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Can You Find Me Now?

RFID is in the news again -this time it’s the US government requirement of certain countries to provide citizens with RFID-enabled passports. And of course with it comes the inevitable cries that this creates incredible privacy violations. The concern is that with RFID technology, individuals and their very personal information can be tracked very precisely. While I applaud those that are trying to ensure that our personal information is safe through tight security standards (we don’t need to live through WEP applied to our personal information), tracking someone via the RFID chip in their passport seems a bit ludicrous -I’ll say, even a bit 24-like.After all, you need a specialized reader that must be used in fairly close proximity. And since this technology is not ubiquitous, the hackers would probably also have to be in an airport. I think what this boils down to is that RFID is another technology that extends information -and there are rightful concerns about that information being used without our consent. This leads to general thoughts about the role of location services in networks. More and more, location services are available to both consumers and businesses. Nokia, as an example, just announced that they are embedding GPS technology into multiple handsets. Motorola and Samsung offer this for some of their models as well. The purported purpose is to enable consumers to get maps of their location to help with navigation. However, I can’t imagine that this has escaped the bright minds at Google who are figuring out how to deliver location-based context sensitive advertising on mobile devices.Businesses already use location services for field service and logistics applications, sometimes to the chagrin of their employees. Long haul trucking companies have used GPS for years to ensure that their drivers are complying with federal regulations for work hours per day. Similarly, your local cable company may be tracking their service personnel to see when they arrive and depart a customer’s home to ensure timely service.The Cisco Location Appliance provides location services for any Wi-Fi-enabled device. With this capability manufacturers have increased production efficiency by tracking needed parts, and hospitals are improving patient care through efficient use of scare medical equipment, or simply being able to find a wheelchair quickly.Like RFID, location services in and of themselves are not bad. As with any technology, it’s the usage policy that ultimately creates problems.

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