Back in 2006 the Department of Homeland Security initiated a program utilizing Radio Frequency Identification in new identity papers, especially passports. These RFID chips store numbers which can be read by a remote antenna and were originally developed for commercial use to help stores track inventory. The DHS’s interest in implementing the chips for their Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, so far as they say, is to expedite frequent travelers through border crossings to save time. Alternately this could also be used to prevent passport forgery or to keep tabs on people’s comings and goings. Or both.

Leave it to an Englishman living in San Francisco to show the world how easy it is to steal these passport numbers from thin air. Using prefab, on the market devices, Chris Paget rigged his car and drove around San Francisco for half an hour, collecting ID numbers. As he says the numbers themselves aren’t really useful unless someone tumbles it into a new passport; the real potential threat is that someone could also be scanning for any RFID enabled credit cards which do have personal information of them, marry the info to the passport number, and then they have your identity. Anyways, watch the video because it’s pretty interesting. Then do as my friend Tai said years ago– smash your passport with a hammer.

Thanks to Pete of Prison Photography for sharing the posting by Engadget which sums it all up.