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Radio frequency identification (RFID) is a method of remotely storing and retrieving data from so-called RFID "tags" attached to objects. These tags can be active or passive. Active RFID tags are typically battery-powered and can be both read and written by a remote transceiver using an antenna which emits and receives radio waves. Passive RFID tags obtain power generated by the radio waves to send a response, they can only be read and have smaller memory. This memory is usually used to store a unique, random identification number (GUID).

RFID offers the possibility of making real scenarios of mass surveillance that have previously only been the subject of paranoid fantasy, including tracking people by the RFID tags embedded in their clothes, or discovering the contents of houses by reading the RFID tags inside. Although RFID tags are only officially intended for short-distance use, they can be interrogated from great distances by anyone with a high-gain antenna.

RFID tags have been proposed to mark currency and commodities in order to track criminals. Privacy advocates criticize these efforts as intrusive. Some large scale RFID use is imminent. Gillette announced to buy 500 million RFID tags from a startup company called Alien Technology in November 2002.

Wal-Mart Inc announced the use of RFID in its stores. Microsoft said it is going to include RFID in the desktop and in-shop computers.

Regarding the price of the tags, a January 2003 ZDNet article cites Alien Technology: "The company does predict that in quantities of 1 billion, RFID tags will approach 10 cents each, and in lots of 10 billion, the industry's holy grail of 5 cents a tag."

Also in January 2003, Michelin announced that it has begun testing RFID transponders embedded into tires. After a testing period that is expected to last 18 months, the manufacturer will offer RFID-enabled tires to car-makers. Their primary purpose is tire-tracking in compliance with the United States Transportation, Recall, Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation Act (TREAD Act).

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