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Policy Group Spearheads RFID Best Practices

The Center for Democracy and Technology announced guidelines for the responsible use of the technology and the data collection it enables.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Tags: Privacy
May 02, 2006The Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT), a nonprofit public-interest group based in Washington D.C., announced yesterday at RFID Journal LIVE! a set of best practices to protect consumers' personal information collected by companies using RFID technology. The group created these best practices as a guideline for the responsible use of the technology and the data collection it enables.

To determine the best practices, the CDT created a working group comprised of representatives from software and hardware vendors that sell RFID technology and organizations that use the technology, as well as industry and consumer-rights advocacy groups. Among the organizations represented were The American Library Association, Cisco Systems, Eli Lilly and Co., IBM, Microsoft, the National Consumers League, Procter & Gamble (P&G), VeriSign and Visa USA.

At least two of the working group's members declined to endorse the report describing the best-practices document. The consumer-privacy organization Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) felt the document failed to make the guidelines strict enough to mandate how personal information should be used. The National Retail Federation (NRF) also did not endorse the document.

The working group spent a year developing the best-practices document, available on the CDT Web site. In acknowledging the refusal of some members to endorse it, however, Paula Bruening, staff counsel for the CDT, explained that the group considered the report an interim document only. "RFID is a technology that is evolving quickly," she said. "We're seeing new applications all the time. This [best-practices report] is a living document, something we'll come back to after it's been in the marketplace and we've gotten some feedback on it."

Elliot Maxwell, an RFID consultant and fellow with the communications program at The Johns Hopkins University, also worked on the report. Maxwell noted that, "RFID is like the Internet, in that it is limited only by the imagination of people who deploy it." Consumers should have an increased ability to control information about themselves, he said, but one should also recognize that the technology has the power to increase efficiencies and provide benefits.

The primary goal of the best practices recommendations is to provide guidance on how personal identifiable information should be collected, what choices the consumers should have in providing this information and how the companies should use the data.

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