From the inbox: RFID + Shabbos = Big No No?

Tobias Robison writes,

Within a few years, RFID tags may be ubiquitous in our clothes. These devices, called Radio Frequency Identification tags, are based on the same technology that lets cars pay E-ZPASS tolls without stopping. They have no batteries, but respond to the signals of any RFID reader that they pass. RFIDs can currently be the size of a small pebble, and they are going to get smaller. RFID chips can be embedded into products and clothing and covertly read without our knowledge. A small tag embedded into the heel of a shoe or the inseam of a leather jacket for inventory control could be activated every time the customer entered or left the store where the item was bought; that tag could also be read by any person, business or government agency that has a compatible reader.

I’m wondering whether we will be required to remove RFIDs from any clothes we plan to wear on Shabbat and Yom Tov, and would like to see some comments on this rather new topic. Please note that RFID manufacturers are working on ways to allow us to turn RFIDs off after we buy clothes containing them. An “off” RFID presumably would not respond to any reader. Its halachic status (since it is an utterly useless thing at this point) might still be problematic.

Any thoughts from the peanut gallery?

8 thoughts on “From the inbox: RFID + Shabbos = Big No No?

  1. what’s the ruling on the existing problem of walking by security cameras and the LED on the “electronic eyes” for securtiy systems?

  2. Keep in mind that these devices are passive. Yes, they “respond” to the radio pulse, but it is not so different from how a red shirt “responds” to red light shining on it (by reflecting it). If they set up red clothing sensors everywhere, can I wear a red tie on Shabbat?

  3. range on rfid readers is usually very low. (usually less then 10 feet) tags with longer range need battery power & atenna’s. currently these types of tags usually cost between $5 and $50.00 each( granted the price will drop soon) RFID tags meen nothing without a database to look up against. interoperability is a LONG way off as well. i know i am the miniorty opinion on this, but i really dont care about the tags. also tracking you is nothing new. carry a cell phone? use credit cards? surf the net at home? walk by security cams? for about 5 years i walked around with my office security card in my wallet. (fyi thats a rfid chip inside it) to me its not really a big deal. (RFID has been around since the 1940’s)

  4. I am currently working on identifying a Sefer Torah with RFID tags. It is not permissible to write in a Sefer Torah.
    Question 1: Is it permissible to insert a foreign object in the sefeer torah?
    Question 2: Is it permissible to carry the scroll on Shabbes?
    I presented the question to Rabbi Moshe Halberstam from the Eida Hachredes in Jerusalem.

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