SACRAMENTO - Proposing
first-in-the-nation privacy standards for the use of Radio Frequency
Identification technology (RFID), Senator Debra Bowen (D-Redondo
Beach) introduced SB 1834 at the State Capitol.
"The privacy impact of letting manufacturers and stores put RFID
chips in the clothes, groceries, and everything else you buy is
enormous," said Bowen. "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."
Retailers and manufacturers hope to save millions of dollars by
automating the retail supply chain with RFID tracking systems,
but privacy advocates fear RFID will become as omnipresent as
video surveillance and give marketers another method of tracking
people's whereabouts, interests, and habits. SB 1834 requires
any business or state government agency using an RFID system that
can track products and people to:
* Tell people theyÁ|re 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.
"It really comes down to three basic principles," continued Bowen.
"First, you have a right to know when and where RFID technology
is being used. Second, anyone using RFID should get your consent
before they collect information about you. Third, the 'default'
should be that RFID tags on products get removed or destroyed
when you walk out the door, which takes care of many of the privacy
concerns - not the least of which is the fear that as you walk
through the mall, everything you're wearing and carrying could
one day be identified as you walk by RFID readers."
Some of the latest developments on RFID are:
* Wal-Mart has announced plans to require its top 100 goods suppliers
to tag shipping cases and pallets with RFID technology by 2005
and to require the rest of its suppliers to start using RFID tags
* Wal-Mart and Procter & Gamble have tested RFID tags on Max Factor
Lipfinity lipstick sold at the Wal-Mart store in Arrow, Oklahoma.
Store shelves equipped with Webcams allowed Procter & Gamble researchers
in Cincinnati, Ohio, to watch customers as they picked up and
looked at the lipsticks.
* The San Francisco Public Library Commission has approved plans
to start tagging library books with RFID chips by 2005-06. Questions
have been raised about whether the technology will give anyone
with an RFID reader, including homeland security agencies and
businesses, the ability to track and identify people and the library
books they're carrying.
Bowen chairs the Senate Subcommittee on New Technologies, which
held two hearings on RFID technology and privacy (August 18, 2003,
and November 20, 2003). The Uniform Code Council and the Grocery
Manufacturers of America (GMA) testified at the hearing on retail
and manufacturing industry plans for using RFID over the next
For more information (transcripts, witness testimony, backgrounder,
etc.) on the RFID hearings held in the Subcommittee on New Technologies
hearings on RFID technology go to:
SB 1834 will be assigned to a Senate policy committee in the coming