QR Codes, RFID, and Privacy

First if you are unaware of what a QR code is let me do a little explaining. This says ScottScanlon.com.


This one says: Run, Don’t walk, Zombies!

Run, Don't Walk, Zombies!

You can also create your own. Check out this QR Code Generator. Then search your app store for a QR reader and test it out right on your computer screen.

Originally from Japan where they are quite common. QR is stands for Quick Response (they can be read quickly by a cell phone). They are used to take a coded information from a newspaper, businesses, magazines, websites, or someones T-Shirt and put it in to your cell phone. Once it is in your cell phone, it may give you details about that business (allowing users to search for nearby locations), or details about the person wearing the t-shirt, show you a URL which you can click to see a trailer for a movie, or it may give you a coupon which you can use in a local outlet.

Pretty powerful. Except well it’s kind of old school. What we really need is a device that can communicate uniquely to anything, anywhere, and anyhow.

Enter RFID

What is RFID? It’s evil. Yes I said it. It’s a way that essentially every little thing on this planet can have it’s own unique identifier. Imagine this… the garbage man–sorry the sanitation engineer is picking up your garbage. In his truck is a device that can read the packaging of everything you have in your bin. Not just the brand, style, and color but uniquely read where it was created, packaged, sold, and how long ago you bought it. Wait for it… it get’s crazier, you buy a 12 pack of Pepsi and not only is the case RFD’d but each individual can is as well.

What you bought a 12 pack and only 10 cans have been used–where are the other two cans your asked in a text message? Okay that last part was a stretch but still think about the implications.

Facebook Privacy Utopia

Privacy wise Facebook is a drop in the ocean compared to RFID. You freely share information about yourself on Facebook. What they do with it from there is what has everybody upset. Well with RFID these little chips are to be embedded in everything–at least that’s the plan. Every organization and brand would love to have this device installed in their products. The wealth of data and information that would be available has marketers and big companies in a literal state of ecstasy.

Don’t believe me here is an excerpt from SpyChips.com an anti RFID advocacy group:

The ultimate goal is for RFID to create a “physically linked world” [18] in which every item on the planet is numbered, identified, catalogued, and tracked. And the technology exists to make this a reality. Described as “a political rather than a technological problem,” creating a global system “would . . . involve negotiation between, and consensus among, different countries.” [19] Supporters are aiming for worldwide acceptance of the technologies needed to build the infrastructure within the next few years. [20].

That pretty much says it all.

What’s My Point?

QR Codes. First I think QR codes are kind of cool. Old school versions of taking data and turning it into a treasure hunt. If you saw one on the street it would be tough to walk by. Maybe once, maybe twice, but that third time it’s going to get you.

Privacy. Facebook did recently make a change to how they handle management of privacy. A little easier to understand but my guess it still confuses people. It will still be interesting to see how this plays out over the next 30 days. I believe it will be enough to quell the masses but the geeks will still be out for blood.

RFID. Well as a marketer I like the idea of the wealth of data on usage, time frames, supply chain, purchase habits, and a whole slew of other information. Outside of that I think that this data in the hands of the government and other larger corporations could lead to bad things. Not could lead to bad things but it will. So to me we should fight this every step of the way.

Look at New York city and banning trans fats and salt. I still remember when I was younger and the smoke filled cabins on planes– now where is smoking? I’m no conspiracy theorist but if I told you years ago NY would be considering banning salt would you have believed me? Wait I just got a call…

Scott we’ve noticed that you have purchased 3 cases of Pepsi in the last week. Based on your wife’s cell phones GPS we also know that your wife has been on a business trip for a few days. We are a little concerned about your soda intake… oh you had a barbecue… yes we saw that but we also see here that only 3 people showed up. By our count you still have exceeded your allowable weekly soda intake.

18 M.K. Shankar, Algorithm Ensures Unique Object ID, NIKKEI ELECTRONICS ASIA (Apr. 2001), available at http://www.nikkeibp.asiabiztech.com/nea/200104/inet_127161.html
19 Id.
20 Id.