Saturday, November 29, 2008

RSNA RFIDdles with RFID's Again

I seem to have been the first to discover the use of RFID's at last year's RSNA, as published in my blog (the post in question has been sanitized and resurrected):
One major change I've seen at RSNA is literally around my neck; the badges now have RFID tags, which lets the powers that be do some sort of monitoring of the attendees. No doubt this information will be used for proper ends, such as making sure that we actually do attend the educational stuff for which we are requesting credit. Personally, I'm worried that (a larGE company) is using the tags to locate me when their snipers are in position. Nah, that would be too easy.
David Clunie noticed my post and persued the situation, eventually posting on AuntMinnie:
As I wandered about RSNA I recall seeing signs that mentioned that RFID badge tracking was in use, but I assumed that this would only be for RSNA's own purposes to count attendance in various areas and educational sessions; I do not recall exactly what the signs said. Even so, I felt slightly uncomfortable that I had not been asked when I registered whether or not I agreed to this or not (at least not that I recall). I was truly stunned to discover on further investigation that RSNA was allowing vendors in the technical exhibit area to track attendees, and indeed encouraging this (see "" and click on "attendee tracking/exhibit analysis"). It is not clear from the information there whether or not RSNA is actually "selling" this information to the exhibitors themselves or merely allowing the providers of the tracking to sell the service without taking a cut. I am not sure how I feel about this, and whether or not I should take further action - I guess it depends a lot on whether the exhibitors were being provided with only aggregate information, or whether they were provided with my individual identity and contact details. If the latter were to be the case then I would be really pissed.
David has a new blog post that tells us RSNA is at it again.

Now, whilst I am happy for RSNA to know that I attended, and happy to know which scientific sessions I participated in to help their planning, I am not at all happy about providing that information to the vendors. So, whilst I do not yet know what their "opt out" mechanism is, I suspect it is to record your details to be excluded from the reports sent to the vendors (they did that on request last year in my case).

So this year I am going to be proactive and remove or destroy the RFID tag that is in my badge. This is actually easier side than done, because it turns out they are tough little The sticky label on the back of the badge will not peel off cleanly. Attacking the chip or antenna with a scalpel reveals that they are very hard, and without any way of confirming that the device is actually no longer working, doing a really good job (e.g., on the chip with a hammer) is going to make a mess of the badge. A Google search on the Internet (see for example, "How to kill your RFID chip") reveals that a short time in a microwave oven does the job, though at the risk of starting a fire, which doesn't sound cool. Also, most attendees won't have a microwave in their hotel room. I tried it on my wife's badge first (!), and when that didn't catch fire, did my own, and whacked the chip with a hammer, nailed it with a punch a couple of times, and cut the antenna. That said, I would still rather peel the whole thing off if it didn't look like the whole badge would tear apart.

Anyway, if you respect your privacy, as I do, then I suggest you find a way to deactivate the device before you go wandering around, and if you forget, make sure to go an opt out to prevent the information being disseminated.

I'm glad I'm not the only one who had a problem with this (ab)use of technology. If anyone wishes to track me, I'll be down here in the not-so-sunny South this week.

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