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by Mike Zazaian October 13, 2006 - 12:14pm, No Comments

Passengers deboard a plane at Hungary's Debrecen Airport

Passengers at the Debrecen Airport in Hungary will be forced to wear Radio Frequency Identification necklaces in an experiment aimed to increase passenger safety and traffic efficiency.

Dubbed Improving airport efficiency, security and passenger flow by enhanced passenger monitoring, the effort will employ RFID necklaces that have been in development by the University College London (UCL) over the past two years. Passengers will be given the necklaces as they pass through the security checkpoint at the airport, and will be asked to keep the tags on until boarding an airplane. Security officers at the airport will then employ a computer system to track each passenger’s identity and location, accurate to within a few centimeters. Said Dr. Paul Brennan, a member of UCL’s antennas and radar group:

[The tags] have got a long range, of 10m to 20m. and the system has been designed so the tag can be located to within a meter, and it can locate thousands of tags in one area at a given time.

But as with any such big brother technology there should be questions raised about the personal rights of the passengers. While it’s one thing to simply monitor the location of the passengers as little blips on a computer screen, the airport will also record passenger’s actions on video. By employing a network of high-definition video cameras throughout the airport, security officials will visually track and record every moment of each passenger’s stay at the airport. Granted, Hungary is a country that’s been trying to shake off its Communist roots for the past few decades, but the technology is being provided by the first-world UK, and funded by an European Union Consortium called Optag.

I’m not saying that such technologies can’t actually improve airport security and efficiency, or that the videos will be used for dubious purposes, but to get a sense of the kind of premium that is being put on the humanity of the passengers UCL’s same RFID tags being used are used in supermarkets to track apples and oranges.

[via The Register]