Home Internet of Things Aerospace Apparel Energy Defense Health Care Logistics Manufacturing Retail

Ask The Experts Forum

BlogsAsk The Experts ForumDoes RFID Infringe on Privacy?

Does RFID Infringe on Privacy?

Posted By RFID Journal, 12.01.2009
What are the chief privacy concerns associated with radio frequency identification?

—Name withheld

That depends on whether you are asking an informed or uniformed person. Some uniformed people have raised the possibility of tags being used to track individuals from satellites (which is impossible), or having your personal identifiable information broadcast to all and sundry (usually not the case), or having stores track you through tags hidden in your shoes, for instance, (which is possible, but it would be a highly stupid business tactic). So I am not concerned about these things, and I don't think anyone who is knowledgeable about RFID is, either.

I've written extensively on the privacy issue. Since a search of our Web site will turn up all of my past columns, I won't rehash them all here. Instead, I'll focus on the privacy concerns I do have.

My biggest concern is that some corporation will be stupid enough to spy on its customers using RFID. They won't do the shoe thing, but they might try to find a way to gather information on individual customers in order to store data on their buying habits. If a consumer opts in, then it's no problem—but it would be a huge black eye for the RFID industry if a major retailer were to be discovered to have tracked people without their knowledge. Given how sensitive companies are to losing customers, I doubt the threat is very large.

The only real privacy concern I see is that as RFID becomes more commonly used in things consumers buy or use, unscrupulous parties will find ways to use the technology to rip people off. It's not difficult to imagine organized crime figuring out ways to use RFID devices to make charges attributed to other folks. Banks and other users of RFID for transactions would respond, the criminals would find ways to crack the security, the users would respond again, and so forth.

There is also the potential that some people could use the technology to track others without there knowledge. RFID is a short-range technology, so that provides some safety—but it might be possible, for instance, to place a tag in a woman's pocketbook, and to then use that tag to track when she visits certain places.

I believe these threats are real, but they can easily be addressed. The problem is that most legislatures have been proposing laws that punish technology users, rather than abusers. If we focus on outlawing bad behavior and not technology—which is neither good nor bad—then the problems can be kept to a minimum.

—Mark Roberti, Editor,
RFID Journal

Login and post your comment!

Not a member?

Signup for an account now to access all of the features of RFIDJournal.com!

Next Post
How Can I Track Racers With RFID?
Previous Post
How Can I Record Attendance With RFID?
Case Studies Features Best Practices How-Tos
Live Events Virtual Events Webinars
Simply enter a question for our experts.
RFID Journal LIVE! RFID in Health Care LIVE! LatAm LIVE! Brasil LIVE! Europe RFID Connect Virtual Events RFID Journal Awards Webinars Presentations
© Copyright 2002-2016 RFID Journal LLC.
Powered By: Haycco