Ever Feel Like Somebody Is Watching You?
Along with about 7000 other business leaders from across Europe I recently attended a technology conference. It was exceptionally well organised and like almost all other big events now, it had its own app. The app is a genuinely useful tool to tell you where you need to be and when as well as how to get there from where you are. This year it featured ‘WiFi beacon technology’ which was an opt-in feature that would allow the app to deliver you proximity based information. In other words, the app would know, with a fair degree of accuracy, where in the conference you were. This doesn’t especially bother me but I have no desire to receive a stream of targeted advertising information every time I wander past a vendor stand. I opted out. The app tried to persuade me otherwise and every time it downloaded an updated schedule, which was at least four times a day, I had to opt out again.
Like every other big conference, you are required to wear a big badge which identifies who you are, your company, your country and has the same information accessible on a bar code. Every time you go within spitting distance of a vendor, they scan the bar code, thus qualifying you as a ‘warm lead’ who will be spammed to within an inch of your life.
Wifi coverage at the conference was flawless, even with 7000 people all using it at once. Impressive, but they did have hundreds of access points. They actually seemed to have more access points than seemed necessary. They also seemed to be located in some rather odd places. When nobody was looking I investigated. Some of the things that looked to be access points weren’t. Using Google’s encyclopedic knowledge of strange boxes I established that these were high power, ultra-high frequency radio frequency identification antennas. The conference organisers were tracking something.
It couldn’t be people could it? That would surely require a privacy consent, which I hadn’t given. Cynically, I checked the back of my conference badge. Nothing there. It was just a paper badge. The badge holder was clear plastic. The lanyard was just a lanyard. But still… somebody had brought in a lot of tracking infrastructure for something and tracking people seemed the only sensible explanation.
In low quantities, passive UHF RFID tags cost only a few pence. They can be read from more than 30 meters away and they are almost undetectable.
Giles Letheren – Chief Executive Officer