Technology is advancing at a frantic pace. Only 20 years ago, it was widely believed that the Mark of the Beast would be the Universal Product Code (UPC). Today the UPC—more commonly known as “the barcode”—is rapidly becoming an archaic technology. Electronic Product Codes (EPC) promise to eventually replace all barcodes. According to EPCglobal:
Using a combination of technologies and harnessing the power of current information systems, the EPCglobal Network will provide for immediate, automatic, and accurate identification and location of any item in the supply chain of any company, in any industry, anywhere in the world.
A key technology which makes EPCs a realistic alternative to the barcode is radio frequency identification (RFID) microchips. Essentially, this is a small microchip which emits a radio signal that can be intercepted and interpreted by a device which is commonly referred to as a “reader,” or a “sniffer.” The signal range of the chip depends upon the size of the chip and whether it has a battery powering it. Many RFID tags are flat and can be attached behind a product’s price label, behind the tag in clothing, or embedded within the product itself. Some chips are about the size of a period on a page. These produce such a weak signal that they must come into physical contact with the reader in order for the signal to be intercepted. Chips which can be read at a distance are considerably larger as they must have a stronger power source. Not only do RFID microchips promise to facilitate the replacement of all barcodes, they also promise to revolutionize the world.
In 2006, IBM patented something they call a “Person Tracking Unit.” The abstract of United States patent 7,076,441 describes this as:
A method and system for identifying and tracking persons using RFID-tagged items carried on the persons. Previous purchase records for each person who shops at a retail store are collected by POS terminals and stored in a transaction database. When a person carrying or wearing items having RFID tags enters the store or other designated area, a RFID tag scanner located therein scans the RFID tags on that person and reads the RFID tag information. The RFID tag information collected from the person is correlated with transaction records stored in the transaction database according to known correlation algorithms. Based on the results of the correlation, the exact identity of the person or certain characteristics about the person can be determined. This information is used to monitor the movement of the person through the store or other areas.
Essentially, this envisions a future where every physical item is tagged with an RFID chip that is constantly broadcasting a signal that can be read by devices embedded in the floor, ceiling, and doorways. As these devices read the chips, they also update each item’s webpage to note the date, time, and location that the chip was read. In a 2012 Coast to Coast AM radio interview, privacy activist and co-author of Spychips, Katherine Albrecht, explained:
[T]his person tracking unit that IBM has patented … IBM went into considerable detail … the person tracking unit—this idea is that every physical object that passes through doorways and floors and anywhere will be tracked. So as you walk through a doorway in the future, they’ll know the size of your underwear, how old your jeans are, they’ll know everything in your pocket, they’ll know all the places that you’ve been because they’ll be able to tell all the other places that those things were recently seen. It’s mind-blowing. They’ll know who you walked into the restaurant with, or who you sat with, or when you went to the bathroom because it’s all going to be trackable through these physical objects.
Already through Sorensen Associates, a simplified form of this system known as PathTracker is being widely used:
PathTracker uses state-of-the-art technology to provide quantitative understanding into how consumers behave at the point-of-purchase.
As shoppers enter the store and select their shopping cart or basket, tracking begins. Although visual observation is possible, the Sorensen method focuses on the movement of the shopper as evidenced by the movement of her cart/basket. Using state-of-the-art technology (Local Positioning System or LPS), the position of the cart/basket is tracked continuously as it proceeds through the store. The speed of the cart, as well as every pause is tracked continuously.
The path taken and stops made (location and duration), become a database for each shopper tracked. Through statistical and graphical analysis a total picture of store traffic, as well as the activity of individual shoppers emerges.
In addition, every actual purchase made can be tied to the specific shopper’s path, allowing analysis on a specific brand and item level.
As of 2007, PathTracker’s client list includes: Wal-Mart Stores, K-Mart Discount Stores, BJ’s Wholesale Club, Sam’s Club, Target, Best Buy, CompUSA, Office Depot, Office Max, MicroCenter, Staples, The Home Depot, Lowe’s, True Value Hardware, Specialty Stores, CVS, Eckerd’s Stores, Long’s Drug Stores, Osco Stores, Rite-Aid Stores, Walgreen’s Stores, 7-11 Stores, Arco AM/PM, Circle K Stores, Citgo Food Marts, Chevron Food Marts, Exxon, Holiday, Shell Food Mart, Sunoco A Plus, Texaco Food Marts, White Hen Pantry, A&P, Albertson’s, Bi-Lo, Bigg’s, Carnival, Cub Foods, Dahl’s Food Markets, Dominick’s Finer Foods, Famer Jack, Food Lion, Fry’s Food Stores, Genuardi’s, Giant Foods, Hen House Markets, Hy-Vee Food Stores, IGA Supermarkets, Jewel Food Stores, King Soopers, Kohl’s Food Stores, The Kroger Co., Meijer’s, Minyards Food Stores, Pavillion’s, Pick ‘N Save Stores, Price Chopper, Rainbow Foods, Randall’s Stores, Sack ‘N Save, Safeway Stores, Schnuck’s Markets, Bread & Circus Stores, Fruitful Yield, Harry’s Famers Markets Hi-Health Stores, Lassen’s Health Foods, Nature’s Pantry, PCC Natural, Wild Oats Markets, Whole Foods. This system is even being used in daycare organizations, schools, colleges, skating rinks, and parks.
