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European Commission proposes RFID strategy

Posted: 20 Mar 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:RFID? RFID tags? smart radio tags? European Commission?

Exactly a year after launching an extensive Europe-wide public consultation on RFID tags, the European Commission unveiled proposals for an RFID strategy to address the privacy concerns of citizens.

"From fighting counterfeits to better healthcare, smart RFID-chips offers tremendous opportunities for business and society," said information society and media commissioner Viviane Reding when presenting the Commission's strategy at the CeBIT fair. "Last year I said here at CeBIT that we should stimulate the use of RFID technology in Europe whilst safeguarding personal data and privacy. The Commission's Europe-wide public consultation in 2006 identified a strong lack of awareness and considerable concern among citizens. The Commission's RFID strategy will therefore seek to raise awareness, stress the absolute need for citizens to decide how their personal data is used and ensure that Europe removes existing obstacles to RFID's enormous potential."

The economic potential of smart radio tags can hardly be underestimated. In 2006 alone, over 1 billion RFID tags were sold worldwide, and by 2016 it might be over 500 times this number. The European market is estimated to grow from $665 million in 2006 to $9.3 billion by 2016. Europe is also a leading international player for RFID R&D, and its industry is strongly placed, the Commission said.

However, awareness about the potential of RFID is low. According to the Commission, about 60 percent of the 2,190 respondents to the public consultation in 2006 said they did not know enough to adequately assess the pros and cons of RFID technology. Of those who are aware, 70 percent believed that technical solutions were the best way to reduce security, data protection and privacy concerns, 67 percent expressed their support for awareness-raising campaigns to educate consumers, and 55 percent called for RFID regulations.

To enhance Europe's ability to reap the economic and social benefits of RFID technology while answering consumer concerns, the Commission published last week the RFID Communication, enumerating the steps to be taken for by the Commission for its new RFID policy.

According to the RFID Communication, the Commission will create an RFID Stakeholder Group to provide advice and assistance to the Commission in developing a European policy position concerning RFID applications and propose amendments to the e-Privacy Directive to take account of RFID applications.

By the end of 2007, the Commission will publish a recommendation on how to handle date security and privacy of smart radio tags to Member States and stakeholders. In association with the Stakeholder Group, the Commission will then analyze the economic and social effects of smart radio tags and other technologies, particularly focusing on privacy, trust and governance, leading to an assessment of policy options and need for further legislative steps, by the end of 2008.

The RFID Communication also highlighted where the Commission wants to ensure that further development and deployment of smart radio tags are as safe, secure, privacy-friendly and effective as possible. This includes looking at research and innovation, the availability of radio spectrum, standardization, environmental and health issues, and also ensuring that digital identities are well protected against abuse.

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