got to have it" thing, the cookies deposited in your hard drive collect information. More and more entrepreneurs are "data mining" to develop profiles on your buying habits.

If you think about this on a small scale, if, for a monthly fee, you subscribe to one of these on-demand DVD services where they overnight your selection, you go through a lot of DVD's. Since they know what you have been ordering, they track your rentals and you develop a history and then they know that they can "market" to you as a Sci-Fi person or one interested in "thrillers."

Now bring all this together under the umbrella of the Real ID legislation and imagine the creation of a "super agency" to keep track, securely of course, of you.

If the ID card has an implanted RFID chip linked to scanners in the On-Star system or in ATM machines, or even an innocuous home appliance, all in turn networked in the Global Positioning System imagine what information they could gather.

And you thought "Enemy of the State" was a factitious movie.

As we march relentlessly toward the sea in our quest for "the good life," it will not take much to lose it. Pay attention to what information you give away and to whom. Think about what part of yourself you are willingly giving up in the name of technological advancement.

Do not get me wrong, I am not against most of these advances as I have benefited medically from a number of them, but there is, to borrow a familiar quote, "the rest of the story."

Stay alert, before someone has an opportunity to steal your identity and you may no longer exist in the electronic world.

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