The information gathered is incredibly valuable to companies who wish to more precisely target the consumer. This technology can also be combined with other technology such as “The Automated Activity of Shoppers in a Market.” Privacy activists Dr. Katherine Albrecht and Liz McIntyre write in their book Spychips:
In December 2003, NCR was granted a patent for an invention they call AUTOMATED MONITORING OF ACTIVTY OF SHOPPERS IN A MARKET. Reminiscent of Procter & Gamble’s plans, here NCR describes an unbelievably detailed strategy to watch shoppers’ every move in the store aisle, recording their activities on a moment-by-moment basis and making a record of everything they do—down to the split second.
NCR’s scheme starts with RFID tags on every product in the store and reader devices hidden in every shelf and grocery cart. These are in turn connected to a vast, silently watching computerized spy network that waits for a shopper to lift an item from a shelf, rather like a spider waits for a tug on its web to indicate that its next meal has arrived.
When an unsuspecting customer does lift an item from a shelf, say a can of corn, the system kicks into surveillance gear, timing precisely how many seconds the shopper holds the item before either putting it back on the shelf or placing it in her shopping basket … Based on the recorded positions of the can of corn and the time at each position, the system makes inferences about shopper activity. For example, if the can is removed from the shelf but not immediately placed in the basket, the system could interpret that the customer was reading the label before deciding to purchase it. Likewise, if the can was put back on the shelf and a competing brand was later selected and put into the cart, the system could infer that the consumer preferred the competing brand.
IBM suggests using its Person Tracking Unit to identify and track people in, “shopping malls, airports, train stations, bus stations, elevators, trains, airplanes, restrooms, sports arenas, libraries, theaters, museums, etc.” It is even possible to track individuals with this system when they are outdoors. The company EnOcean Alliance has developed an RFID reading device which utilizes “energy created from slight changes in motion, pressure, light, temperature or vibration.” As such, these devices could be attached to trees where they would be powered by the wind and the vibrations of the tree. In such a system, virtually every movement and every purchase could be monitored and recorded in a massive database.
IBM’s Person Tracking Unit is restricted primarily by its ability to successfully place reading devices everywhere, which is no longer a problem thanks to a company called Chamtech. Chamtech Enterprises endeavored to provide a solution to the military’s problem of getting antennae onto the battlefield to transmit messages for special operations. Antennae are too large and bulky for special operations to effectively carry them onto the battlefield and to conceal. Using nano-technology, Chamtech developed wireless transmitters which can literally be sprayed onto most surfaces. In a video presentation of the product, Chamtech’s co-founder, Anthony Sutera, declared, “We have come up with a material that when you spray it on, it lays out just in the right pattern and all of these little capacitors charge and discharge extremely quickly in real time and they don’t create any heat.”
Chamtech has proposed that this product could be used to replace cell phone towers by simply spraying walls, to increase the efficiency of electric motors and of the power grid, or to turn the road lines along highways into broadband wireless internet transmitters. Already this technology is powerful enough to transmit to airplanes which are flying miles overhead, and some people question whether this technology could eventually be used to transmit to satellites. Not only is this technology more convenient and virtually invisible, but it is also significantly more powerful than standard antennae. Chamtech’s initial test was to spray a tree in the forest, thus converting the tree into a wireless transmitter. The tree became a more effective transmitter than the military’s highest quality antenna. In another test, within 5 minutes of spraying a tree, Chamtech was able to transmit via VHF to an airplane flying overhead at 14 miles. This is double the range of a standard antenna on the ground. Another test used an airplane which simulates a UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) payload that transmitted using a VHF communications link and also a microwave data link using two standard antennae that were mounted onto the plane. After spraying a piece of tape on the bottom of the platform, Chamtech was able to get a 300% better range out of both links. In an additional test, Chamtech sprayed its wireless antenna over the existing antenna on a one mille-watt RFID tag. This increased the readable range of the tag from 5 feet to 700 feet. The goal of this test was to allow the tag to be read by an airplane overhead.
This technology even increases the transmission of underwater antennae. A standard antenna which could transmit 100 feet when submerged at periscope depth could transmit over 1 nautical mile after being sprayed by Chamtech.
Using this technology, almost anything can become an RFID reader and transmitter. Walls, telephone poles, sidewalks, trees, etc. can all be converted into something which continuously monitors every RFID device. Recall that the goal is to place RFID tags in absolutely everything.
IBM’s Person Tracking Unit can even be used to provide targeted advertising reminiscent of Minority Report.* According to IBM’s patent:
For example, if the person is carrying a baby bottle, a store advertisement system may be configured to advertise diapers while the person is passing a particular display device in the store. If the person is carrying a man’s wallet, the store advertisement system may be configured to advertise razor blades and shaving cream while the person is passing through a particular display device in the store. Obviously, numerous examples are possible.
In an NCR promotional piece titled “50 Ideas for Revolutionizing the Store through RFID,” idea number 32 proposed:
Dynamic pricing. RFID can be used in conjunction with electronic shelf labels to automate pricing based on the number of items on the shelf. . . . For example . . . when certain popular items were in short supply (e.g., at Christmas time), the price can be automatically raised.
Companies repeatedly inform consumers that these technologies and programs are being implemented to help the shopper, but clearly the shopper is not the number one beneficiary. These technologies have very little to do with the convenience of the shopper. They are designed to save companies money and to allow for more efficient methods of advertising.
