Industry Watch: Focus On Privacy And RFID - InformationWeek

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Hardware & Infrastructure

Industry Watch: Focus On Privacy And RFID

Sen. Debra Bowen -- Photo by AP

Photo of Sen. Debra Bowen by AP
At a workshop held by MIT's Media Lab on radio-frequency identification technology and privacy issues on Nov. 15, privacy advocates and RFID backers found at least some common ground. A position paper issued by privacy advocates, for example, said using RFID technology to track goods from the point of manufacture to stores is acceptable. But they also called for a formal assessment of RFID technology by an independent body, including possible implications for society, and argued that RFID tags shouldn't be put on individual products until such an assessment is done. EPCglobal Inc., the organization spearheading the development of the electronic-product code that RFID chips use, issued its own proposed guidelines that require notifying consumers of the presence of electronic-product-code devices on products through a logo or an identifier and informing them of options for disabling or removing RFID tags. It also proposed that data collected using the devices should be subject to applicable laws about the use, retention, and security for such data.

The issue also came to the fore in California last week, during a hearing before the California Senate's subcommittee on new technologies. Sen. Debra Bowen, who chairs the subcommittee, suggested that companies won't be able to deploy RFID without oversight that takes public sentiment into account. "To my knowledge, there's no concern about the use of this for backroom applications or for supply-chain tracking," she said. "But the picture definitely changes when we get to the retail customer."

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