RFID and Privacy: market or legal regulation?

March 12, 2004

RFID Journal editor Mark Roberti has published an editorial saying that companies/the market will self-regulate their use of RFID to maintain acceptable levels of consumer privacy. Any company using RFID in a way customers don't approve of will suffer loss of revenue as customers go elsewhere:

Right or wrong, companies that use RFID are assumed by the public to be guilty of wanting to invade their customers' privacy and must prove to their customers that they are acting responsibly. I believe most companies will. In the end, no businessperson wants to lose a customer. No CEO wants to see the companys brand tarnished or its stock price take a hit over bad publicity.
John Wehr of RFIDnews.org comments:
There are no new rules. Corporations regularly commit appalling abuses of consumer privacy to little or no resistance. The RFID industry is not being treated unfairly, rather as every industry should be. The scrutiny vendors, integrators, and retailers face is too uncommon in a day when video cameras and microphones are widely used to study individual consumers. While welcoming such criticism is difficult, it will leave the industry robust and aware of intangible consumer needs in a time when both characteristics are in short supply.
Peter Winer adds:
[Mark Roberti's] argument works well for companies, but not for governments who can deploy RFID at will without fear of alienating the public.
Surely, the conclusion must be: yes, please: RFID holds great promise for supply chain management and a host of other areas. Inherent in the technology, however, is the possibility of more detailed suveillance and tracking of individuals that needs to be discussed out in the open, but at the same time not preventing the industry from progressing and exploring the possibilities RFID has for reducing cost in supply chain (as well as helping individuals). Legislation may not universally eliminate the shadier uses of RFID, nor will the existense of CASPIAN alone.

Open debate will educate the public to both the benefits and the dangers of RFID over the coming months and years, legislation and market pressure (potentially caused by whistleblowers and/or consumer organizations) will address privacy issues as they arise...


Posted by andersja

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