The NCR idea number 34 proposed, “With RFIDs on loyalty cards to identify the customer and a customer shopping history database, items could be priced differently depending on characteristics of the person who was buying them.” This too is already happening. According to a 2005 CNN article titled “Web sites change prices based on customer’s habits”:
So when you buy an airplane ticket or a DVD online, you may pay a higher — or lower — price than another customer buying the very same item from the very same site. Why? Because the information the site has compiled on you suggests that you may be willing to pay more — or less — than others for that item. Or, perhaps, because the company is conducting random price tests to figure out what the ideal price point is for its product. … But the same person, buying a plane ticket online, may not realize that her high wages and pricey lifestyle are translating into pricey plane tickets. … Online, then, her Armani lifestyle may mean she pays an Armani-style price for the very same ticket others are getting at a Target-style discount. She may not even know this is occurring, let alone be able to control the process in any way. … The reality is that Internet price customization does exist … In September 2000, Amazon.com outraged some customers when its own price discrimination was revealed. One buyer reportedly deleted the cookies on his computer that identified him as a regular Amazon customer. The result? He watched the price of a DVD offered to him for sale drop from $26.24 to $22.74. … Consumers also discovered in 2000 that Amazon was using dynamic pricing when customers comparing prices on a ‘bargain-hunter’ Web site discovered that Amazon was randomly offering the Diamond Rio MP3 player for up to $51 less than its usual $233.95 price.
In 2000, Proctor and Gamble along with MIT created a prototype store of the future and house of the future in Cambridge, England to showcase RFID’s potential. In a promotional piece entitled “Imagine the House and Store of the Future,” they write about: “Shelves that know what they contain,” “Shopping carts that know what they contain,” “Floor tiles that track products and carts around the store,” and a “TV that shows you advertising based on what you buy and what you are about to run out of, using information from your refrigerator.”
According to an article titled “Inside P&G Brands: A Chip in the Shopping Cart:”
Let’s say [an RFID tag is] positioned on the bottom of a bottle of Coca Cola. As soon as we take it out of the refrigerator, the fridge will know that the Coke supply has run out and it will inform the supermarket via Internet that they need to re-supply your home. Or, if you prefer to do things on your own, the Coke will be automatically added to the shopping list displayed on the electronic blackboard in the kitchen. At this instant, as if by magic, the publicity of Pepsi Cola will appear on the home TV screens. Because your intelligent refrigerator has communicated with your intelligent TV set.
To entice people “to play this little game” of allowing competing companies this power of targeted advertising, Proctor and Gamble suggest giving away television sets.
In their book Spychips, privacy activists Dr. Katherine Albrecht and Liz McIntyre write:
Companies like Philips also have visions of washing machines that monitor spychipped clothes, microwave ovens that read tags on frozen entrees to automatically set cook times, and even refrigerators that keep tabs on what you’re eating. In fact, monitoring your family’s food consumption is a recurring theme for the spychippers. UC Berkeley adjunct marketing professor Peter Sealey predicts that some day this ability will allow companies to “precisely target individuals” with personalized ads: “[W]e could measure whether we delivered the commercial to you, and, as I am monitoring your pantry, whether you bought the product, too.”*
The developing smart home will become increasingly more connected, and all of this information will be shared with the power company via a device termed “the smart meter.” A smart meter allows the power company to monitor the consumer’s power consumption in real time and also allows the power company to override the customer’s power settings. For example, if a particular area’s power grid is experiencing a strain—such as during times of excessive heat—the power company can regulate smart appliances and can even cut off the electricity altogether.
Already this is happening. During a 2009 Coast to Coast AM interview, Katherine Albrecht reported:
Right now, in the city of Austin, Texas, in the city of Boulder, Colorado, they’ve been testing this out. I’ve actually spoken to people in Austin, Texas. I do a daily radio show that broadcasts in Austin. And I had people calling in saying that they had signed up, really without understanding what it was, for these new smart thermostats. Well, what they do is they give you what they claim is a several hundred dollar thermostat—this high tech thermostat. You install it onto your air conditioner or heating system. And what it gives the power company the option of doing is shutting off your power, or shutting off the power to that appliance in times of high energy loading. And what these folks were promised was that, “Don’t worry, we’ll only shut it off three or four minutes an hour, maybe max ten minutes an hour.” And I was hearing from people calling in saying, “I had no idea what I was signing up for. They would shut off my air conditioner for three, four, five hours at a time, and my house was hitting one hundred and ten degrees. … They’ve come out with smart appliances. I’ll give you an example. In Houston, starting next month, Houston’s Center Point Energy is going to install more than two million smart meters in people’s homes over the next five years. Two million of these things are going to go into place in Houston. Now what this enables the company to do is to monitor the cycling of your power in real time. So they’ll know, for example, that you’re a person who tends to use a lot of energy between the hours of three and five in the afternoon. Thus, you’re probably not working a standard nine to five job. And maybe, at that point, they may want to say—they may send you something saying, “Hey, we’d like to know how you’re using that energy at that time. Why don’t you install this new smart appliance, or this new smart toaster, or whatever it might be, so that we can actually monitor that. And we’re going to put you in charge. Don’t worry. You’ll be able to manage all of this through your own online system. Of course, we will too. But that’s the idea. Now in a trial that they did in Houston of this system, they had several hundred households participate by installing these special Whirlpool dryers. Right, looks like a plain old dryer, you plug into the wall, but it was two-way operated. And at times when the system was getting overloaded during the day, they would send a signal to these dryers to tell them to continue running, but to turn off the heat and just air fluff for a while.
For years, stores have used loyalty cards to gather information on shopper’s habits and preferences. Most of these loyalty cards contain embedded RFID chips. According to a 2013 Wall Street Journal article titled “How the Insurer Knows You Just Stocked Up on Ice Cream and Beer,” stores have begun selling customers’ shopping records to insurance companies. The article begins by saying:
Your company already knows whether you have been taking your meds, getting your teeth cleaned and going for regular medical checkups. Now some employers or their insurance companies are tracking what staffers eat, where they shop and how much weight they are putting on — and taking action to keep them in line.
