Now for Something Completely Different

March 8, 2004

How do you feel about RFID?

RFID, or Radio Frequency Identification technology, may just be the next big thing in meeting planning, according to a session on upcoming trends I attended at this year’s PCMA conference. The technology would potentially allow planners to really track attendees by using RFID in badges. But if the invasion of privacy this entails gives you the willies (as it does me!), the battle’s already being fought on the retail front, long before it hits the convention center.

According to an article in the March 2 edition of PromoXtra e-newsletter, "Senator Debra Bowen (D-Redondo Beach, Calif.) said that retailers and manufacturers hope to save millions of dollars by automating the retail supply chain with RFID tracking systems, but that privacy advocates fear the technology will become omnipresent and give marketers another method to track people's whereabouts and habits.

"’The privacy impact of letting manufacturers and stores put RFID chips in the clothes, groceries and everything else you buy is enormous,’ Bowen said in a statement. ‘There's no reason to let RFID sneak up on us when we have the ability to put some privacy protections in place before the genie's out of the bottle.’"

That’s why she backs SB 1834, which "requires any business or state government agency using RFID technology with the capability to track products and people to:

-Tell people they are using an RFID system that can track and collect information about them.
-Get express consent before tracking and collecting information.
-Detach or destroy RFID tags that are attached to a product offered for sale before the customer leaves the store."

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