DHS Draft Report Says RFID Poses Privacy Risks

— June 14, 2006

A group of major brand owners, including IBM, Procter & Gamble, Microsoft and Visa, have rubber-stamped a set of guidelines for electronic "super tags" to combat fears over consumer privacy.

The move comes as European Union chiefs consider new data-protection legislation to prevent the misuse of the new radio frequency identification (RFID) tags, revealed by European Commission head of data protection Philippe Renaudiere.

Big Brother Fears

The tags, which are claimed to have evolved from KGB bugging devices, have raised fears over Big Brother-style snooping, as they can be attached to consumer goods and tracked from "warehouse to wardrobe."

The guidelines offer advice to companies which use the tags to collect data that can be linked to consumers' personal information.

They outline how consumers should be notified about data collection, what choice they have over their personal information, and how that information should be treated by the companies concerned.

Fast Evolution

Paula Bruening, staff counsel for the Center for Democracy & Technology in the U.S., which led the working group, says: "This document recognizes the core privacy needs of citizens, while acknowledging that early stage technology needs the flexibility to change as it evolves. "RFID is a fast-evolving technology that may soon become ubiquitous in our lives."

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