NFC: An Issue of Trust?

The introduction of NFC (Near Field Communication) technology for payment cards, quite frankly, gives me the willies. I recently received my first “wave me at the coffee counter” touch payment card from my bank, and it set me to thinking. And what I think is that I have what any decent psychiatrist would call trust issues.

Imagine the scenario. You waft your wallet full of touch-payment cards at the payment station in your local Barista hangout – which one gets used? The first one detected, I suspect. And Murphy’s Law says it won’t be the one you wanted. To make sure the right one is used, you’ll have to take that card out, present it to the payment point, and put it back in your wallet. The delays this is going to create at ticket barriers and on buses will make for an unhappy rush hour experience (and let’s face it – rush hours don’t need any help, thank you very much).

And anyway, taking out the card you intend to use is boring! The whole point of putting NFC on a payment card is to speed up the process. The next time you’re in London on the tube, look out for the Oyster users who glare at the tourists who get immersed in the whole which-way-round-ness of barrier ticket confusion, with murder in their eyes. Even I use an Oyster card, and I don’t live there! And now, London commuters are going to have to lift out their oyster cards as well, because plans are afoot for TfL to accept touch payment cards at tube barriers and on buses. So pretty soon Oysters will have to be kept separate from any other touch-payment enabled cards. In fact, all of these NFC/RFID enabled cards will have to be kept separate from each other. Perhaps we need a lanyard for each one, or is that just a Health & Safety disaster in waiting?

All of this negates the purported benefit – namely, speed efficiencies and ease of use.

My other issue is theft. NFC/RFID is actually good for thirty feet. On a good day, mind you (or “down hill with the wind behind it”, as my mother used to say), and not on any legitimate pay stations (which are generally restricted to a range of between 4-10cm). The kind of distance that I’m talking about is inherent in the technology, and means that thieves using a reader with a good range on it can steal the limit (soon to be increased from £20 to £30) on each of your NFC cards without ever going near your pocket. One afternoon’s wandering up and down Oxford Street could net tens of thousands for a “hard-working” tealeaf. And with passports moving to having biometric data stored on NFC chips, it means that identity thieves can hoover data up in a similar fashion. There are already phone apps on the open market that will read content from passport chips.

Now, ApplePay on the other hand is a solution that actually uses NFC well, and it’s a simple one at that. The NFC isn’t activated until you press the home button and your fingerprint is validated. Given the ubiquitous nature of the iPhone, it makes perfect sense for retailers and the like to adopt pay stations that accept ApplePay. Sadly, as it’s a service that’s only active in the U.S. at the moment, it feels a bit like Cinema and VHS releases back in the day.

If you still want to use your wafty-payment plastic, it turns out that you needn’t worry about theft, though, as I’m not the only one who’s been thinking about this issue. Betabrand have teamed up with Norton to create a set of RFID-shielded jeans, and there’s already a plethora of RFID-shielded wallets and card sleeves available on Amazon. I recently bought one from a certain “outdoors” retailer, but I was still able to gain access to the office by waving it in front of the door access system, so I guess the jury’s still out. Luckily, I needed a new wallet in any case, so no harm done. But it begs the question – is it tech worth getting just yet, or should we rely on our own good housekeeping and the odd insurance claim?

Frankly, I think I’m better off simply never leaving the safety of my foil-insulated house. But that’s probably a story for another time.

Why I Like Private Eye (one reason, anyway)

Arkell v. Pressdram (1971) [unreported]
Solicitor (Goodman Derrick & Co.):

We act for Mr Arkell who is Retail Credit Manager of Granada TV Rental Ltd. His attention has been drawn to an article appearing in the issue of Private Eye dated 9th April 1971 on page 4. The statements made about Mr Arkell are entirely untrue and clearly highly defamatory. We are therefore instructed to require from you immediately your proposals for dealing with the matter. Mr Arkell’s first concern is that there should be a full retraction at the earliest possible date in Private Eye and he will also want his costs paid. His attitude to damages will be governed by the nature of your reply.

Private Eye:

We acknowledge your letter of 29th April referring to Mr J. Arkell. We note that Mr Arkell’s attitude to damages will be governed by the nature of our reply and would therefore be grateful if you would inform us what his attitude to damages would be, were he to learn that the nature of our reply is as follows: fuck off.

[No further reply]

I Want to Live in a Sound-Proof Bubble

Our neighbours are a constant source of stupefaction to me. One evening last week, I was sitting at my laptop, clinging to the last vestiges of the ability to work, when I decided I simply couldn’t ignore the distraction of the screaming and shouting any more, and wandered my way over to the wall to get a better listen (sometimes it’s like my very own personal Corrie Enderdale, only without the cheap accents and constant chip references. Oh, wait…).

