Privacy Matters

By Renee Boucher Ferguson  |  Posted 2006-05-01 Print this article Print

Released at the RFID Journal Live Conference in Las Vegas from May 1-3, the CDTs best practices document is essentially a privacy guideline for companies that are looking to move to item level tagging—an expectation that IBM has as it develops RFID technology, for example. The document outlines how consumers should be notified about RFID data collection, what choice they should have with respect to their own personal information, and how that information should be treated by companies that collect it.
It also offers guidance to companies that collect RFID data in providing that information.
"RFID is a fast-evolving technology that may soon become ubiquitous in our lives. While it offers great promise, it also raises serious privacy concerns," said Paula Bruening, staff council for the CDT, who led the working group, in a statement. "This document establishes a carefully crafted balance: recognizing the core privacy needs of citizens while acknowledging that early-stage technology needs the flexibility to change as it evolves." The best practices group worked for more than a year to hammer out details of the document, and has plans to keep that work alive—particularly after it determines the impact of the May 1 document release, according to Ann Breidenback, director of Sensor & Actuator Solutions Product Line Management & Strategy, at IBM. "Essentially this paper addresses the issue of notification," said Breidenback, in Armonk, N.Y. "Its a first start at defining how RFID should be handled responsibly, with the expectation that we will be going to item level tagging, especially in pharmaceuticals, apparel and footwear. "This paper is designed as a first step to really outline what best practices are. Its a first draft in a series of drafts that will continue to morph." IBM, for its part, is working on providing technology to help privacy concerns. At the RFID Journal Live conference May 1 the company previewed its "Clipped Tag" technology that enables consumers to either tear or scratch off the RFID antenna of a tagged item—which essentially eliminates the tags ability to communicate with other devices or systems. The first step down this road for IBM was to develop and patent the technology. It now has several partners that have developed prototypes of the technology that they can demonstrate with Gen 2 tags. (Gen 2, an RFID frequency standard that was ratified by EPCglobal in 2005, and is just being productized this year, has some of its own security code written in.) The next step, according to Breidenback, is for tag manufacturers to decide whether or not they want to put the Clipped Tag technology into production or not. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis on mobile and wireless computing.


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