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Researcher Developing Anti-RFID Device

Researchers in Amsterdam say they have completed a device that prevents radio frequency identification tags from being read. The university professor overseeing the project says the goal is to protect people from a technology that is gaining wide acceptance but has the potential to compromise consumer privacy.

RFID chips, as small as a gain of sand, are being embedded in people, money, passports, and clothing from T-shirts to shoes. They're being used to monitor vehicle traffic, track inventory and livestock, identify missing pets, and help pharmaceutical companies fight counterfeit drugs.

Vrije Universiteit Professor Andrew Tanenbaum said this week that the PDA-size handheld device " dubbed RFID Guardian -- beeps, warning a person when a RFID scanner is near and trying to read a chip embedded in a piece of clothing the person might be wearing, for example.

"Industry thinks nothing about invading your privacy," Tanenbaum said. "European banks plan to put RFID in money, larger bills. That means a robber can walk down the street with a scanner to find out how much money you have in your pocket and determine who will make the best target."

The RFID Guardian runs on a 550-Mhz XScale 32-bit processor with 64 MB of Ram that functions as the central nervous systems. XScales are often found in PDA and cellular phones, said Tanenbaum. The protocol stack was written in C to run on top of eCos, an open-source operating system.

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