8/14/2005

UK To Test RFID Tags In License Plates

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

The British government is preparing to test new high-tech license plates containing microchips capable of transmitting unique vehicle identification numbers and other data to readers more than 300 feet away.

Officials in the United States say they’ll be closely watching the British trial as they contemplate initiating their own tests of the plates, which incorporate radio frequency identification, or RFID, tags to make vehicles electronically trackable.

So-called “active” RFID tags, like the one in the e-Plate made by the U.K. firm Hills Numberplates, have built-in batteries, allowing them to broadcast data much farther than the small passive tags used to track inventory at retail stores.

Active RFID is already enjoying limited use on U.S. roadways. Under a new program, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is issuing RFID tags to foreign freight and passenger vehicles as they enter the country.

The technology is also used in electronic toll-collection systems in the United States to automatically charge participating drivers as they breeze past unstaffed toll booths. In the San Francisco Bay Area, FasTrak toll transponders are also polled at readers away from the toll booths, to determine how quickly traffic is moving through particular areas.

Privacy advocates are less enthusiastic about the technology.

“It’s too easy for (RFID license plates) to become a back-door surveillance tool,” said Jim Harper, director of information studies at libertarian think tank the Cato Institute and a member of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Data Privacy and Integrity Advisory Committee.

Source: Wired.com

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