Ticket masters

Anyone worried about the Real ID Act might take note of China's idea for Olympic security.

Tickets for the opening and closing ceremonies at this summer's Beijing games will contain radio frequency identification chips with the bearer's photo, passport information, street and e-mail addresses, and phone number.

Aside from ruining the Olympic dreams of scalpers who have waited four years for this opportunity, the move raises serious concerns over privacy, identity theft and even the inalienable right to give someone your ticket if you feel like it.

The reason for putting all that personal information on an event ticket is to improve security and reduce fraud, particularly scalping. The question, however, is how much security is gained and at what risk to privacy.

The knock on RFID chips in identification cards has been a purported lack of protection for information on the chips (GCN.com/1090).

Having 91,000 tickets floating around during each ceremony ' with chips reportedly readable from five meters away ' means a lot of personal information potentially on the loose. And what if someone does give away or steal a ticket? Is the information on the ticket checked against another form of identification? It could be interesting to see how it plays out, if for no other reason than that it might just catch on. Germany attempted the same thing for the soccer World Cup in 2006 but wound up scanning a relative handful of tickets because of the inconvenience to ticket holders.

Chinese Olympic officials say they've learned from that lesson and have developed a better way. If it works ' without cases of identity theft and long, slow-moving lines of disgruntled attendees who literally could not give away a ticket ' other events could follow suit.

About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.

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