Does RFID Journal Evaluate ‘Ask the Experts’ Questions By Motive?

By RFID Journal

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Ask The ExpertsDoes RFID Journal Evaluate ‘Ask the Experts’ Questions By Motive?
RFID Journal Staff asked 10 years ago

How are you filtering the legitimate questions from those asked by people who are just trying to find ways to exploit the technology?

—Name withheld


Hmmm. I'm unsure how to answer that question, because I don't know what you mean by "exploit the technology." Merriam-Webster defines the word "exploit" as "to make productive use of." So if a manufacturer uses RFID in its warehouse to reduce the amount of time workers spend searching for inventory, it would be exploiting the technology. We encourage companies to exploit RFID in this way. In fact, helping them do so is our raison d'être.

I suspect you mean "exploit" in the sense of "to make use of meanly or unfairly for one's own advantage," a second definition provided by Merriam-Webster. There is no way for us to know if someone wants to employ RFID in an unethical way, so we can't filter questions by motive. After all, no one starts their question by announcing, "I would like to track shoppers without their permission for the sake of invading their privacy," or "I want to track my girlfriend without her knowledge..."

If a question were to arrive about tracking shoppers, we would advise the questioner to abide by all laws, guidelines and ethical standards within their country or region; to never sell products with RFID tags without alerting customers first; and, absolutely, to never collect data about customers without their knowledge and consent. If we suspected someone planned to use RFID in an unethical way, we would not answer or publish their question.

I will say that I have never seen a situation in which a company could make money or obtain useful information by utilizing RFID unethically. Any potential benefit would be offset by the huge financial and public relations risks involved. Any firm that uses RFID to infringe its customers' privacy is just plain stupid.

—Mark Roberti, Founder and Editor, RFID Journal

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