May 30

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The Chinese Olympic Committee for the 2008 Games has revealed that all tickets to the opening and closing ceremonies will include RFID-enabled microchips with spectators’ passport information and home and e-mail addresses, among other sensitive personal info.

This high-level precaution is in response to the increasingly sensitive security issues surrounding the games, due largely in part to the host’s controversial positions on human rights and freedom of speech.

All tickets for the ceremonies are valued at $720 and the RFID tagging is supposed to decrease the possibility of scalping and pirated tickets, which is obviously a big problem in copy-happy China. But carrying around all of that information with you is still a dangerous proposition.

We’ve heard that tickets were supposed to have the bearer’s photograph printed on them, which would have cut down on theft and the likely problem a family will face when distributing tickets right before a gate entrance. As you can see in the official ticket above, it appears that the idea has not been implemented.

Most security experts vacillate between thinking that a too-secure RFID system will put the Games at a standstill, or that a basic RFID set-up will expose people to hackers. According to Sports Illustrated, all tickets for the games will include RFID tags, but only the main two will have the passport and photo information. The Games’ security team will employ an IT team of at least 4,000 experts with 1,000 servers at their disposal — and they’ll begin testing the system full-bore for the next two months.

Yet, most of the stress about the tickets, apart from the RFID issue, can be traced to the fact that that it’s taken the committee a little bit longer to deliver the tickets than they originally thought –- it’s almost two months to the event and almost no one has received them. This has led some people to believe that the security restrictions are making it difficult for the hosts to actually deliver them on time.

However, the official ticketing website of The Games kept its dates conveniently open-ended –- it says the tickets will be delivered up to the end of June. This is not great if you’re traveling to the city for the opening event on August 8th.

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The tense atmosphere might also point to the fact that the RFID tags were developed by Tsinghua University in conjuction with Beijing Tsinghua Tongfang Microelectronics Company — and no one wants a company in a country with privacy concerns to have access to your personal information.

So what do you think? Are the committee members practically begging for people to get jumped with those RFID-packed tickets? Or are they making the most out of a very tough situation?

Sources: Sports Illustrated, The Official Website of the 2008 Olympic Games, BangkokPost.com, RFIDnews.org.

Photo: Mat Honan/Flickr

By Jose Fermoso
May 29, 2008 | 6:59:50 PM

Source: Wired

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