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Is RFID Technology Just an Excuse for Big Brother?

Posted By RFID Journal, 03.23.2009
Tags: Privacy
Is radio frequency identification technology just an excuse for Big Brother to find out more about us?

—Name Withheld

I just don't see how it could be—for several reasons. If the government wants to track you, it has already found the means, by getting you to carry a cell phone with a GPS in it wherever you go. RFID is a much shorter-range technology, and therefore not nearly as effective in tracking people. What's more, I don't see how companies can use it to track what you buy, any more than they do now. Consumers will always have the choice of not purchasing products with RFID tags, and businesses won't be able to force you to do so.

I would argue, in fact, that radio frequency identification is a technology that will enable consumers to find out
more about the products they buy. At present, you don't know whether the steak you eat comes from a premium cow born and raised in the United States, a cow from Canada or a caribou from the Philippines.

If every animal were tracked with RFID, you would not only know where it was raised, but also be able to determine its entire history, from the moment the animal was born until the steak arrived on your plate. You would know the drugs you purchased weren't counterfeit, that the sneakers you bought were not made in a Vietnamese sweatshop, that the $20 bottle of wine you purchased wasn't left sitting on a dock in the hot sun for four hours, and so forth.

Some will argue that companies won't make this data available to their customers. I, however, would argue that firms
will do so, because there is competitive advantage in that—and profits. People will pay more for drugs that can be proven to be legitimate, or beef that can be proven to be safe.

—Mark Roberti, Editor, RFID Journal

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