Carlo's Think Pieces

Reflections of a Filipino in the Netherlands


Posted by butalidnl on 14 January 2010

On 13 January, the Supreme Court issued a  “status quo ante” order to the Land Transportation Office (LTO) on the issuance of RFID tags on motor vehicles. The move was in response to petitions by transport groups and others against the new  RFID tags.

At first glance, RFID tags seem to be a new, high-tech instrument that the LTO has decided to use. RFID (Radio-frequency IDs) are small chips which contain data, and which in the presence of a RFID reader will emit a signal, identifying itself.  These are used in place of a strip-code, and is more convenient because the one reading just has to be within a few meters of it to read it (and thus does not have to position itself especially to scan it), and because RFIDs could contain more data.  Then why are so many people against it?

The LTO charged Php 350 for the RFID tag. This price is rather steep, especially when we know that RFID tags cost about 20 Eurocents apiece in Europe, or a mere Php 14. It is not known how, or why, the LTO RFID tags cost so much. There must indeed be something wrong with the procurement process; competitive bidding to supply these would have certainly meant that the price would be much, much lower. Maybe it is because the LTO is trying to recoup not only the cost of the RFID itself, but also all the equipment and systems changes that working RFID requires.  But even so, the cost is rather disproportionate to the cost of the RFID itself.

The RFID tag is supposed to do things such as help spot colorum vehicles,  identify cars being chased by the police, and even monitor traffic patterns. But since an RFID tag has only a few meters effective radius, these things are quite out of the question, since the distances involved will be more than a few meters. For these purposes, a GPS-based system will be more applicable and effective.

The RFID tag is supposed to replace the vehicle registration papers that owners need to carry around whenever they use the vehicle. This means that sensitive information will also be included in the tag.  If this information could be hacked, this will mean that the sensitive information is open to anyone with a RFID reader who comes to a few meters from the vehicle.

Also, if it were possible to “write” information on the RFID, malicious people could change some parts of the vehicle registration. Or they could make people pay fines or “commit” traffic violations, at will.

Wouldn’t it be better to just have a strip-code system where only LTO officers could scan the code and retrieve the registration information from the LTO central database?


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