EU public wary of RFID, privacy survey finds

By Ahmed ElAmin

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Rfid, European commission

The EU is moving slowing along the path to regulating the use of
radio frequency identification (RFID)technology, with over half of
its citizens calling for laws requiring businesses to protect
privacyrights.

About half of EU residents believe privacy-protection technologies should be mandatory in RFIDapplications, while 61 per cent want RFID tags to be de-activated at the point of sale, according toa survey by the European Commission. Another 64 percent say current regulations are sufficient forthe initial deployment of UHF RFID, but not once the technology becomes more widespread.

Radio frequency identification (RFID) technology is helping to transform logistics by providing ameans of tracking and tracing individual products throughout the supply chain. However the high costof tags, error read rates and privacy concerns have held back the development of the technology,despite mandates from major retailers such as Wal-Mart.

The preliminary survey forms part of the consultation process by the European Commission to gaugepublic opinion on the more widespread use of RFID technologies. The Commission plans to implementnew data protection and privacy rules for RFID technology next year to address the concerns.

About 61 per cent of the respondents said that the current amount of information available to letthem come to an informed judgement of RFID's pros and cons was not sufficient. However, 52 per centsaid they are aware of the efforts conducted by the existing forums to develop principles and bestpractices for the industry.

The public's views are evenly split on the potential of RFID, with roughly the same proportion ofrespondents sceptical of the technology's usefulness as are those optimistic that RFID offers great potential for improving thelife of European citizens.

Two-thirds of the respondents felt that current EU data protection and privacy legislation is inadequate and that existing laws should bemodified in order to strengthen the protection.

Also awareness raising and consumer education in the context of RFID deployment and its wide implications would bewelcome, respondents stated.

"Pointing out that the deployment of RFID technology might lead to more surveillance many respondents suggest that RFID tagsshould be clearly and visibly marked and 'kill-features' should be introduced,"​ theCommission report stated. "According to the majority of responses, self-regulation andindustry guidelines alone are not sufficient."

RFID technology is a means of distinguishing individual items by attaching tags and specificcodes to them. As such it is more accurate than the current bar code system in use. RFID tag data iswritten or read using radio waves, thus allowing for the management of processing and distributionflows throughout the supply chain.

Related topics: Processing & Packaging

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