Background Knowledge RFID


RFID technology is used to identify objects and people unambiguously and correctly. It is used in very different ways as e.g. access control systems, theft prevention and in many logistics applications. One of the major advantages lies in the fact that RFID tags can be read at a distance and through packing materials - meaning the label does not need line of sight as e.g. barcode labels do. Examples such as ski passes where the tag is read at a distance allowing the skier to enter the lift almost without delay show the potential of the technology to allow new comfort features. On the other hand, objects carrying tags can be identified remotely even if they are being carried e.g. in a shopping bag by a customer. Associating active tags with people has led to the widespread data protection demands by civil rights groups which show that this type of application - especially if it is without the clear consent of the customer as is the case in the ski pass case - should be avoided. These privacy issues increase in case the data collected without consent is stored in databases and used for profiling purposes.

To overcome legitimate privacy concerns, different approaches have been suggested such as a (mandatory) sign indicating RFID use or the deactivation of tags e.g. at the cash register after payment. First priority whenever associating tags with people always has to be good communication of the objectives and a high transparency of what is being done to alleviate the privacy concerns otherwise bound to appear.