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RFID News of the Weird

From Bruce Peren's Journal, via the Yorkshire Ranter: Richard Stallman Gets in Trouble with UN Security for Wearing a Tin-Foil Hat

Here's Alex at thet Yorkshire Ranter remarks, by way of introduction:

At the World Summit on the Information Society in fun-loving Tunisia, it seems the goons tried to make Richard Stallman wear an RFID tag. Yes, that Richard Stallman, founder of the Free Software Foundation and hammer of digital injustices of every kind. Apparently he wrapped it in tinfoil (see! it works! the MIT study is a stinking lie!) to stop it working...

Peren's account begins:

Richard Stallman, Mark Shuttleworth, and I are in Tunis, Tunisia for the UN World Summit on the information society. We've had an interesting day :-)

Richard is opposed to RF ID, because of the many privacy violations that are possible. It's a real problem, and one worth lobbying about. At the 2003 WSIS in Geneva, there was objection to the RF ID cards that were used, resulting in a promise that they would not be used in 2005. That promise, it turns out, was not kept. In addition, Richard was given a hastily-produced ID with a visible RF ID strip. Mine was made on a longer schedule, it seems, and had an RF ID strip that wasn't visible. I knew it was there because they clearly had us put our cards to a reader at the entrance gate.

You can't give Richard a visible RF ID strip without expecting him to protest. Richard acquired an entire roll of aluminum foil and wore his foil-shielded pass prominently. He willingly unwrapped it to go through any of the visible check-points, he simply objected to the potential that people might be reading the RF ID without his knowledge and tracking him around the grounds. This, again, is a legitimate gripe, handled with Richard's usual highly-visible, guile-less and absolutely un-subtle style of non-violent protest.

During his keynote speech at our panel today, Richard gave a moment's talk about the RF ID issue, and passed his roll of aluminum foil around the room for others to use. A number of people in the overcrowded-to-the-max standing-room-only meeting room obligingly shielded their own passes. UN Security was in the room, not only to protect us but because of the crowd issue, and was bound to notice. Richard and I delivered our keynotes, followed by shorter talks by the rest of the panel and then open discussion.

At the end of the panel, I went out in the hall to be interviewed by various press entities including Al Jazeera. Another item for my CIA dossier, but I'm sure my association with Richard would have caused more notes to be taken today. I was busy with the press for two solid hours. So, I didn't see what happened with Richard. But a whole lot of the people in the room did, and stayed with Richard for the entire process.

Apparently, UN Security would not allow Richard to leave the room.

Good fun. Read it all.

(Photo of Stallman via Flickr user Tiago Madeira; it was taken a while back, but I see that Stallman has a way with hats.)

UPDATE 12/1: And have a look at Boingboing to see more of his wardrobe!