RFID Guidelines Released

The New York Times reports on a draft of RFID best-practices guidelines that are to be released today:

Among other things, the guidelines say that consumers should be notified when goods have radio tags, which can be invisibly buried in labels, packaging or the goods themselves. The guidelines also say that it should be clear to consumers how to disable disposable forms of the tags and that it should be easy to do so once items with such tags have been purchased. Businesses are called on to notify consumers about how information gathered from the tags will be used.

The guidelines were the work of a group of businesses and consumer advocates. Among the participants who are expected to endorse the guidelines are Procter & Gamble, I.B.M., Microsoft, Visa USA and the National Consumers League.

“This is a really good start,” said Susan Grant, vice president for public policy at the National Consumers League, a nonprofit advocacy group in Washington.

Yes, it is a start, and an important one given more and more manufacturers (like Levi’s) are starting to utilize RFID chips in their products. But as the EFF points out, there is much more to do:

Lee Tien, senior staff lawyer for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said that the new guidelines were a valuable “first step” but that they gave industry too much “wiggle room.”

He also noted that the guidelines ignored government use of RFID and privacy concerns for employees in business-to-business dealings.

Meanwhile, IBM will be demonstrating its design for an RFID tag with a disabling feature that limits – but doesn’t kill – a wireless chip’s ability to broadcast item information.

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