RFID will help control crowd trouble at World Cup, says FIFA

The following is a guest post by Raj Dash (byline at the end) on how FIFA is using RFID tech to help them control “problems” at the World Cup. Lots of problems here; for starters, how effective will this solution be, and how will the privacy concerns be handled by the “authorities”?

I’ve placed my comments within the article, italicized to help you distinguish between the two. Also, let me know if you find slightly tangential articles on technology interesting in the context of this blog – helps me figure out what you guys want most (yes, the rumor mill and the photo gallery are both coming soon).

On it then.

RFID will help control crowd trouble at World Cup, says FIFA

Soccer/ football fans have long had a bad rap as being “hooligans” (Editor’s note: Who, us? Nooooo :)), especially in the UK. Add to this past stories of stadium seats collapsing and wide scale rioting, and it all creates concern for the host country of the World Cup 2006, Germany. This country has already seen overwhelming tragedy at a sporting event, during the 1972 Munich Olympics.

The concern for safety has prompted FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) officials for the 2006 World Cup events to take some precautionary measures, particularly in the form of RFID (Radio Frequency IDentification) technology.

Their precautions amount to having all tickets, to World Cup 2006 events, RFID-enabled. A substantial amount of personal information will be stored on these chips, downloaded from when the tickets were purchased. This includes name, address, birth date, nationality, ID card or passport number and more. Their reasoning for collecting this information is that they hope to keep out “hooligans, rioters, and other troublemakers”.

Editor’s Note: The collection of personal information by the government has always been a major issue, but once that information is available to anyone (such as this piece on privacy concerns in the Guardian shows), there is a considerable possibility of unwanted side-effects coming out of encoding this information on the tickets.

According to the source of this information (see links below), there are rumors that security officials with portable RFID scanners may roam event stadiums monitoring fans. No details were given in the source, but to implement such a measure using RFID technology, these officials would have to firstly find troublemakers. Then they would have to stand very close to them to be able to read the RFID tags in the troublemaker’s ticket – providing it hasn’t already been thrown away.

Editor’s Note: I doubt that something like this would work out – perhaps this would help security check for potential problems at the entrance rather than going up to fans and poking them with a 21-century tricorder? In any case, it will be interesting to see how they manage it. One thing is obvious – this is a long-term plan, and you can expect the “authorities” to start using this data to keep a record of past troublemakers and then potentially flag their seating area as possible problem areas…lots of interesting applications that go beyond the RFID here.

While some FIFA officials are not keen on the requirement of collecting personal data to purchase a ticket, others feel that this will not be last such event to employ RFID technology. Odd, though, that no one mentions crowd control for supposedly upscale events like the opera, which has in the past suffered from rioting as well. (And what about all those crazy women throwing their underwear at veteran singer Tom Jones?)

Editor’s Note: Please, Raj, no Tom Jones here. The crazy women we can live with.

Links/ Sources: ComputerWorld Canada – FIFA to kick RFID’s tires at World Cup (free registration may be required).

Author Byline:

Raj Kumar Dash is webmaster and owner of Chameleon Integration Systems, a technology and Internet consultant, online publisher, published author, and freelance and technical writer of 20+ years.

Thanks for the piece Raj, excellent stuff.

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