Soctech seminar, Fall 2006

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Fall 2006: RFID Technology: SLN 11977 CSE 590 M, Monday 12:30-1:20, CSE 303
(Law students should register for the graded CSE 590 X - sln 11981, everything else is identical)

The past few years have seen a great deal of hype, both positive and negative, over the transformative potential of radio frequency identification (RFID) technology. The goal of this seminar is to explore the broader legal and sociopolitical implications of RFID, entering into a discussion on privacy, security, and surveillance that has a solid technical and legal basis.

Seminar organization

The seminar will be discussion-driven, each period led by a small group of seminar participants and/or including invited guest experts. We are also going to produce a seminar position paper that summarizes our thoughts on RFID and on the material we've covered. Our intent is to create something coherent and tangible to leave for ourselves and anyone else who is interested. The document will be collaboratively authored and all seminar participants will be required to contribute. That said, we intend this to be relatively low-investment spread over the course of the quarter.

Contact information: This course is being organized by Yaw Anokwa (yanokwa at cs), Jim Sfekas (sfekas at u), and Travis Kriplean (travis at cs).

Course Topics

02 Oct RFID History, Basic Technical Description, and Overview of Applications

Discussion led by Yaw and Travis

09 Oct What is RFID Actually Capable of? Technical Limitations and Security

Potential guests: Josh Smith from Intel Research or someone from Imping

16 Oct RFID and Databases: Capabilities and Possibilities

Potential guest: Magdalena Balazinska

23 Oct Regulating RFID: Relevant Privacy Law and Current Regulations on RFID

30 Oct General Applications: Deployed and On the Horizon

06 Nov Application 1

Potential guests: Matthai Philipose from IRS or Ken Fishkin from Google

13 Nov Open Topic

20 Nov Application 2

Potential guests: Matthai Philipose from IRS or Ken Fishkin from Google

27 Nov Open Topic

04 Dec Roundtable with Gaetano on RFID research and experiences with privacy


Administrative info

Course grading and credit-load policies: Subject to change, but variable credits are available to meet differing levels of participation:

  • Sign up for 1 credit if you plan to attend, do the readings, participate in discussions, and contribute to the wiki.
  • Sign up for 2 credits if you wish to lead/organize a discussion OR contribute extensively to the wiki OR help organize the panel.
  • Sign up for 3 credits if you wish to lead/organize a discussion, contribute extensively to the wiki, and help organize the panel (Note: please contact the course organizers in advance if you plan to take this course for 3 credits.)




  • Government:
    • Passports (trial programs in a few countries, e.g. US)
  • Commercial:
    • supply-side tracking of inventory (e.g. walmart)
    • gathering more detailed information about consumers (increasing information asymmetry between sellers/buyers)
    • enabling buyers to gather more information about products (decreasing above information asymmetry)

Security concerns:

Privacy & Surveillance concerns:

(Proposed) laws:

Potential speakers:

A few companies...