Sat, 25 March 2006
A new consumer goods tracking system called Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is poised to enter all of our lives, with profound implications for consumer privacy. RFID couples radio frequency (RF) identification technology with highly miniaturized computers that enable products to be identified and tracked at any point along the supply chain. The system can be applied to virtually any physical item, from pets and people to ballpoint pens and toothpaste, each potentially carrying a unique identifier embedded in a chip. Uniqueness of RFID tags enables individual tracking of a product from location to location, even to the consumer, aids in combating theft and other forms of product loss, and facilitates quality control and product recalls. There may soon come a day when RFID will be used to identify and track every item produced on the planet, contributing to concerns over post-sale tracking and profiling of consumers. If you’re skeptical, consider the following quote: “I think the industry has sold itself on a program that offers so little return that it simply won’t be worth the trouble and expense.? Not from a critic of RFID, but from a Midwestern Grocery Chain Executive discussing (in 1975) the potential of the barcode.