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RFID Education for Consumers

The National Consumers League has created a brochure and a special section on its Web site to help consumers understand radio frequency identification.
Posted By Mark Roberti, 06.15.2007
RFID, a wireless technology used to identify things, has been around for more than 60 years. Consumers, however, are only now encountering this technology directly on an increasing basis.

In recent months, the National Consumers League (NCL)—the nation's oldest consumer advocacy organization, based in Washington, D.C.—has released new information to help consumers more easily understand radio frequency identification. This month, the nonprofit group published a new print brochure, "RFID: What You Should Know," which it is making available to consumers for free.

The group points out that RFID is increasingly becoming a part of consumers' lives. The technology may be used to transmit information, for instance—such as in passes employees use to enter the buildings where they work. Another example is found in payment cards consumers can pass over a machine, rather than swiping through, to make purchases. RFID is also used to track products as they travel from manufacturer to distributor to retailer, and all points in between. As consumers increasingly encounter RFID, NCL says it's important to understand what the technology is and how it affects consumers.

"RFID: What You Should Know" describes the components of RFID systems, the most common ways the technology is currently used and how it affects consumers. The brochure explains that some RFID systems use the Electronic Product Code (EPC), a code number that identifies one specific product from another. Items containing an EPC are marked with a symbol, typically on the back of the package. This symbol indicates the product manufacturer has voluntarily disclosed its use of RFID technology, and has agreed to follow certain practices to protect consumer privacy.

"Our goal is to provide consumers with the basic ABCs of RFID, so they can make informed decisions as they encounter this technology in various forms in the marketplace," said Susan Grant, NCL's vice president for public policy, in a press release. The league's new Web materials and brochure were made possible by an unrestricted educational grant from EPCglobal Inc.

To request a copy of the free brochure, consumers can send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to NCL at RFID Brochure, c/o NCL, 1701 K Street NW, Suite 1200, Washington D.C., 20006. For more information about RFID, EPC and the relevant privacy and security concerns for consumers, visit www.nclnet.org/rfid.

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