CSI: Crime Scene Inaccuracies

A recent episode of CSI:NY showed an RFID cell phone reader being used in ways that are totally absurd and damaging to the public.
Published: February 9, 2007

Mark Roberti

I don’t watch television dramas. I prefer the news. (When my family discusses a TV show, the running joke is that I didn’t watch it because it’s on at the same time as CNN.) Recently, however, I got an e-mail from a reader about the portrayal of radio frequency identification technology on a popular television drama.

“Yesterday evening, I tuned to CBS and watched CSI:NY,” the reader wrote. “I don’t know whether you may have seen the show. Anyway, they showed the use of an ‘RFID reader’ no larger than a smart cell phone, concealed in a ladies handbag, being used to ‘scan card numbers from the magnetic strips on your credit cards.’ They even showed the ‘scanner’ reading Social Security numbers—from what, I don’t know. How grossly irresponsible and technically inaccurate.”

I’ve written about this problem before (see RFID Goes Hollywood). I understand that the folks who write TV dramas don’t care about facts or reality, but this kind of nonsense creates unnecessary fear among the public.

AIM Global and others have taken steps to try to educate the public. It’s up to all of us in the industry to try to do what we can to respond to factual inaccuracies designed to scare people. I encourage you to write to your local paper or business magazine to set the record straight when they publish false or misleading information.

In the end, the public will get comfortable with RFID, but fiction writers are delaying the day when that happens by publishing nonsense about scanning Social Security numbers with an RFID-enabled cell phone.