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Spotlight on: RFID

One of the technologies that tonight's guest, privacy advocate Katherine Albrecht has sounded the alarm about is RFID. Radio frequency identification technology or RFID, involves miniature computerized tags that can be embedded in merchandise. These tags are capable of beaming out specific information such as serial numbers to nearby scanners.

According to a website(1) created by AIM (a data capture association), RFID "is an automatic way to collect product, place, time or transaction data quickly and easily without human intervention or error." The transponder or tag contains a computer chip that derives its energy from a radio signal sent by the scanner, which enables it to send back information that can then be accessed by a central computer.

In a recent piece in Business Week titled "Playing Tag with Shoppers' Anonymity(2)," Albrecht expresses concerns over a possible global network of millions of receivers. "Imagine if these chips are in clothes and tires and shoes. Companies could know where you are at any time, anywhere in the world," she said. But AIM counters these fears, by suggesting that such an elaborate infrastructure to track citizens would have astronomical costs and be highly impractical. Further, they assert that "the data generated from the use of RFID should be private and proprietary and include the same protections on privacy that are currently in place."

--L.L.(3)

1. http://www.aimglobal.org/technologies/rfid/
2. http://www.businessweek.com/technology/content/jul2003/tc20030721_8408_tc073.htm
3. http://archive.coasttocoastam.com/info/about_lex.html

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