- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Flying to Atlanta?

Seat sensors can tell pilots if a passenger has a deadly blood clot or is planning to hijack the plane.

Pet dog missing?

Apple co-founder Stephen Wozniak knows where it is.

Skipping the car’s emission testing or registration, or canceling the insurance?

The Department of Motor Vehicles is watching.

It is reminiscent of George Orwell’s futuristic Big Brother in his book “1984” and it’s all possible now thanks to technology being developed or on the market in the United States and Europe.

“We’ve reached a point where a ‘1984’ surveillance society is technologically possible, and that trend was accelerated by the events of September 11,” said Barry Steinhardt, director of technology and liberty programs at the American Civil Liberties Union.

“The technology is developing at the speed of light, but the laws that protect us go back to the stone ages,” Mr. Steinhardt said.

Privacy advocates said traffic-light cameras and photo radar are intrusive, but the technological advancement of the Smart Tag will turn speed traps into high-tech traps.

The EZPass automated highway-toll system used by nine East Coast states, including Virginia, uses a radio frequency identification (RFID) chip attached to a transponder or Smart Tag on the vehicle’s windshield. The chip is read by a small machine posted at the toll booth and allows drivers to whiz past while the cost is deducted from a debit or credit card.

The RFIDs already are a part of electronic vehicle identification systems used for access to military bases, airports, gated communities, hospitals, state parks and country clubs.

That same technology now can be used to alert government agencies to a host of law-breaking activities.

Pennsylvania-based TransCore offers a windshield tamper-resistant transponder that notifies the DMV when insurance lapses, emissions tests are needed, or registration is not in compliance. The transponder can be read by roadside posts, and also will signal mechanical problems or unpaid traffic tickets.

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