October 17, 2017

Privacy Groups Push For Guarded Approach to General RFID Use

By LJ Staff

The use of RFID (radio frequency identification) technology in library checkout has raised some concerns among privacy advocates, even though vendors say the fears are unfounded. Outside of libraries, RFID use is proliferating even more, and some 30 organization, including the American Civil Liberties Union, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the Electronic Privacy Information Center have signed a statement warning about proper use of RFID and calling for protection against abuses.

“Used improperly, RFID has the potential to jeopardize consumer privacy, reduce or eliminate purchasing anonymity, and threaten civil liberties,” the statement says. “To mitigate the potential harmful consequences of RFID to individuals and to society, we recommend a three-part framework. First, RFID must undergo a formal technology assessment, and RFID tags should not be affixed to individual consumer products until such assessment takes place.” Also, RFID implementation must be guided by Principles of Fair Information Practice, including transparency, specification of the purposes for which tags are used, and limits on collection of information. Finally, the groups say that certain uses of RFID should be flatly prohibited, such as tracking individuals without their consent. While some of the issues addressed in the statement have implications for library use of RFID, the statement does not specifically address such use.