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RFID chips in world soccer tournament tickets questioned
The event will feature the largest use ever of RFID at a public event

Computer World | April 1 2005

APRIL 01, 2005 (IDG NEWS SERVICE) - All 2.9 million tickets now on sale for next year's FIFA World Cup soccer tournament in Germany include an embedded radio frequency identification (RFID) smart tag that will allow entry to the games, according to Gerd Graus, a spokesman for the FIFA World Cup Organizing Committee.

The soccer tournament will feature the largest use ever of RFID at a public event anywhere in the world and is expected to be a big boost for RFID technology. The technology offers a high degree of security, which both FIFA and the German Interior Ministry required, Graus said.

Fans applying for a ticket must submit various personal data in the registration form. "The tags will contain no personal data -- just a number that identifies each cardholder," Graus said.

Dutch electronics giant Koninklijke Philips Electronics NV, a World Cup sponsor, is thought to be one of the main suppliers of the RFID chips. Graus declined to confirm that Philips had been selected but said the tournament's organizing committee will announce its choice of RFID suppliers shortly.

The use of RFID tags in the tickets brings with it criticism.

"We're really concerned about what is being required of fans to attend the games," said Rena Tangens, a spokeswoman for the privacy group FoeBud e.V. in Bielefeld, Germany. "First of all, they're being asked for all sorts of personal data, such as address, phone number, birth date and passport number. Then they have to accept a card with an RFID chip, which supposedly will be used to let them into the stadium."

Tickets with bar codes would suffice, according to Tangens. "I don't understand why so much personal data is required to attend a soccer game; such information isn't required for a large concert," she said. "What bothers us is that with a bar-coded ticket, a cardholder has control over who or what sees the ticket. This isn't the case with an RFID smart tag."

FoeBud also has an issue with the RFID scanners in the stadiums.

Although Graus said the scanners will have a reading range of about six inches and will be located only at the gates -- not inside or outside the stadiums -- Tangens was doubtful.

"Who says that is really the case?" she asked. "Ticket holders won't be able to tell if hidden scanners in doors or floors are tracking their whereabouts."

The privacy group is currently studying whether to take legal action against FIFA's registration requirements, according to Tangens.