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'MythBusters' co-host backpedals on RFID kerfuffle

'MythBusters' co-host backpedals on RFID kerfuffle
'MythBusters' co-host backpedals on RFID kerfuffle 

By Daniel Terdiman
Gaming and Culture 
September 3, 2008

MythBusters co-host Adam Savage is stepping back from public comments 
suggesting that legal counsel from several credit card companies led the 
Discovery Channel to pull the plug on an episode dedicated to security 
holes in RFID.

At the Last HOPE conference in New York in July, Savage told a crowd of 
several thousand people that his theory on why MythBusters had not gone 
forward with a planned episode on RFID (radio frequency identification) 
hackability was that on a conference call to discuss the matter with 
technicians from Texas Instruments, the lawyers for the credit cards 
companies had put the hammer down on the show.

"Texas Instruments comes on along with chief legal counsel for American 
Express, Visa, Discover, and everybody else (co-host Tory Belleci and a 
MythBusters producer) were way, way out-gunned," Savage told the crowd, 
"and (the lawyers) absolutely made it really clear to Discovery that 
they were not going to air this episode talking about how hackable this 
stuff was, and Discovery backed way down, being a large corporation that 
depends upon the revenue of the advertisers. Now it's on Discovery's 
radar and they won't let us go near it."

But Texas Instruments spokeswoman Cindy Huff told CNET News on Tuesday 
that things had gone a bit different than Savage had said.

"In June 2007, MythBusters was interested in pursuing some great 
myth-busting ideas for RFID. While in pursuit, they contacted Texas 
Instruments' RFID Systems, who is a pioneer of RFID and contactless 
technology, for technical help and understanding of RFID in the 
contactless payments space," Huff said. "Some of the information that 
was needed to pursue the program required further support from the 
contactless payment companies as they construct their own proprietary 
systems for security to protect their customers. To move the process 
along, Texas Instruments coordinated a conversation with Smart Card 
Alliance (SCA) who invited MasterCard and Visa, on contactless payments 
to help MythBusters get the right information. Of the handful of people 
on the call, there were mostly product managers and only one contactless 
payment company's legal counsel member. Technical questions were asked 
and answered and we were to wait for MythBusters to let us know when 
they were planning on showing the segment. A few weeks later, Texas 
Instruments was told by MythBusters that the storyline had changed and 
they were pursuing a different angle which did not require our help."

And now, even Savage is saying that he got his facts wrong.


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