RFID developers aim to neutralise opposition

By EDRi · July 16, 2003

Developers of Radio Frequency Identification (RFIDs) are making plans to ‘neutralize opposition’ to their new technology. The strategy is discussed in confidential documents from the Auto-ID Center, in which RFID developers work together. The documents were uncovered by Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering (CASPIAN) through a security glitch on the Auto-ID Center’ website.

In the document ‘Managing External Communications’, PR company Fleishman-Hillard states that the “political climate and shifting public perception require a proactive plan that (…) neutralizes opposition and mitigates possible public backlash”.

The document advises the Auto-ID Center to establish an ‘International Privacy Advisory Council’ made up of ‘potentially adversarial advocates’ such as the European Consumers’ Union. It also suggests to ‘educate top-tier opinion leaders’ such as officials from the EU Commission and members of the European Parliament Industry Committee.

Other documents describe privacy as the key issue to overcome since 78 percent of the consumers have privacy concerns regarding RFIDs. At the same time, the Auto-ID Center also expects consumers to be ‘apathetic’ and willing to ‘resign themselves to the inevitability of it’ instead of acting on their concerns. Other strategies in the communications strategy, such as renaming RFIDs into Green-Tags, are also discussed.

RFIDs are very small radio chips that transmit a unique serial code when a reader is placed in their proximity. Consumer groups and privacy advocates are campaigning for rules that inform consumers about the tags in or on products (notification) and a default disabling of tags when leaving the supermarket.


Confidential Auto-ID Center documents