Fears over microchips developed for remote scans

MICROCHIPS carrying sensitive personal information that can be scanned by sensors from a distance could be included in the proposed national identity cards, it emerged yesterday.

While the government's legislation cleared its first hurdle last night, there could be trouble ahead as the ID card could use Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology.

RFID involves a tiny microchip being embedded in an object. The chip contains data that can be read by scanners from a distance, typically a few dozen feet.

The technology was pioneered by retailers to keep track of stock - many everyday products sold in big supermarkets carry RFID chips that are tracked and scanned by store computers.

RFID's defenders say that the chips also protect against theft.

But the technology worries civil liberties groups because the RFID chips can be scanned and tracked even after they leave the shop.

Last year, an international alliance of 39 civil rights groups warned that the inclusion of RFID tags in new biometric passports could help create "a global infrastructure of surveillance".

Following inquiries from Alan Simpson, a Labour left-winger, the Home Office confirmed that it was considering including RFID technology in the ID card.

Liberty, the civil rights group, warned that any use of RFID tags could be controversial.

"There are serious dangers and problems with perfecting the technology of stopping information being easily accessible," said a Liberty spokesman last night.

Back to the top of the page