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NFC Mobile Phones and the Future of Privacy

NFC-enabled phones will offer consumers the opportunity to enhance their privacy by empowering them with their own secure ID devices.
By Ayman S. Ashour
NFC, Privacy and the Future

The Haifa Center of Law & Technology, under the title Privacy in the Digital Environment, proposed a new definition for the right to privacy:

"The right to privacy is our right to keep a domain around us, which includes all those things that are part of us, such as our body, home, thoughts, feelings, secrets and identity. The right to privacy gives us the ability to choose which parts in this domain can be accessed by others, and to control the extent, manner and timing of the use of those parts we choose to disclose."

Much work remains to be done in order to ensure privacy whenever databases are used to track purchases, subscriptions, privileges, membership, loyalty points and so forth. Databases need to be purged of superfluous details unnecessary for delivering what a consumer specifically seeks. This is an issue that may require government legislation, as the use of data mining and buying patterns expands as tools of commerce.

A number of European countries have implemented laws that promote privacy and enhance database protection. In the United States, smart card industry associations have put forward positive ideas, but ultimately, privacy must be thoughtfully integrated into a system's design, and not offered as an optional extra or as a service. The mass introduction of NFC-enabled mobile phones over the coming years will offer an opportunity to enhance our privacy as consumers, by empowering us with our own secure ID devices. Handset manufacturers, carriers and governments will need to ensure that NFC's privacy-enhancing features are not compromised for commercial advantage, and that the crucial issue of enhancing a database's architecture and security, as well as curtailing the excessive storage of personal information, is addressed. These are urgent issues.

Ayman S. Ashour serves as the chairman and CEO of Identive Group, a systems and technology provider for the identification, security and RFID industries, as well as the NFC market. Led by Ashour, the firm recently partnered with Google on its rollout of a Google Places NFC smart-poster campaign in Austin, Texas. It has also collaborated with Dutch financial services company Rabobank and the Royal Dutch Hockey Federation (KNHB), to kick off the first consumer campaign promoting its Cashless Betalen mobile-payment NFC solution. Additionally, Identive is providing more than a million NFC tags to a major smartphone manufacturer, to facilitate consumer NFC apps using mobile devices..

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