USA Today has a story on the new long-range RFID scanners reading ID cards as individuals drive toward the border.
“By the time a car stops at the Customs booth, the agent will have the photos and information of everyone in the car. If a name is on a watch list or database, the person will be taken in for questioning. The system will be “more efficient,” says Thomas Winkowski of Customs and Border Protection.”
DHS claims that the unsecured wireless transmissions will make border crossing more efficient, but why is Homeland Security choosing speed over security.
As we’ve explained before, there are numerous privacy and civil liberty problems connected with using RFID tags in identification documents. Off-the-shelf readers can easily skim the data.
Currently, the RFID-enabled ID cards only transmit a unique number to allow border agents to pull up an individual’s file. However, the Department of Homeland Security could easily add more data to the ID card, especially if the agency can convince people to use the RFID-enabled card as an “all-in-one” identification document – where you could use it when you go to the bank, grocery store, gym, school, and more.
DHS’s own Data Privacy and Integrity Advisory Committee and the Government Accountability Office have both cautioned against using RFID in identification documents.
The DHS Data Privacy and Integrity Advisory Committee urged (pdf) that long-range RFID only be used in ID documents if RFID is the “least intrusive means,” because there are significant privacy and security drawbacks.
The GAO noted (pdf), “Once a particular individual is identified through an RFID tag, personally identifiable information can be retrieved from any number of sources and then aggregated to develop a profile of the individual.”
The new long-range RFID readers are currently in place at five crossings: Blaine, Wash.; Buffalo; Detroit; Nogales, Ariz.; and San Ysidro, Calif.