By the Blouin News Technology staff

Europe makes moves to regulate RFID

by in Personal Tech.

EU commissioner for Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes. AFP/Getty Images

E.U. commissioner for Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes. AFP/Getty Images

As gadgets begin to incorporate better technology for device-to-device communication, and as companies develop smart objects for the future internet of things, governments are slowly looking at how to regulate such a network of devices. Even though technology such as radio-frequency identification (RFID) and near-field communication (NFC) has been around for years, governments are realizing the pending need for privacy controls on devices that carry such technology. The European Commission has most recently taken steps to control the use of RFID, and to ensure that products that carry them do not violate user privacy rights.

RFID is technology used to tag physical objects using chips implanted in the devices. Objects can be tagged and tracked wirelessly using electromagnetic fields that transfer data. The technology is widely used in various industries for a multitude of purposes including tracking items being manufactured through the supply chain, inventory and stocking, all types of human and animal identification, and a host of other functions. But where consumers are concerned is the marketing aspect of RFID. Objects that include RFID technology can tell companies where users frequently shop, what types of items they buy, their oft-visited locations, etc.


Source: VDC Research

Source: VDC Research

The E.C. recently implemented measures to curb the widely unknown activation of objects that include RFID. To keep RFID-enabled objects within data protection rules in Europe, the E.U. is rolling out a voluntary program for companies to label their products with a sanctioned RFID logo that lets consumers know the products carry such chips. The Commission has urged retailers to make default the deactivation of stock-control RFID tags at the point of sale for free, and has recommended that companies using smart chips to make clear what data is encoded in the products and how it will be used.

European Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes said in the official statement:

Smart tags and systems are part of everyday life now, they simplify systems and boost our economy. But it is important to have standards in place which ensure those benefits do not come at a cost to data protection and security of personal data.

Even though the measure is voluntary, companies have started to come on board. The importance of the ruling is that it sets the stage for future regulation of the internet of things — should one standard network connect the myriad of devices that are equipped with such communications technology. Once RFID– and NFC–enabled devices are sold in droves, parameters for their tracking and usage will be paramount.