John Chamberlain
Developer Diary
 Developer Diary · You Heard It Here First · Thursday 4 March 2004
RFID Tags in Currency
RFID adoption is streaming ahead despite the cost of the technology. The most pervasive use of the little mini antennas could become currency tagging. This would allow governments and their agents (like banks) to collect detailed information about currency movements more easily than is now possible with serial number scanners. The Euro is scheduled to add RFID in 2005.

Recently a hoax has circulated on Prison Planet and other such sites that RFID is already embedded in the eye of Andrew Jackson on the twenty dollar bill. Photographs showing burnt notes have been posted with the suggestion that they were created by microwaving the RFID-containing twenties. This story is pure disinformation. I have not found RFID tags in the new twenties and moreover the claim in the posting that the notes set off store security gates and wands are not believable because RFID security systems are not widely available yet. Also, many of the bills shown in the posted photograph are the old twenties.

The life this hoax has had reflects privacy concerns RFID raises. Hypothetically if readers were installed at every ATM machine it would be possible to associate individual bank notes to people and then determine by whom that note was eventually deposited back into a bank. This would allow tracking of cash purchases and between individuals. The cost of equipping all ATM machines with integrated RFID readers ensures that this scenario is a long way off.

A more pressing worry is that anyone could determine how much cash you were carrying if they had a portable reader. For example a pickpocket could troll a crowd looking for the fattest wallet. Does this herald the era of the shielded wallet?

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