02 December 2003

Privacy concerns mount over retail use of RFID technology

EE Times UK - Privacy concerns mount over retail use of RFID technology

By Charles J. Murray
EE Times

Park Ridge, Ill. - Engineers and consumer advocates are pushing suppliers and corporate retailers to take a harder look at privacy concerns related to the use of radio frequency identification technology. Noting that such issues could undermine RFID's enormous potential, engineers at a recent RFID Privacy Workshop at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology called for implementation of 'powerful and flexible privacy mechanisms.'

'This issue must now be addressed or the RFID explosion may not occur, or may occur in a much more limited fashion [than expected],' wrote Kenneth P. Fishkin of Intel Research (Seattle) and Sumit Roy of the University of Washington in a paper presented at the MIT conference last month.

Such calls for high-tech intervention have put backers of RFID technology on the defensive, as consumer groups and the media press for safeguards.

'This technology is like an electronic frisk or a form of X-ray vision,' said Katherine Albrecht, the founder of Customers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion & Numbering (Caspian). 'It really could create a total surveillance world. It's very dangerous.'"

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