RFID tags: commercial applications v. privacy rights

DOIhttps://doi.org/10.1108/02635570510606950
Pages703-713
Publication Date01 August 2005
Date01 August 2005
AuthorEileen P. Kelly,G. Scott Erickson
SubjectEconomics,Information & knowledge management,Management science & operations
RFID tags: commercial
applications v. privacy rights
Eileen P. Kelly and G. Scott Erickson
Ithaca College, School of Business, Ithaca, New York, USA
Abstract
Purpose – This article seeks to examine the use of radio frequency identification (RFID) technology
in commercial applications and to discuss whether regulation is needed to balance commercial
economic interests versus consumer privacy and libertarian concerns.
Design/methodology/approach – This paper covers discussions and comparative studies of
others’ work and thinking.
Findings – RFID technology provides enormous economic benefits for both business and consumers,
while simultaneously potentially constituting one of the most invasive surveillance technologies
threatening consumer privacy.
Practical implications The use of RFID technology has profound consumer privacy, civil liberty
and security implications.
Originality/value – RFID technology is at an embryonic stage. Like many new technologies, it
poses both potential benefit and harm to society. The article recommends that legislation is needed to
tip the balance enough to provide adequate privacy protection without unduly harming economic
efficiency.
Keywords Radio waves, Productidentification, Surveillance,Privacy, Inventory control,
Distributionmanagement
Paper type Conceptual paper
The telescreen received and transmitted simultaneously. Any sound that Winston made,
above the level of a very low whisper would be picked up by it; moreover, so long as he
remained within the field of vision which the metal plaque commanded, he could be seen as
well as heard. There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at
any given moment (Orwell, 1983, p. 2).
The above quote is excerpted from George Orwell’s classic book, 1984 (Orwell, 1983),
which depicts one man’s treacherous journey through a totalitarian state in which Big
Brother controls all information and citizen access to it. Fortunately, this nightmarish
scenario is fictional, or is it?
A silent revolution is occurring in retail surveillance technology unbeknownst to
most consumers. Radio frequency identification (RFID) technology provides enormous
economic benefits for both business and consumers, while simultaneously potentially
constituting one of the most invasive surveillance technologies threatening consumer
privacy. As businesses rapidly embrace the use of RFID technology, companies will
have the tools available to monitor consumers in unprecedented fashion. “RFID
technology actually can enable tracing of a product through the entire life cycle, from
the production line all the way to the recycling center” (Stermer, 2001).
While RFID technology provides clear benefits in inventory control and supply
chain management, it also has the potential to create a surveillance based society. The
The Emerald Research Register for this journal is available at The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at
www.emeraldinsight.com/researchregister www.emeraldinsight.com/0263-5577.htm
RFID tags
703
Industrial Management & Data
Systems
Vol. 105 No. 6, 2005
pp. 703-713
qEmerald Group Publishing Limited
0263-5577
DOI 10.1108/02635570510606950

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT