Big Brother is Looking for lost books |

Big Brother is Looking for lost books

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Hmmmm … it’s been over three weeks since you checked out a pile of books at the library: a couple for yourself, and you could have sworn there were 20 picture books in that pile the kids chose. But you can only find 19 of those, even after turning over the cushions on the couch, rifling through the pile in the corner of the loft, scanning and re-scanning the books on the shelf, and checking under the seats in the car. A call to the library confirms your fears: there’s a book missing. And of course it’s the $65 one with the glossy photographs of fungi from around the world.

This is a common dilemma for many library users, but it may one day become a problem of the past. In fact, in some big cities, libraries are already embedding RFID chips in all their books.

RFID ” or Radio Frequency Identification ” chips are essentially tracking devices that respond to a radio signal. These minuscule microchips ” about the size of half a grain of sand ” are cheap, they can be read from a distance, and they’re currently used in a variety of situations: RFIDS are used for inventory management at big retailers, they’re in tires (to facilitate tracking them in case of a recall), they’re embedded in the new U.S Passports. And they’re also found in books belonging to some library systems, although they have not yet made their way into materials from the Nevada County libraries.

There is, naturally, some resistance to the idea of being map-able, and RFIDs have been called “Big Brother in Small Packages.” Would you want someone to be able to monitor your movements by tracking your personal microchip? When the FDA recently approved the implantation of microchips in humans ” ostensibly to provide instant access to an individual’s medical records in order to save precious time in emergency situations ” Governor Schwarzenegger responded by passing legislation which banned the forced implantation of RFID devices in humans in California.

Meanwhile the use of RFID tags continues to increase. So don’t be surprised if one day, when you are carefully explaining to the librarian that you’ve ransacked the house and the car and still can’t find the missing book, you learn that the book is indeed in your possession: up in the tree house in the back yard.

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