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RFID Legal Education Should be Job One, Say Policy Experts

Organizations need to be proactive in shaping regulations, standards and public policies that will impact how RFID is deployed, say speakers at a seminar on the technology's legal ramifications.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Not all presenters expressed the same concerns about how RFID may or may not be used, but all agreed that it's important for vendors and users of RFID to fight the widespread misinformation and ignorance that exists regarding the technology's capabilities and limitations. A group of U.S. senators recently established a forum to help educate legislators about RFID (see U.S. Senators Initiate RFID Caucus). More than 20 states have introduced RFID-related bills (13 of which have been adopted into law). And yet, according to more than one of the speakers, virtually no one on Capitol Hill knows about RFID. Jason Roe, chief of staff for Congressman Tom Feeney of Florida, who chairs Congress' intellectual-property caucus, said that after calling 10 congressmen at random, he found not one who knew what "RFID" stands for.

Educating legislators on RFID, Roe said, should be a top priority, and the concerns over how the use of RFID may impact the public privacy should be nonpartisan. "Privacy concerns unite left and right," he said, recommending that attendees begin reaching out their hometown members of Congress.


Tom Karygiannis
David Golden, director of commercial lines for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America(an insurer trade association), spoke about how the emergence of RFID technology will make companies more directly liable for things such as product recalls, while enabling them to prove ownership of insured goods—such as large equipment—that could be lost in a disaster.

Golden noted that RFID could also pose problems to some companies if it is mandated in a way that does not offer them liability protections. For an example, he pointed to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's requirement that carmakers add airbags to cars, and carmakers' subsequent legal woes when the bags proved harmful to children.

The importance of standards development and information sharing was also emphasized during the seminar. Tom Karygiannis, senior scientist with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), noted that the organization's Computer Security Division has just released a draft guidance document for deploying a secure RFID network (see NIST Releases RFID Security Recommendations). Karygiannis asked attendees to read the draft and make suggestions, so that NIST can provide the most timely and accurate information possible about the most current best practices, as well as tools to keep data linked to RFID systems secure.

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