That same ability raises the specter of nightmarish Orwellian scenarios in which consumer purchasing behavior is captured in databases that are manipulated by corporations and government as a tool for spying.
RFID utilizes a tag containing a computer chip that stores data relating to the tagged item, such as color, size, brand, warranty information, etc. Tags can also be affixed to pallets and cartons to identify contents of shipments during the distribution process. An antenna in the tag transmits and receives data through radio waves, which are picked up by a reader (Carlson 2006). In one type of RFID system known as passive, a signal is sent out by the reader creating a magnetic field, which is broadcast by its antenna to create a sensitive detection zone. When a RFID tag enters this zone it picks up the reader’s signals, which turn on the microchip’s transmitter, thus informing the reader of its presence. Passive RFID is a short range system in which the reader must range from one inch to a few feet from the tag in order to engage a signal (Kasavana 2006).
Another type of RFID technology is known as active. This is a longer range system because both the tag and reader have power supply units and are capable of sending and receiving signals. The transmission range may be up to one hundred feet due to this mutual transmission. The data on active RFID microchips can also be rewritten (Kasavana 2006). Active tags are far more expensive than passive tags (up to $40 as compared to 15 cents for passive tags) and are therefore less attractive and appropriate in a commercial retail environment (Carlson 2006). Nevertheless, given their long range scanning potential, active RFID has a broader range of potential applications. It also drives greater concerns regarding potential abuse.
RFID is considered to be more effective at inventory tracking than traditional bar codes for several reasons. First, it is