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See also Books that blab at Brian Chin's Weblog

"A Salon story on the controversial practice of public libraries putting RFID chips in books to automate checkouts and free librarians from RSI-inducing drudgework contains some interesting reminders about just how complex and nuanced debates over privacy can get:

Many libraries, including Berkeley, are declining to put the name of the book or even the book's ISBN, its international standard book number, on the microchip implanted in it. They're using a unique bar code number instead, one that would have to be hacked out of a library's circulation database to connect it to a specific title. That's not just to assuage the privacy concerns of readers. For inventory management, libraries need to track individual copies of books and not the words between a given book's covers. ...
"Right now, those tags are about as meaningful as a bar code. You walk past a reader that picks up those tags, and it's just a jumble of numbers. But I am concerned that librarians are not thinking long term," says Beth Givens, the director of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, who herself is a former librarian. "What if the publishing industry adopts RFID and in doing so encodes the ISBN number. Now you've got a tag that is revealing meaningful information."

But librarians argue that there are very real privacy gains to be seen right now through RFID. Would you rather self-check "The Infertility Survival Handbook: Everything You Never Thought You'd Need to Know," or share your most intimate concerns with the librarian behind the checkout counter?"

I agree standardization is bad for privacy - means anyone with a reader can tune in. Even if only gibbersih barcode-type numbers are available, the use of the tags still serves to mark a book as a persistent identifier. That is, you notice someone is carrying HOW TO FLY A PLANE and then you can follow him through RFID readers that you have in place throughout a geographic area.

A librarian told me she saw a 10-year old boy told by his father "no, you better not check out that book" ... it was on how to fly a plane. The family was apparently of Middle Eastern origin.

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