April 01, 2005, 9:36 AM — If you're planning to attend the FIFA World Cup soccer tournament in Germany next year but oppose the use of RFID (radio frequency identification) smart tag technology, you won't get past the front gate.
All 2.9 million tickets currently on sale will include an embedded RFID chip, which will entitle entry to the games, Gerd Graus, a spokesman with the FIFA World Cup Organizing Committee, said Friday in a telephone interview.
The use of RFID technology offers a high degree of security, which not only FIFA but also the German Interior Ministry have required, and should also help speed up entry at the gates, according to Graus. "The tags will contain no personal data -- just a number that identifies each cardholder," he said.
Fans applying for a ticket must submit various personal data in the registration form.
The soccer tournament will feature the largest use of RFID at a public event ever anywhere in the world and is expected to be a big boost for smart tag technology.
Dutch electronics giant Koninklijke Philips Electronics NV, a World Cup sponsor, is rumored to be one of the main suppliers of RFID chips.
Graus declined to confirm the selection of Philips but said the Organizing Committee will announce its choice of RFID suppliers shortly.
The use of RFID is not without its critics, however.
"We're really concerned about what is being required of fans to attend the games," said Rena Tangens, a spokeswoman for the privacy group FoeBud e.V., in Bielefeld, Germany. "First of all, they're being asked for all sorts of personal data, such as address, phone number, birth date and passport number. Then they have to accept a card with an RFID chip, which supposedly will be used to let them into the stadium."
Tickets with bar codes would suffice, according to Tangens. "I don't understand why so much personal data is required to attend a soccer game; such information isn't required for a large concert," she said. "What bothers us is that with a bar-coded ticket, a cardholder has control over who or what sees the ticket. This isn't the case with an RFID smart tag."
FoeBud also has an issue with the RFID scanners in the stadiums.
Although Graus said the scanners will have a reading range of 15 centimeters and only be located at the gates and not inside or outside the stadiums, Tangens has her doubts.
"Who says that is really the case?" she asked. "Ticket holders won't be able to tell if hidden scanners in doors or floors are tracking their whereabouts."
The privacy group is currently studying whether to take legal action against FIFA's registration requirements, according to Tangens.