Soctech seminar, Fall 2006

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

In the past few years there has been more and more talk, both positive and negative, about the transformative potential of radio frequency identification (RFID) technology as it gets more and more viable. 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. This quarter we will have a seminar room so that we'll all be able to sit at a table. Moreover, we're trying to make it so that we'll have a guest on most of the days. We will spend the days that we don't have a guest preparing questions and gaining context for when guests do join us. Seminar participants will thus be expected to generate questions, but there won't be pressure to organize a class period. We are going to experiment with two additional aspects to the seminar:

  • Create a seminar position paper that summarizes our thoughts on the material we've covered. It will give us something coherent and tangible to leave for ourselves and others. The document will be collaboratively authored over the course of the quarter. 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.
  • Organize an open panel discussion with RFID experts. Near the end of the quarter, we will collectively organize a panel discussion that will be open to the public. We can invite leading technical and legal experts involved in RFID to participate. Based on our experiences throughout the seminar, we will be able to ask questions of the experts and get to hear them respond to one another, while sharing our work with the public.

Contact information: This course is being organized by Yaw Anokwa (yanokwa at cs), Jim Sfekas, 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

16 Oct RFID and Databases: Capabilities and Possibilities

23 Oct Open Topic

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

06 Nov General Applications: Deployed and On the Horizon

13 Nov Application 1: Healthcare

20 Nov Application 2: RFID in the home

27 Nov Application 3: RFID Ecosystem

04 Dec Roundtable on RFID research and experiences with privacy


Steven Shafer, Microsoft Research A policy for RFID Privacy, addressing personal information in RFID systems.

Evan Welbourne, UW CSE RFID Ecosystem (includes privacy, security, databases, and applications)

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:

A few companies...