Privacy advocates call for RFID regulation

SACRAMENTO, Calif.–A handful of technology and consumer privacy experts testifying at a California Senate hearing Monday called for regulation of a controversial technology designed to wirelessly monitor everything from clothing to currency.

The hearing, presided over by state Sen. Debra Bowen, focused on an emerging area of technology that’s known as radio frequency identification (RFID). Retailers and manufacturers in the United States and Europe, including Wal-Mart Stores, have begun testing RFID systems, which use millions of special sensors to automatically detect the movement of merchandise in stores and monitor inventory in warehouses.

Proponents hail the technology as the next-generation bar code, allowing merchants and manufacturers to operate more efficiently and cut down on theft.

Privacy activists worry, however, that the unchecked use of RFID could end up trampling consumer privacy by allowing retailers to gather unprecedented amounts of information about activity in their stores and link it to customer information databases. They also worry about the possibility that companies, governments and would-be thieves might be able to monitor people’s personal belongings, embedded with tiny RFID microchips, after they are purchased. [News.com]

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