It goes on to say, “Marketing firms have sold this data to retailers and credit-card companies for years, and health plans have recently discovered they can use it to augment claims data.” In other words, if a person’s buying habits indicate to the insurance company that he lives an unhealthy lifestyle and is likely to become obese, a diabetic, or any number of other possibilities, then they may raise his premium.
In recent years, the government has shown a keen interest in individual health habits. In 2013, Bloomberg Businessweek published an article titled “The FDA Eyes a Caffeine Crackdown.” According to the article, Food and Drug Administration Deputy Director, Michael Taylor, has said, “We’ll gather as much information as we can on the products that are out there and look at what should be the limits and what are the options for us to put some boundaries on the proliferation of caffeine in foods.” He has also said, “Maybe the way to address that is to set limits on the amount.” Similarly, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has attempted to ban extra-large sugary drinks and to limit salt. In 2012 The New York Times published an article titled “Health Panel Approves Restriction on Sale of Large Sugary Drinks.” Likewise, in 2012 Politico published an article titled “Mayor Michael Bloomberg: Large Soda Not a Right.” In it Bloomberg is quoted as saying, “It is not something the Founding Fathers fought for.” Also, in a 2012 Mediaite article titled “NYC Mayor Bloomberg On Soda Ban: ‘We’re Simply Forcing You to Understand ‘What’s Better for You,” Mayor Bloomberg was quoted as saying, “We’re not taking away anybody’s right to do things, we’re simply forcing you to understand that you have to make the conscious decision to go from one cup to another cup.” Additionally, in 2010 the New York Post published an article titled “Food-Nanny Mike Declares War On Salt In NYers Diets.”
Most states have passed varying laws limiting where individuals are permitted to smoke cigarettes and cigars.* In fact, according to a 2002 Associated Press article titled “Springfield firefighter fired for smoking cigarette in car,” the state of Massachusetts even prohibits emergency workers from smoking anywhere at any time—whether on or off the job.
Michelle Obama has worked to implement new health requirements in our public schools. A 2012 Fox 8 article titled “NC preschooler’s ‘unhealthy’ lunch replaced with cafeteria nuggets” reports:
A Hoke County preschooler was fed chicken nuggets for lunch because a state worker felt that her homemade lunch did not have enough nutritional value, according to a report by the Carolina Journal.
The West Hoke Elementary School student was in her More at Four classroom when a state employee who was inspecting lunch boxes decided that her packed lunch — which consisted of a turkey and cheese sandwich, a banana, apple juice and potato chips — “did not meet U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines,” the Journal reports.
The decision was made under consideration of a regulation put in place by the Division of Child Development and Early Education at the Department of Health and Human Services, which requires all lunches served in pre-kindergarten programs to meet USDA guidelines.”
It is conceivable that The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as ObamaCare, could result in the Federal government requiring stores to share loyalty card records with it in order to ensure that Americans are maintaining a healthy lifestyle. If the government is paying for a person’s health care, then it is probable that the government will eventually begin to dictate what a person may or may not do to his own health. There could be coming a time when customers are limited in what they may purchase at the grocery store via their store loyalty cards which may no longer be optional. For example, a diabetic individual may not be permitted to purchase certain sugary products, or individuals may be limited in how much junk food can be purchased each month.
The goal is to eventually be able to monitor everything in real time. According to a 2013 Huffington Post article titled “What Is the ‘Internet of Things’?”:
In the ‘90s computers invaded our homes. In the 2000s computers invaded our pockets. This decade, all our clothing, accessories, vehicles, and everything (?!) appear on the verge of computerization. Welcome to the Internet of Things (IoT). … Helen Duce, the director of the radio frequency identification (RFID) center at the University of Cambridge, recently explained her vision for the IoT:
We have a clear vision: to create a world where every object, from jumbo jets to sewing needles, is linked to the Internet. Compelling as this vision is, it is only achievable if this system is adopted by everyone everywhere. Success will be nothing less than global adoption.*
The Auto-ID Center has actually calculated how many bits of information are necessary to provide a unique identification code for every automobile, computer, razor blade, grain of rice, and person on the planet. The very fact that they have considered what is necessary to chip every grain of rice on the planet reveals the magnitude of this plan. According to Spychips:
So enamored was the Auto-ID Center with the idea of uniquely identifying all objects, they developed a system that could number every item produced on earth for the next thousand years—each with its own unique ID number and no repeats. … While many numbering schemes were considered, the EPC developers finally settled on a ninety-six bit code. (That’s a string of ninety-six zeroes and ones, or, said a different way, two to the ninety-sixth power.) The developers tell us this code is adequate to uniquely number a mind-blowing 80 thousand trillion trillion objects—more than sufficient for man-made physical products.
RFID technology will remove the last vestiges of privacy in the name of convenience and efficiency. In the 2003 “Sponsors Guide,” Mark Roberti of MIT Auto-ID Center writes:
The Auto-ID Center’s vision is a world in which low-cost RFID tags are put on every manufactured item and tracked using a single, global network as they move from one company to another and one country to another. Indeed, we envision individual items-cans of Coke, pairs of jeans and car tires-being tracked from the moment they are made until the time they are recycled. This will give manufacturers and retailers near-perfect supply chain visibility. It will eliminate human error from data collection and enable companies to reduce inventory, make sure product is always on the store shelves, and reduce lost, stolen or misdirected goods. It will open a new world of convenience for consumers, who one day may be able to check themselves out at a supermarket in seconds. In short, it will transform the way we do business and the way we live.