Unfortunately, as my ear approached the wall in an attempt to make out the actual words buried inside the verbal melee, I discovered something rather more sinister than just the usual inane drivel: what sounded to me like a serious case of physical and/or sexual abuse. I quickly dusted off my cape, called the police, and explained what I could hear. It wasn’t quite the tactical insertion one comes to expect after a two-hour stint on Rainbow Six, but the police soon arrived in a matter of minutes (less than eight), and in some force. I retired to my usual evening’s diversions, after having returned my cape to its secret panel, satisfied that I had done what was required of me – Citizen Pinky to the rescue!

Skip forward a week, to the other evening, and the same thing’s happening again – more shouting and screaming, so I quickly have a listen to see if … yep, exactly the same thing seems to be going on, so I make a quick dive for the bat phone – grabbing my cape on the way – and do my Citizen Pinky bit again. “Job done!” I thought to myself, now we wait a few brief moments for the rozzers and watch the culprit get carted away, never to be heard of again.

This is where things took a turn for the weird. It had gone quiet by the time I’d finished on the phone, which I didn’t know whether it was good or bad, but either way Wiltshire’s very own League of Justice was about to pounce, weren’t they? I’d been told on the phone that it would be treated as a priority, which is certainly what one would expect given the gravity of the situation. I hadn’t actually used the word “rape” over the phone, but come on – it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to make what hardly amounts to a leap. Anyway, fifty-one minutes later, a single male police officer arrived at the scene. Yes, you read that correctly: fifty-one minutes. Did I disturb the chip run, do you think? Of course, whoever it was making all that din had long since left by the time PC McSaunter arrived – in fact, I saw the couple leaving together, with apparent amity. Given the confusion that must have descended over the brow of Constable McAmble upon finding no bloody corpse, and the fact that I had given my address and name when reporting the “incident”, I waited for the knock on the door in readiness to assuage his puzzlement. No such knock came. I’ve given my cape to the local charity shop. Perhaps it can do some good there.

I’ve since made enquiries with Wiltshire Police as to the reason for what can only be described as dallying when faced with the report of a possible rape/assault. Interestingly, the footer of all the email correspondence I’ve had from the police thus far reads: “… Putting People First….”
Given enough time, one would assume.

Common Sense – a Eulogy

A wise friend of mine sent me this email and it was so full of truth that it screamed out to be shared with my blogging community. I know most times we try to share crafty things and lovely flowers and decorating tips, but once in a while I get up on my soapbox to say something I hope will be beneficial or at least make folks think about things differently. I take no credit for this article. This is a reprint from “The London Times” not sure of the published date. In light of the current affairs of our economy and our nation this should make us all think.

“Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, COMMON SENSE, who has been with us for many years. No one knows for sure how old he was, since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape. He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as: knowing when to come in out of the rain; why the early bird gets the worm; life isn’t always fair, and maybe it was my fault.

Common Sense lived by simple sound financial policies such as: don’t spend more than you can earn and reliable strategies such as adults, not children are in charge.

His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well-intentioned but overbearing regulations were set in place. Reports of a 6-year old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate, teens suspended from school for using mouth wash after lunch, and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student, only worsened his condition.

Common Sense lost ground when parents attacked teachers for doing the job that they themselves had failed to do in disciplining their unruly children.

It declined even further when schools were required to get parental consent to administer sun lotion or an aspirin to a student, but could not inform parents when a student became pregnant and wanted to have an abortion.

Common Sense lost the will to live as the churches became businesses, and criminals received better treatment than their victims.

Common Sense took a beating when you couldn’t defend yourself from a burglar in your own home, and the burglar could sue you for assault.

Common Sense finally gave up the will to live, after a woman failed to realize that a steaming cup of coffee was hot. She spilled a little on her lap, and was promptly awarded a huge settlement.

Common Sense was preceded in death, by his parents, Truth and Trust. His wife, Discretion, his daughter, Responsibility, his son Reason.

He is survived by his 4 stepbrothers; I Know My Rights: I Want It Now, Someone Else is To Blame, and I’m A Victim.

Not many attended his funeral because so few realized he was gone. If you still remember him, pass this on. If not, join the majority and do nothing.

I am choosing to send this out and you have my permission to copy it and do the same if you agree. If not and it offends you, delete me from your visit list. I have fond memories of Common Sense and miss him greatly.