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Give Your Views to the EU—Now!

The European Commission is proposing requirements that could dramatically curtail the benefits of RFID technology, so end users and vendors need to submit comments before April 25.
By Mark Roberti
Article 7 singles out the use of RFID in retail, stating that if a retailer's privacy assessment "shows significant likelihood of personal data being generated from the use of the application, the retailer has to follow the criteria to make the processing legitimate as laid down in directive 95/46, and to deactivate the RFID tag at the point of sale unless the consumer chooses to keep the tag operational." That means retailers in Europe won't be able to use RFID for reverse logistics, and the tags can't be used in recycling applications.

Retailers will have to install RFID interrogators at every point of sale to deactivate the tags—even if a customer doesn't request it. The additional cost might put some retailers off using RFID. A far more sensible approach would be to say that as long as retailers take steps to safeguard customer data, they can kill the tag at a customer's request (an opt-out rather than opt-in approach). If there are repeated abuses of the technology, governments could then reexamine the opt-out scenario and require that tags be killed unless customers opt out.

When I consider the recommendations, it seems obvious the authors believe RFID technology is inherently bad, or somehow destined to be used for nefarious purposes. There is no balance between the need to protect the public and a desire not to kill adoption and innovation. Every protection is put in place, even if it risks killing the technology.

I find this both sad and frustrating, because over the past six years of covering RFID, I have seen many great applications of the technology that serve businesses and consumers alike, and I have yet to see any abuses. All the evidence suggests companies won't abuse the technology.

Members of the commission should think about this: No patents involving tracking consumers have been implemented. Why? Because retailers don't want to lose their customers. It's as simple as that.

I fervently believe the technology will bring great benefits to consumers and businesses alike, and that abuses can be prevented. That's why you need to submit your opinions before April 25. Click here now, and make sure your voice is heard.

Mark Roberti is the founder and editor of RFID Journal. If you would like to comment on this article, click on the link below. To read more of Mark's opinions, visit the RFID Journal Blog or click here.


Gerald Santucci 2008-04-09 08:17:28 AM
EC's draft recommendations I'd like to thank Mark Roberti for his article "Give Your Views to the EU - Now!" (7 April). I'm currently in charge within DG Information Society and Media (INFSO) of the European Commission of the RFID dossier, and hence of the draft recommendation. A public consultation has been published for a period of 9 weeks (ending 25 April) and its results will obviously be taken into account by the Commission in its finalisation of the policy document. Here we find Mark's articles inspiring and always very useful for us to remain informed of RFID trends and developments worldwide and for different sectors and applications. His "call" on stakeholders concerning the draft EC recommendation, although critical of several aspects of the recommendation, will be duly considered as a relevant and positive contribution to the overall debate. I'd like to tell Mark each article in the draft recommendation is an integral part of it. The provisions concerning PIAs, codes of conduct, information on RFID use, security risk management, awareness raising actions, support for R&D, and the use of RFID in retail should not be seen as individual entities but as a set of inter-related entities which have to be set in conjunction with one another in a continuum. This said, I take note, among other things, of Mark's observation that some definitions and other parts of the draft recommendation are not sufficiently clearly specified. So, many thanks again, and let's hope that at the end we'll find a common path. Gerald Santucci, Head of Unit, DG INFSO/D4

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