According to IBM’s U.S. patent publication number 20020116274, “the widespread use of RFID tags on merchandise such as clothing would make it possible for the locations of people, animals, and objects to be tracked on a global scale—a privacy invasion of Orwellian proportions.” Likewise, Vice President of Technology at AIM Global Steve Halliday said, “If I talk to companies and ask them if they want to replace the bar code with these tags, the answer can’t be anything but yes. It’s like giving them an opportunity to rule the world.” Also, in a 2003 Auto-ID Center Executive Briefing, Helen Dulce writes, “The lack of clear benefits to consumers could present a problem in the ‘real world’. In the case of EPC network there are currently no clear benefits [for consumers] by which to balance even the mildest negative …” And in “Message Development,” Helen Dulce writes, “‘Selling’ the technology, the vision, or the consumer benefits exacerbates consumers’ problems. The best communication strategy appears to be positioning the technology simply as an improved barcode.” Once again, it is evident that the consumer is not the primary beneficiary of this technology.
Today this RFID network is being erected. Companies such as Gillette and Procter and Gamble secretly tagged some of their products for years. Today RFID tagging of merchandise is becoming common. Companies like Walmart strongly support RFID tagging of all merchandise. RFID tags are commonly used to identify luggage at airports. In many states, newborn babies are given ankle bracelets with RFID chips for security purposes. All U.S. passports contain embedded RFID microchips. Enhanced drivers licenses utilize RFID technology and are combining this with biometric identifiers. Most loyalty shopping cards are embedded with RFID microchips.* And several major credit card companies have embedded their cards with RFID microchips.
Even our children are being integrated into this RFID network. UCLA researchers working on RFID applications have said, “We propose to target early childhood education as a testbed for our technologies …” A 2010 Wired Magazine articled titled “Tracking School Children With RFID Tags? It’s All About The Benjamins” reports:
Just as the U.S. Department of Agriculture mandates Radio Frequency Identification Device chips to monitor livestock, a Texas school district just begun implanting the devices on student identification cards to monitor pupils’ movements on campus, and to track them as they come and go from school.
Tagging school children with RFID chips is uncommon, but not new. A federally funded preschool in Richmond, California, began embedding RFID chips in students’ clothing in 2010. And an elementary school outside of Sacramento, California, scrubbed a plan in 2005 amid a parental uproar. And a Houston, Texas, school district began using the chips to monitor students on 13 campuses in 2004.
It was only a matter of time. Radio frequency identification devices are a daily part of the electronic age, and are fast becoming a part of passports, libraries and payment cards, and are widely expected to replace bar-code labels on consumer goods.
These RFID tags emit a signal every 25 seconds, providing a near moment by moment record of the student’s movements.
It appears as if the UCLA researchers’ recommendation is being implemented. In 2013, Fox News published an article titled, “Report: School District Scanned Children’s Eyes for Bus Program Without Permission.” Similarly, a 2013 CNN Money article titled “Iris Scans Are The School’s New IDs” reports, “Winthrop University in South Carolina is testing out iris scanning technology during freshman orientation this summer. Students had their eyes scanned as they received their ID cards in June.” It also says:
South Dakota-based Blinkspot manufactures iris scanners specifically for use on school buses. When elementary school students come aboard, they look into a scanner (it looks like a pair of binoculars). The reader will beep if they’re on the right bus and honk if they’re on the wrong one.
The Blinkspot scanner syncs with a mobile app that parents can use to see where their child is. Every time a child boards or exits the bus, his parent gets an email or text with the child’s photograph, a Google map where they boarded or exited the bus, as well as the time and date.
A 2013 BiometricUpdate.com article titled “Biometric payments in school cafeterias: Privacy nightmare or lunchroom revolution?” reports:
Around the world, many cafeterias are being fitted with biometric payment systems for students to purchase lunch, and these systems tout some appealing benefits: kids don’t need to carry cash, kids who lose money don’t need to go without food, lunch lines will shrink and students on a subsidized meal plan no longer need to feel isolated by being made to sign for food in front of their peers.
The idea behind biometric payment systems for cafeterias is often essentially the same: student biometrics are registered in the system and converted to a numerical sequence for verification, parents or students can load money into an account and then instead of paying for lunch with cash, students are verified by their biometrics and money is taken out of their pre-loaded account.
The government has attempted many times in the past to create a national ID system, but they have never succeeded primarily because of public opposition. If an entire generation grows up using these RFID and biometric ID systems, then it will become an ordinary fact of life for them. A national ID system is inevitable if similar systems succeed within public schools.
RFID and biometric technologies are not inherently evil. They offer the possibility of unprecedented levels of convenience. In a perfect world, this technology could be used for incredible good, but we do not live in a perfect world. We live in a world that is governed by sin and by the spirit of antichrist. The consistent testimony of human nature teaches us that we should maintain a healthy fear of these technologies. Technology is a double-edged sword. It is just as likely to hurt us as it is to help us. This does not mean that we must reject and oppose all RFID and biometric technology, but it does mean that we should not deceive ourselves into believing that only good can come from this technology and that those who are promoting it do not have ulterior motives.
Historically, governments have always desired greater levels of monitoring and control. Often this is done in the name of safety and convenience. If it is true that increased levels of monitoring and control results in higher levels of safety, then history should bear record to this. Perhaps the most highly monitored and controlled society of the 20th century was the Soviet Union. Maybe regarding day to day activities, it was safer, but almost no one wishes that they lived in the Soviet Union. The people may have been safer from their fellow citizens, but they were in great danger from their government.
