Wednesday, May 25, 2005

RFID: Blink!

JP Morgan Chase & Co. will begin issuing contactless "blink" cards to millions of MasterCard and Visa credit cardholders next month.

A "blink" card looks like a regular credit card, but is embedded with an RFID chip that allows the bearer to wave the card at an RFID-enabled terminal rather than swipe it or hand it to a cashier.

If you already wave cards at toll collection booths and gas station pumps, the "blink" card may be an easy transition for you. I envy you that. I have yet to find anything about RFID that is an easy transition for me.

I'm actually less concerned about the security of "blink" cards than I am about many other RFID applications. The selected interface protocol supports a read range of only a few inches, so any would-be identity pirate would have to be stationed between my hand and the reader in order to steal my information. I'm confident that even if I'm temporarily overwhelmed by the joy of saving ten seconds during checkout, I would notice them there.

Chase's initial plan is to link "blink" cards only to credit card accounts, not debit or bank cards. I don't know if this decision is motivated by consumer interest or Chase's self-interest. Either way, it provides a layer of personal security. If a crafty digital thief does manage to slip in when I'm blinking, they will be plundering my Chase credit card account, not my personal bank account.

The June fleet of "blink" cards is slated for Chase account members in two undisclosed cities. Chase is keeping the undisclosed target cities undisclosed for undisclosed reasons.

I can't help but note that Merriam-Webster defines "blink" as:
1 to look with half-shut eyes
2 to shine dimly or intermittently
3 to look with too little concern

Sally Bacchetta - Freelance Writer

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