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EU's Decision Not to Legislate RFID is Conditional

On Monday law firm McKenna Long & Aldridge hosted a luncheon in Washington, DC, whose aim was to discuss implications of the recent decision by the EU not to formally legislate RFID technology for the time being. Among other highlights, an EU representative noted that the decision is effectively a conditional one.
Apr 04, 2007This article was originally published by RFID Update.

April 4, 2007—On Monday law firm McKenna Long & Aldridge hosted a luncheon in Washington, D.C., called RFID -- An International Perspective on Privacy and Security, whose aim was to discuss implications of the recent decision by the EU not to formally legislate RFID technology for the time being (see EU Opts for Hands-Off Approach to RFID Regulation). Dan Caprio, the chief privacy officer for the US Department of Commerce and chairman of the department's RFID working group, co-hosted the event. Also in attendance were Gerald Santucci, who heads the Unit "ICT for Enterprise Networking" of the European Commission, and Hana Pechackova of the EC's Directorate-General for Justice, Liberty, and Security.

Annouced last month by Information Society commissioner Viviane Reding at the CeBIT technology fair in Germany, the EC's decision seemed a very positive sign for the RFID industry and advocates of the technology. Santucci cautioned at the Monday lunch, however, that the decision was effectively a conditional one, according to an entry on McKenna Long & Aldridge's RFID Law Blog. While the Commission did not want to prematurely legislate a technology whose adoption is in the early stages and whose potential benefits are many, it did put the onus on industry to ensure that development and application of RFID be done responsibly with respect to safety, security, and consumer privacy. If industry is not sufficiently responsible, "Mrs. Reding will have no other option but to trigger legislation," Santucci was quoted by CNet.

Santucci also noted that while the EC opted against formal legislation, it still intends to move forward with what he characterized as "soft law". That is, the Commission will produce a set of security and privacy guidelines for the RFID industry and other stakeholders to follow. By the end of next year, there will be a reevaluation as to whether formal legislation has become necessary.

Consistent messaging from the EU and the US was another issue touched upon by Santucci. One of the findings during the Commission's year-long, Europe-wide public consultation on RFID was that consumers are ill informed as to the technology's capabilities and limitations. Raising public awareness and understanding will be a key strategy of the Commission going forward. To ensure success, Santucci argued that the EU and the US must build trust about RFID among consumers by putting forward a unified message. "We might lose in the end if we can't find the right way to create trust," he said.
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