Professor Rudolph Rummel devoted his life to studying this concept and concluded that in the 20th century, governments were 4 times more deadly to their own people than all of that century’s wars combined. Keep in mind that this includes two world wars. In his book Death By Government, Rudolph Rummel writes:
In total, during the first eighty-eight years of [the 20th] century, almost 170 million men, women, and children have been shot, beaten, tortured, knifed, burned, starved, frozen, crushed, or worked to death; buried alive, drowned, hung, bombed, or killed in any other of the myriad ways governments have inflicted death on unarmed, helpless citizens and foreigners. The dead could conceivably be nearly 360 million people. It is as though our species has been devastated by a modern Black Plague. And indeed it has, but a plague of Power, not germs.
RFID and biometric technologies promise unprecedented levels of monitoring and control. As such, governments around the world are enamored with this technology. The United States government appears to have a goal to monitor and record every aspect of every person’s life from birth to death. The recent revelations about PRISM indicate this. Similarly, a Justice Department attorney leaked information to the New York Times in 2004 concerning a Federal warrantless wiretap program primarily conducted by the NSA known as Stellar Wind.* We also know that since the 1970’s, the United States has cooperated with a network of other countries to monitor private communications. This system was known as “Echelon.” Theoretically, it could monitor every communication that was sent via transmission.
The government has a long history of using technology to gather private information. In 2013, the National Security Agency (NSA) opened a new intelligence data center in Bluffdale, Utah. According to a 2013 Associated Press article titled “What We Know About The NSA’s Secret Data Data Warehouse In Utah,” it is about 1.5 million square feet in size. It is estimated that it will use about 65 megawatts of electricity constantly. This is enough electricity to power 33,000 homes. Furthermore, according to a 2013 report by KSL TV, the facility may use 1.7 million gallons of water every day just to keep the computers cool. It is estimated that the facility will use between 600 and 1,200 gallons per minute.
According to a 2012 Wired Magazine article titled, “The NSA Is Building the Country’s Biggest Spy Center (Watch What You Say),” it’s storage capacity could be measured in yottabytes. To put this into perspective, “There are a thousand gigabytes in a terabyte, a thousand terabytes in a petabyte, a thousand petabytes in an Exabyte, a thousand exabytes in a zettabyte, and a thousand zettabytes in a yottabyte. In other words, a yottabyte is 1,000,000,000,000,000GB.” Wired Magazine says:
It needs that capacity because, according to a recent report by Cisco, global Internet traffic will quadruple from 2010 to 2015, reaching 966 exabytes per year. (A million exabytes equal a yottabyte.) In terms of scale, Eric Schmidt, Google’s former CEO, once estimated that the total of all human knowledge created from the dawn of man to 2003 totaled 5 exabytes. And the data flow shows no sign of slowing. In 2011 more than 2 billion of the world’s 6.9 billion people were connected to the Internet. By 2015, market research firm IDC estimates, there will be 2.7 billion users. Thus, the NSA’s need for a 1-million-square-foot data storehouse. Should the agency ever fill the Utah center with a yottabyte of information, it would be equal to about 500 quintillion (500,000,000,000,000,000,000) pages of text.”
Eventually, there will be a government that succeeds in its effort to completely control its citizens according to Revelation 13:16–18. Scripture reveals that this will be accomplished economically. Perhaps RFID and biometric technology will be used in this system. Perhaps not. There is no way to know for certain. What we do know is that the mark of the Beast system will be eerily similar to the system that the proponents of RFID and biometric technology envision.
There is in existence today a technology which could be used to accomplish everything that we read about in Revelation chapter 13 about the mark of the Beast system. In fact, most of the technologies and patents that we have addressed in this chapter are at least a decade old. We have not even begun to discuss such things as electronic tattoos and FDA approved pills which essentially transform the individual’s body into an authentication system by emitting a unique signal from within the individual’s gut. However, let’s assume for a moment that the mark of the Beast system will utilize the decade-old RFID and biometric technologies that we have been looking at in this chapter. What would life be like in this system for someone who refuses to accept the mark of the Beast?
An individual who refuses the mark would be unable to pass any security checkpoint. This means that he could not enter government buildings or even pass through airport security. Considering that the Federal government has spoken with states, such as Massachusetts, about establishing toll booths along the highways at all border points and is considering how travel between states can be prevented in the event of an emergency, being unable to pass any security check point may mean that a person without the mark could not cross state lines. Even something as simple as accessing one’s personal computer may no longer be possible. Given that computers are beginning to use biometric identifiers and digital passports to access the computer’s operating system as well as online accounts, this may mean that those who refuse the mark will be unable to do anything online—or possibly anything on a computer, smart tablet, or smart phone.
An individual who refuses the mark of the Beast would be unable to use the smart meter. This would mean that he could not receive electricity or gas. Considering that appliances are becoming “smart,” this may mean that he could not even operate any appliances. An individual who refuses the mark would be unable to buy or sell anything—particularly if all currency is digital and is exchanged via this technological system. An individual who refuses the mark would be unable to identify himself. This would mean that he could not drive a car, receive government assistance, possess a bank account, or even pay his taxes. Considering that RFID technology is being considered as a form of gun safety, this may mean that he could not fire a weapon. Considering that hospitals are beginning to use RFID as a form of identification, patient tracking, and record-keeping, this may mean that he could not receive care at a hospital.
Considering how things are progressing today, it is likely that by the time the mark of the beast is mandated, every person’s biometric identification and DNA will already be stored within government databases. This could mean that those people who refuse the mark will be placed on a watch list of sorts. Cameras that are constantly scanning people’s biometric identifiers, such as how people walk, faces, and irises, will notify the authorities when these individuals are identified. This would mean that those who refuse the mark could not function in society. Even outside of society, drones and satellites could be used to identify people via biometrics.
Using technology, Satan will have accomplished a kind of synthetic omniscience, omnipresence, and a form of omnipotence. Keep in mind that Satan is merely an angel. He is a creation of God. As such, he does not possess God’s attributes of omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence. Instead, he must find some other means to accomplish these.
