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10/17/2006
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EU Seeks Tougher RFID Privacy Rules

Some Europeans are concerned RFID tags can broadcast an individual's personal information without their knowledge.

Europeans want reassurance that companies deploying radio frequency identification technology will follow strict guidelines, European Union Information Society Commissioner Viviane Reding said Monday.

RFID can identify and verify clothing, luggage, passports, livestock, and pharmaceuticals, as well as track food lots for quick recalls, and tell nurses what medicines a patent needs to take.

But Europeans are concerned that RFID tags can broadcast an individual's personal information without their knowledge, Reding said at a conference in Brussels, which marks the end of a six-month online EU study seeking opinions on the growing use of RFID tags. (The transcript available here.)

"The overriding message that comes out of the consultation is citizens have concerns over privacy issues," Reding said. "The large majority are willing to be convinced that RFID can bring benefits but they want to be reassured that it will not compromise their privacy."

Although not all the results have been analyzed, it's clear only 15 percent of the 2,190 groups and individuals who answered the EU survey thought the industry's efforts to regulate itself would be enough.

An awareness and understanding of the risks and opportunities was seen as crucial in 67 percent of answers. A new technology, which has a wide and potentially deep impact on our lives there is a strong desire for transparency.

Reding, who in December will propose draft laws on the technology, said if Europe wants to capture advantages of RFID, government needs to make sure the correct rules are in place.

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