Informed Consent: Ethical Considerations of RFID

Written by Dennis and Sally Bacchetta

He who mounts a wild elephant goes whererepparttar wild elephant goes. Randolph Bourne

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) has incubated in relative obscurity for over 60 years, quietly changing our lives with scant attention outsiderepparttar 133336 technology community. First used to identify Allied aircraft in World War II, RFID is now well integrated in building security, transportation, fast food, health care and livestock management.

Proponents hail RFID asrepparttar 133337 next natural step in our technological evolution. Opponents forewarn of unprecedented privacy invasion and social control. Which is it? That’s a bit like asking if Christopher Columbus was an intrepid visionary or a ruthless imperialist. It depends on your perspective. One thing is clear: As RFID extends its roots into common culture we each bear responsibility for tending its growth.

For Your Eyes Only

RFID functions as a network of microchip transponders and readers that enablesrepparttar 133338 mainstream exchange of more — and more specific — data than ever before. Every RFID transponder, or “smart tag”, is encrypted with a unique electronic product code (EPC) that distinguishesrepparttar 133339 tagged item from any other inrepparttar 133340 world. “Smart tags” are provocatively designed with both read and write capabilities, which means that each time a reader retrieves an EPC from a tag, that retrieval becomes part ofrepparttar 133341 EPC’s dynamic history. This constant imprinting provides real-time tracking of a tagged item at any point in its lifespan.

Recognizingrepparttar 133342 potential commercial benefits ofrepparttar 133343 technology, scientists atrepparttar 133344 Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) began developing retail applications of RFID in 1999. Install a reader in a display shelf and it becomes a “smart shelf”. Network that with other readers throughoutrepparttar 133345 store and you’ve got an impeccable record of customers interacting with products — fromrepparttar 133346 shelf torepparttar 133347 shopper; fromrepparttar 133348 shopper torepparttar 133349 cart; fromrepparttar 133350 cart torepparttar 133351 cashier, etc.

Proctor & Gamble, The Gillette Company and Wal-Mart were amongrepparttar 133352 first to provide financial and empirical support torepparttar 133353 project. Less than five years later RFID has eclipsed UPC bar coding asrepparttar 133354 next generation standard of inventory control and supply chain management. RFID offers unparalleled inventory control at reduced labor costs; naturallyrepparttar 133355 retail industry is excited.

Katherine Albrecht foundedrepparttar 133356 consumer advocacy group CASPIAN (Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering) to educate consumers aboutrepparttar 133357 potential dangers of automatic-identification technology. She warns that “smart tags” — dubbed “spy chips” — increase retailer profits atrepparttar 133358 expense of consumer privacy.

RFID provides a continuous feed of our activities as we peek, poke, squeeze and shake tagged items throughoutrepparttar 133359 store. Advocacy groups consider this electronic play-by-play a treasure for corporate marketing and a tragedy for consumer privacy.

Albrecht’s apprehension is understandable. However, shopping in any public venue is not private. It’s public. The decision to be in a public space includes a tacit acknowledgement that one can be seen by others. That’srepparttar 133360 difference betweenrepparttar 133361 public world andrepparttar 133362 private world.

What if those worlds collide? CASPIAN and other consumer groups are concerned about retailers using RFID to connect public activities with private information. Because each EPC leaves a singular electronic footprint, linking each item of each transaction of each customer with personally identifying information, anyone with access torepparttar 133363 system can simply followrepparttar 133364 footprints to a dossier ofrepparttar 133365 customer and their purchases.

Again, we must be clear. RFID does enable retailers to surveil consumers and link them with their purchasing histories. As disconcerting as that may be, it is neither new nor unique to RFID. Anyone who uses credit cards agrees to forfeit some degree of privacy forrepparttar 133366 privilege of buying now and paying later. Credit card companies collect and retain your name, address, telephone and Social Security numbers. This personal information is used to trackrepparttar 133367 date, time, location, items and price of every purchase made withrepparttar 133368 card?

Don’t use credit cards? Unless you pay with cash, someone is monitoring you too. The now familiar UPC bar codes on nearly all consumer goods neatly cataloguerepparttar 133369 intimate details of all check and bank card purchases. Cash remainsrepparttar 133370 last outpost forrepparttar 133371 would-be anonymous consumer. Of course, all things are subject to change. RFID inks may be coming soon to a currency near you, but that’s a discussion for another day.

