Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Are "Contactless" Credit Cards Safe?

A lot of new credit cards are incorporating this RFID (radio frequency) technology that will allow people to just wave their credit cards at special readers to pay for purchases. MasterCard calls it "blink" technology and Chase seems to be working hardest at implementing it. It's basically the same thing as the Exxon Speedpass that lets you buy gas faster or the cards that certain states use to let frequent toll road users zip past the toll booths without stopping.

The potential downside, as always with wireless technology, is that someone could intercept and steal your data. A couple stories on this have cropped up recently.

The Wall Street Journal did a story on Monday about it. Brenden Walker of Canton, Ohio smashed his new credit card so the device wouldn't work anymore. It seems a whole industry is springing up of companies offering protection from the insidious devices. My guess is that many of these companies were previously offering to build bunkers for the Y2K doomsayers.

Mitch Radcliffe at ZDNet also did a blog entry this past Sunday on the situation, titled "RFID: Legitimate fear or fear-mongering?" Radcliffe thinks the devices mentioned in the WSJ story to defeat RFID are a little ridiculous, but he also argues that RFID shouldn't necessarily become the standard, and people concerned about privacy concerns should resist it, which seems easy enough to do.

I don't know. I'm very loosey-goosey with my personal information--there's a decent chance you already have my credit card number and know the combination to my lock at the gym. I know identity theft is real, but I go for the convenience over the security, I guess because I just can't think of a scenario in which having any of my information stolen would really ruin my life versus just being a huge pain in the ass. Someday something will happen & I might change my ways, but for now I'm waiting for my RFID credit card. In fact, I just got a new Chase card, maybe it has one. Unlike Brenden Walker, I won't be taking a hammer to it.


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