Civil Libertarians Warn Against RFID Intrusion

Apr 16, 2003
George Anderson

By George Anderson

Retail marketers say radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology could give stores the ability to provide consumers with more personalized service while gaining greater control of inventory management.

Civil libertarians, however, are voicing concerns that RFID could “enable an Orwellian world where sales clerks and law-enforcement officials, with the wave of a wand, could find out the contents of a purse.”

Katherine Albrecht, a consumer-privacy advocate and doctoral researcher at Harvard told Reuters, “When I found out about it, it chilled me more than anything else I’ve encountered.”

Advocates for RFID are sensitive to possible abuses of the technology. A consumer privacy advocate, Simson Garfinkel, has proposed an “RFID Bill of Rights” to alert consumers when tags are being used and allow them to deactivate the tags.

Moderator’s Comment: Are the fears that consumer privacy
advocates have about RFID justified?

We’re less concerned than most consumer privacy advocates
simply because we know the industry’s pension for collecting data and then doing
very little with it.

The apparel retailer, Benetton, recently announced it
would analyze “RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) technology to evaluate
its technical characteristics” and determine its “potential implications relating
to individual privacy.”

The company was quick to point out that no microchips
were present in any garments currently sold in its stores.
Anderson – Moderator

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