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by Theresa, Saturday, April 10, 2004, 23:58

Watchdogs Push for RFID Laws

By Mark Baard
Story location:,1848,62922,00.html

02:00 AM Apr. 05, 2004 PT

CHICAGO -- RFID is too powerful a technology and Wal-Mart and its suppliers are too cozy with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for the companies to be trusted with the data gathered from radio tags on consumer goods, say a civil rights lawyer and a privacy law expert.

But the companies, led by Procter & Gamble, are opposing RFID legislation, and want consumers to allow them to keep RFID tags active after checkout, and to match shoppers' personal information with particular items.

The civil rights lawyer, Barry Steinhardt, director of the Technology and Liberty Program at the American Civil Liberties Union, spoke at the RFID Journal Live conference in Chicago last week. He said companies could use RFID tags to profile their own customers and share their information with the government -- violating the companies' own privacy policies.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, meanwhile, is working with companies like Wal-Mart and Procter & Gamble to develop RFID (which stands for radio-frequency identification) to monitor America's consumer supply chains.

Homeland Security may find the combination of live tags and customer profiles hard to resist when investigating suspected terrorists, or as a means to monitor entire groups of people, said the privacy expert.

"The surveillance potential for RFID is huge," said Scott Blackmer, a lawyer and board member of the International Security, Trust and Privacy Alliance.

ISTPA has developed a privacy framework that organizations can use to comply with emerging privacy laws and policies.

P&G and other companies last week suggested they want to keep RFID tags active after checkout, rather than disabling them with so-called "kill machines." The companies also want to match the unique codes emitted by RFID tags to shoppers' personal information.

RFID will make it easy for companies and government investigators to establish the whereabouts of citizens, by reading the active tags on their clothing and other items in private and public places.

Investigators in divorce cases and criminal investigations already regularly subpoena E-Z Pass automatic toll records, which come from RFID readers, to figure out where an individual's car was at a particular time.


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