The other panel I was on at Confusion was "Big Brother Is Watching You." There were plenty of things I wanted to say that we didn't have time. One of the last questions moderator Karl Schroeder asked was what did we think was the most severe threat in the future. Panelist star, Cory Doctorow said the interconnectedness of database, and I agree, but I think this ship has already sailed.
Total Information Awareness wasn't creating new database structures or data generation, it was about taking existing commercial databases and linking them. From those links they would be able to use data mining technology and pattern searching to generate profiles that would help them "find terrorists" (admirable, but there was no mechanism for dumping unrelated data, or to correct false positives, or to have oversight to make sure this data wasn't being used for non-terrorism criminal cases - and we all now are reminded of just how trustworthy our government functionaries can be by sharing prurient phone calls in the NSA and using terrorism as a ruse to spy on political activities, mostly dissent groups and the continuing problems with the TSA Travel Watch List).
However, attempting to halt this technology is like putting your finger in the dike. As evidenced by the article linked above, even though there is a law against the TIA, its work continues in different guises. Just like nuclear technology, that genie is out and fighting it is a rear-guard action.
My answer was RFID. Right now its implementation is limited, and we should fight hard to keep it that way. With current technology, RFID can hold enough digits to tag every single product manufactured. Not like a product's UPC which denotes the individual type (and SKU or price point) of a product, RFID can mark every single item with a unique code.
Seem innocuous? It's already been suspected as being used for espionage. See, you can put those readers everywhere. The RFID chips are so small they could be concealed anywhere and in almost anything. RFID is current technology, it's off the shelf. It's faster, cheaper, less processor intensive, and could be implemented right now unlike other technologies (cheaper than CCTV with face recognition software). Now, lets say you had lots of RFID antennas, like at all commercial and office building exits to protect from theft. Then, if you could link them all together, like London's CCTV network, and tie in the purchasing database, you could track the movements of anybody you wanted. Cheaply. In real time. With a high probability of accuracy. Add in autonomous computer tracking and you can start populating a new database so you can "look for suspicious activity" offline. No longer would prosecutors need to ask where you were on the night of the 21st. They would have the data.
RFID is more of a problem than cellphone GPS, as that is a voluntary action to get such a phone (as well as bluetooth enabled phones, if you have one you have locked in the devices that you use, right, excluding other devices?). As an aside, even if you turn off the function, there are ways around that exclusion. As the Jack Nicholson as the Joker said, "You may already have purchased (an RFID enabled product)." You won't have a choice soon. Now is the time to stop it.