Electronic tags worry privacy chief
Tiny electronic chips called radio frequency identification devices that track goods from manufacture to point of sale could be used to collect information about consumer habits and even the consumers themselves, Canada's Privacy Commissioner warns.
"This is a major new issue because it gives the possibility for every object in the world to be uniquely identified and to be tied to people by the linking of our personal information with the object," Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart said yesterday.
RFIDs can be placed in just about anything that is sold to, or used by, people, including bank cards, credit cards, money, passports, luggage, badges and wrist bands, clothing, vehicles and vehicle parts, appliances, phones, drugs, documents and food packaging.
Because they can be read from a distance, "it may not be readily apparent that RFID technology is in use, making it virtually impossible for a person to know when or if he or she is being scanned," "Even if information about the tagged item remains generic, identifying items people wear or carry could associate them with particular events -- for example, political rallies or protests,"
But if an RFID can tie a product to a person through their credit card or some other identifier, that person could be tracked or a profile of their purchasing habits could be created.
The commissioner said she hopes all of the products that contain the tags will provide some notification of their presence and that consumers will be told how to turn them off. She also wants to ensure that the tags are not allowed to contain personal information.