If RFID is no more intrusive than a curious fellow shopper or a ceiling mounted security camera, what isrepparttar 133372 downside for consumer groups? If RFID is no more revealing than a bank or credit card transaction, what isrepparttar 133373 upside forrepparttar 133374 corporate suits? There must be more.

Indeed, there is. Bear in mind that “smart tags” are uniquely designed to pinpoint tagged items anytime, anywhere from point of origin through point of sale. And, theoretically, beyond.

Ah,repparttar 133375 great beyond. RFID’s potential is limited only by our imaginations. And not just our imaginations;repparttar 133376 imagination of anyone who has a reader and a transponder. Wal-Mart. Your employer. The government. Anyone.

Everything Costs Something

Members of German privacy group FOEBUD see shadowy strangers lurking inrepparttar 133377 imagination playground. Their February 2004 demonstration in front of Metro’s RFID-rigged Future Store was intended to raise public awareness ofrepparttar 133378 implications of RFID.

"Becauserepparttar 133379 spy chips are not destroyed atrepparttar 133380 shop exit, they continue to be readable to any interested party, such as other supermarkets, authorities, or anyone in possession of a reading device (available torepparttar 133381 general public)... The antennas used for reading are still visible inrepparttar 133382 Future Store, but soon they will be hidden in walls, doorways, railings, at petrol pumps anywhere. And we won't know anymore who is when or why spying on us, watching us, following each of our steps." 1

Freedom is Slavery Dan Mullen would call that an overreaction. Mullen isrepparttar 133383 President of auto-identification consortium AIM Global. He cautions that unrealistic fear can obscurerepparttar 133384 very real benefits of RFID: “Many ofrepparttar 133385 concerns expressed by some ofrepparttar 133386 advocacy groups are frankly, inflated. The technology can be set up so that identifying information is associated withrepparttar 133387 item, not withrepparttar 133388 people interacting withrepparttar 133389 item. Tracking individuals? That’s not howrepparttar 133390 technology is used."

When asked, “Could it be used that way?” Mullen was doubtful. “I don’t think so. Not at this point. And I don’t see a benefit to anyone.” We ’d like to think he’s right, but someone obviously sees a benefit. RFID has been used exactly that way.

Wal-Mart is one ofrepparttar 133391 retailers who have tested photographic “smart shelves” in some of their U.S. stores. The technology did what it was supposed to do — photograph customers who removed tagged items from a display. Unfortunately, Wal-Mart didn’t do what they were supposed to do. Goliath didn’t tell David aboutrepparttar 133392 camera.

Intranet? What intranet?

Written by Dominic Lachance

If your employees are not familiar with your intranet site, then it is quite possible that it isn’t very effective.

What is an intranet? First of all, let’s look at what an intranet is. An intranet is a Web site that can be viewed only by an organization’s employees, and notrepparttar general public. An Extranet is similarly limited in audience, sometimes limited to an organization and its suppliers or clients.

Okay then, how does it differ from an Internet Web site? From a technology perspective, there is no difference. intranet and Internet sites both userepparttar 133335 same media, web programming and server technology. Where they differ is in their respective goals andrepparttar 133336 resulting design requirements.

Very often an Internet site’s goals may be to:

attract and develop new customers sell products or services informrepparttar 133337 general public inform shareholders In sum, an Internet site’s main focus should be to support an organization’s marketing and communications goals. However, too often an Internet Web site is created because “we need a Web site because everyone has one” rather than using it as an effective tool. This is a topic for another discussion.

So how does an intranet differ? First of all, becauserepparttar 133338 audience is employees instead of potential customers, with an intranet we are not trying to sell anything and we don’t need to impress anyone. Instead,repparttar 133339 intranet plays primarily a corporate communications role with two main goals:

to keep employees informed of important information that is deemed necessary for them to know to provide information that employees feel is necessary to know These two goals may seem to berepparttar 133340 same thing but in factrepparttar 133341 first goal often represents what management andrepparttar 133342 webmaster think is important andrepparttar 133343 second is what individual employees think is important. Quite often intranets followrepparttar 133344 first goal only andrepparttar 133345 structure ofrepparttar 133346 site resemblesrepparttar 133347 organization’s organizational chart. The result is that employees may not find information that they are looking for because it isn’t there or it isn’t presented in a way that they can find it easily. For instance, an employee is looking for a form. Should he look onrepparttar 133348 Finance page orrepparttar 133349 Human Resources page?

Common intranet Problems So we know what an intranet is supposed to do, how do we know whether it is fulfilling its role? Here are few symptoms of an intranet that is not succeeding:

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