This technological grid will give Satan unprecedented power. At this time, anyone who refuses to accept the mark of the Beast will not only be excluded from society, they will eventually be beheaded (Rev. 20:4). People will believe that it is impossible to defeat Satan’s pawn, the Antichrist (Rev. 13:4). However, Satan’s synthetic attributes can never compare to God’s genuine attributes of omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence. Revelation 19 teaches that both Antichrist and Satan will eventually be defeated by Jesus Christ. Furthermore, Revelation 20:4 teaches that those who refused to accept the mark of the beast will reign with Christ for a thousand years.
As Christians, we understand that the Mark of the Beast and its accompanying technological grid are inevitable. It has been prophesied by the same God who has declared the end from the beginning. However, this does not give us the right to ignore the subject and refuse to resist its implementation. Too many people have taken the attitude that they do not need to be concerned about the formation of this grid because it is inevitable, and they will be raptured away before these things take place.* What they fail to realize is that this grid does not appear suddenly overnight. It will be the culmination of a long series of developments and regulations. The closer that we get to this climax, the more restrictive this system will become. Because of this, we ought to resist technologies and regulations which further the formation of this grid at the expense of our freedoms. However, in doing this, we must not lose our perspective. We ought to resist the implementation of technology and regulations which are designed to restrict our freedoms and to give government and corporations greater control over us, but we should not focus so much attention on this that we fail to strengthen the body of Christ and to share the gospel. Our ability to do this will become progressively restricted. The time may be coming, even long before the mark of the Beast system is fully implemented, when Christians may not be permitted to freely share the gospel. Eventually, the day is coming when Christians will not even be permitted to function in society.
Most likely, there will never be a time of greater freedom and opportunity to share the gospel than there is today. As time progresses, our opportunities to share the gospel will only diminish. We need to seize today. The mark of the Beast system will be the crowning achievement of the spirit of antichrist. It will be a terrible and oppressive time for Christians. Nevertheless, today it can motivate us to take advantage of the time that we do have to build God’s kingdom. It can be a reality check for us, teaching us that those things that we fear today and allow to prevent us from sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with others are miniscule in scope. We must not allow fear of what others will think to prevent us from sharing the gospel. The time is coming when what others think will be the least of the Christian’s concerns.
There is nothing inherently wrong with the technologies discussed in this chapter. However, we know the end of the story. We know how these technologies will eventually be abused. Therefore, as we see this technological grid constructed around us, let us use it as a daily reminder of how precious is the time that we have to share the good news about Jesus Christ, because we do not know how much time we have left.
- EPCglobal, “Overview.” ↵
- United States Patent 7,076,441, “Identification and tracking of persons using RFID-tagged items in store environments.” ↵
- Albrecht, “Privacy and Tracking.” ↵
- Albrecht, “Spychips: Laying the groundwork for pervasive consumer surveillance,” 34. ↵
- Ibid, 35. ↵
- Albrecht, Spychips, 64–65. ↵
- United States Patent 7,076,441, “Identification and tracking of persons using RFID-tagged items in store environments.” ↵
- EnOcean Alliance, “Energy Harvesting Wireless Technology for Home and Building Automation.” ↵
- solve for x, “Solve for X: Anthony Sutera on low power wireless everywhere.” ↵
- Ibid. ↵
- Ibid. ↵
- Minority Report is a futuristic movie that was created in 2002. It depicts a world where people are pre-emptively arrested for crimes that they will commit in the future. These crimes are foreseen by three genetically engineered humans known as “Pre-Cogs.” The movie depicts many advanced technologies, including targeted advertising. (Minority Report, http://www.zeestudio.tv/movies/minority-report/.) ↵
- United States Patent 7,076,441, “Identification and tracking of persons using RFID-tagged items in store environments.” ↵
- “50 Ideas for Revolutionizing the Store through RFID,” NCR Corporation, November 2003, Source: Albrecht, Spychips, 79. ↵
- “50 Ideas for Revolutionizing the Store through RFID,” NCR Corporation, Nov. 2003, Source: Albrecht, Spychips, 74. ↵
- Ramasastry, “Web sites change prices based on customers’ habits.” ↵
- “Imagine…the House and the Store of the Future,” Proctor and Gamble, Source: Albrecht, Spychips, 60–61. ↵
- “Inside P&G Brands: A Chip in the Shopping Cart,” Source: Albrecht, Spychips, 61. ↵
- “Inside P&G Brands: A Chip in the Shopping Cart,” Source: Albrecht, Spychips, Chapter 5, Footnote 10, 241. ↵
- Albrecht, Spychips, 91–92. ↵
- Sources Referenced: 1. Catan, Carloyn, “Machine Readable Label Reader System…” 2. Violino, Bob, “Merloni Unveils RFID Applications,” RFID Journal, April 4, 2003, http://www.rfidjournal.com/articles/view?369. 3. Gershberg, Michael, “U.S. Advertisers Go Digital to Track Ads,” Reuters, August 18, 2004. ↵
