IT Confidential: Here Come The Next Great Privacy Debates - InformationWeek

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1/9/2004
07:08 PM
John Soat
John Soat
Commentary
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IT Confidential: Here Come The Next Great Privacy Debates

'Motorola is committed to making smart, fun broadband products.'

Spam may be the business-technology hot topic du jour of politicos and the mainstream press, but the spotlight is scheduled to swing back real soon to an even juicier topic, privacy, based on a few recent developments. First, the national Can-Spam law is in effect, and that should give a few of the spam purveyors at least a few moments' pause, as will the prosecutions begun late last year in Virginia and New York. On the other hand, privacy advocates (BTW: what's the opposite of that, and who are they?) are sure to take notice of a couple of new studies that predict a veritable explosion in the use of radio-frequency-ID tags, popularly known as RFID. For example, research firm IDC estimates spending on RFID in the retail supply chain will grow from $91.5 million last year to nearly $1.3 billion in 2008 (for more details, see story, p. 20). RFID is the great bugaboo of conspiracy theorists, who foresee the military-political-industrial complex monitoring the shopping habits of Americans all the way down to how often they change their underwear. In an interesting development, New Scientist magazine this month is reporting that at least one manufacturer of the chips used for casino gambling is prepping a product line that incorporates RFID technology (Bill Bennett, please note). Casinos are great storers and exploiters of personal data, so the implications are obvious. And last week, at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas (where else?), Motorola announced a licensing deal with a company called Wheels of Zeus (WOZ), founded by Apple co-founder and mostly unsuccessful entrepreneur Steve Wozniak (WOZ--Wozniak, get it?). WOZ develops and markets wireless location-tracking technology that uses satellite-tracking systems, and Motorola's Broadband Communications division plans to develop a line of consumer products based on the WOZ platform. Such technology could be used for keeping track of everything from golf balls and clubs to errant children and grandparents. The conspiracy-minded will undoubtedly come up with other uses.

Speaking of Virginia, a spokeswoman says the state should decide this week on its new CIO. Virginia is overhauling how it manages technology, and as part of that effort it's creating a new CIO position. Until the end of last year, CIO responsibilities were handled by George Newstrom, Virginia's secretary of technology. The new CIO will be one of the most highly paid state technology execs, with an annual salary around $200,000 and a five-year contract.

Richard Entrup, former CIO of New York law firm Wilson, Elser, Moskowitz, Edelman & Dicker, has taken over the CIO spot at Byram Healthcare, a marketer of disposable medical supplies. Entrup is an 18-year industry veteran, having held technology-management positions at Viacom and Tiffany.

Living in a glass house has never stopped me from throwing stones, and it makes privacy something of a moot point. Throw a few industry tips my way, to [email protected] or phone 516-562-5326. If you want to talk about RFID, privacy, or the glass ceiling, meet me at the Listening Post: informationweek.com/forum/johnsoat.

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