Jack Grasso is the Senior Director of Public Relations for EPCglobal US.
What factors have contributed to the news media’s negative portrayal of RFID technology?
Much of the early work and publicity surrounding RFID was focused much too far into the future and on applications outside of the supply chain. Pervasive item-level tagging is many years away. The true benefits of RFID will come in the near term at the pallet and case level deep in the supply chain. Moreover, when educated with the facts, consumers overwhelmingly support the use of RFID for the benefits they expect to receive from the technology. In fact, in a recent Capgemini study more than 60 percent of the consumers surveyed said they would welcome RFID-tagged products to gain access to safer prescriptions, fresher produce and faster recovery of stolen goods.
Should there be federal legislation limiting the use of RFID technology and the information it is able to gather?
We are committed to understanding and addressing the complex questions that surround public policy relative to RFID. We believe that any legislation that unduly regulates RFID and EPC technologies and slows the adoption of the technology is not in the best interest of consumers or industry. There is also some misinformation that exists in the marketplace about the capabilities of the technology.
The following are facts about the technology:
- The EPC is merely a license plate for a product. It is only equipped to contain serial numbers and does not contain personal information.
- Current applications of the technology help companies see how, when and where the products move within the supply chain to improve efficiencies and reduce out of stock situations.
- The licensing arrangements for EPC technology specifically prohibit the use of the technology for tracking or identifying people.
- The technology currently has limitations:
- EPC tags cannot be read at great distances with an average read range of less than five feet.
- Radio waves do not travel easily through all materials.
- Dense materials such as frozen foods, certain metals and liquids do not allow the radio waves to penetrate.
What steps should companies exploring item-level RFID programs take to protect their customers from perceived or actual violations of privacy?
As companies move forward with their implementations of the technology they should move forward at the same pace adopting our guiding principles around the responsible deployment of RFID and EPC technologies. These principles state that:
- Consumers should be given notice when the technology is in use
- Choice over using or disposing of the tag after purchase
- Education about the technology and its uses and
- Control of information retained through the use of EPC technologies.