Are U 4 RFID? or Is RFID 4 U?

19 Mar 2006|Darrel Rhea

The ubiquitous use of RFIDs (Radio Frequency Identification Devices) is finally starting to show up on the radar screen of consumer outcry. It’s ironic that the latest hue is from Berkeley bibliophiles. Upon learning of the impending use of RFID technology in the Berkeley Public Library, protesters have avowed to boycott it. I don’t remember reading anything similar when San Francisco and Seattle discussed implementing RFIDs a few years ago, and not even when Santa Clara Public Library tagged all of their materials in 2000. Is it the Berkeley mind-set, or is it that the public is finally catching up to what is going on?

This is perfect timing for socially conscious and consumer-savvy manufacturers to grasp the opportunity to demonstrate to their customers that they are listening and that they care. It may be by choosing to curtail RFID use (and make sure they leverage this a la PR). Or it may be through communication and education. Everybody touts their “privacy policy” these days; maybe there will be a ubiquitous “RFID policy,” or “RFID-FAQ.”

Sometimes when I discuss the to-RFID or not-to-RFID issue with others, I hear that a primary concern is the privacy issue. Whatever happened to those early discussions about cookies, when their proliferation became common knowledge? Have we just accepted them as necessary evil? For that matter, when was the last time you went into your system and cleared out unwanted cookies? (Do you even know where they are?) My speculation is that in the not too distant future, we will all gloss over RFIDs in the same way, and maybe only once in a while take steps to rid our products or their packaging of the pesky things.

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