- Katherine Albrecht, “Chips, Surveillance, and Privacy,” Coast to Coast AM, Feb. 25, 2009, Source: DisclosureBubble, “Chips, Surveillance & Privacy.” ↵
- Jen Wieczner, “How the Insurer Knows You Just Stocked Up on Ice Cream and Beer,” The Wall Street Journal, Feb. 25, 2013, Source: Adams, “Grocery loyalty card.” ↵
- Ibid. ↵
- Wong, “The FDA Eyes a Caffeine Crackdown.” ↵
- Grynbaum, “Health Panel Approves Restriction on Sale of Large Sugary Drinks.” ↵
- Mak, “Mayor Michael Bloomberg: Large soda not a right.” ↵
- Rothman, “NYC Mayor Bloomberg On Soda Ban: ‘We’re Simply Forcing You To Understand ‘What’s Better For You.” ↵
- Bennett, “Food-nanny Mike declares war on salt in NYers diet.” ↵
- For more information, see Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights, “Smokefree Lists, Maps, and Data,” http://www.no-smoke.org/goingsmokefree.php?id=519. ↵
- “Springfield firefighter fired for smoking cigarette in car,” Associated Press, November 1, 2002, Source: Romance, “Springfield firefighter fired for smoking cigarette in car (MA Liberal Nazi Alert).” ↵
- Sullivan, “NC preschooler’s ‘unhealthy’ lunch replaced with cafeteria nuggets.” ↵
- Last, “What Is the ‘Internet of Things’?” ↵
- This is referencing David Brock, “The Compact Electronic Product Code: A 64-Bit Representation of the Electronic Product Code,” white paper, MIT Auto-ID Center, November 1, 2001. ↵
- Albrecht, Spychips, 26. ↵
- Ibid, 26. ↵
- Mark Roberti, “Sponsors Guide,” MIT Auto-ID Center, June 24, 2003, Source: Albrecht, Spychips, 24. ↵
- United States patent application 9/790104, publication number 20020116274, John Hind, “Method to Address Security and Privacy Issues of the Use of RFID Systems to Track Consumer Products,” Assigned to International Business Machines, February 21, 2001, http://patent.ipexl.com/U2S/20020116274.html, Source: Albrecht, Spychips, 37. ↵
- Schmidt, “Beyond the Bar Code.” ↵
- Duce, “Executive Briefing. Public Policy: Understanding Public Opinion.” ↵
- Duce, “Message Development.” ↵
- “Scandal: Wal-Mart, P&G Involved in Secret RFID Testing.” ↵
- Swedberg, “Hong Kong Airport Says It Now Uses Only RFID Baggage Tags.” ↵
- Collins, “RFID Delivers Newborn Security.” ↵
- United States State Department, “The U.S. Electronic Passport.” ↵
- United States Department of Homeland Security, “Enhanced Drivers Licenses: What Are They?” ↵
- For more information, see Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering, http://www.nocards.org. ↵
- Roberti, “Are RFID-Enabled Credit Cards Safer Than Magstripe Cards?” ↵
- “Project Summary: ITR/SII+IM+EWF: Technologies for Sensor-based Wireless Networks of Toys for Smart Developmental Problem-solving Environments.” ↵
- Kravets, “Tracking School Children With RFID Tags? It’s All About The Benjamins.” ↵
- “Report: School District Scanned Children's Eyes for Bus Program Without Permission.” ↵
- Segall, “Iris Scans Are The School’s New IDs.” ↵
- Vrankulj, “Biometric payments in school cafeterias: Privacy nightmare or lunchroom revolution?” ↵
- Katherine Albrecht, “Chips, Surveillance, and Privacy,” Coast to Coast AM, February 25, 2009, Source: DisclosureBubble, “Chips, Surveillance & Privacy.” ↵
- Rummel, Death by Government, 1. ↵
- The original story regarding PRISM was released by The Guardian. (Greenwald, “NSA Prism.”) ↵
- Zetter, “Under Obama, NSA Collected Bulk Email, Internet Data of Americans.” ↵
- Isikoff, “The Fed Who Blew the Whistle.” ↵
- Leopold, “Revisiting Eschelon: The NSA’s Clandestine Data Mining Program.” ↵
- “What We Know About The NSA’s Secret Data Data Warehouse In Utah,” Associated Press, June 13, 2013, Source: “What We Know.” ↵
- Adams, “New Utah NSA center requires 1.7 million gallons of water daily to operate.” ↵
- Bamford, “The NSA Is Building the Country’s Biggest Spy Center (Watch What You Say).” ↵
- Coldewey, “NSA to store yottabytes of surveillance data in Utah megarepository (Update: not so much).” ↵
- Bamford, “The NSA Is Building the Country’s Biggest Spy Center (Watch What You Say).” ↵
- Thomas Horn, “Former DARPA director on research into Beast Tech.” ↵
- “I flew down to Florida to protest the microchip implants that they were putting into Alzheimer’s patients … as we were planning this event, I said, ‘Well this needs to be not just a protest like my usual protest against RFID. This has serious spiritual implications. This needs to be a prayer vigil.’ So we got on the phone, and we called up all the churches in West Palm Beach, Florida—myself and a volunteer. We got a phone book, and we called all the Baptist churches, and we called all the Pentecostal churches, and we called all of the Congregational churches, and we called—I mean, we went through the list until we called them all. Not one single church was willing to send a pastor to support us in that prayer vigil, or to say a prayer at our event—not one. … [E]very phone call went pretty much just like this. One of two things. Either they said, ‘Well what are you protesting?’ ‘Well, they’re putting microchip implants into Alzheimer’s patients.’ ‘Well, why are they doing that?’ ‘Well, they’re saying they’re doing it so they can’t wander away and get lost from the facility.’ ‘Well, that’s a good thing, don’t you think?’ That was response number one. I had so many church secretaries tell me that that was a very good idea, and why would I object to that? If I didn’t get that response, the other response I got was, ‘Well, why are you worried about that? Don’t you know the rapture’s just going to take us all away before that happens? What kind of lack of faith are you suffering from, lady?’” (ThinkFeelExist, “*You Don’t Want a Microchipped World*.”) ↵