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EU Commissioner launches public consultation on RFID technology

According to statements by the EU Commissioner Viviane Reding the EU yesterday launched a public consultation on the radio technology known as RFID. "If we cannot solve the problem of trust as it relates to RFID technology, the technology won't be able to take off properly," Ms. Reding said at the CeBIT event yesterday according to the German news agency dpa. Many people had voiced privacy and data protection concerns about the new technology, which in the opinion of some experts could soon revolutionize not only the realm of global logistics but also the way we shop in a supermarket, she observed.

The market would be growing rapidly in the next few years, Commissioner Reding added. The EU had to respond to these developments. "It is a question of competitiveness," she said. RFID would only catch on, however, if all doubts about the technology were dispelled, she noted. Doubts about the technology were apparent among, for instance, the civil rights campaigners of the association FoeBuD, who yesterday staged a demonstration against the technology at the CeBIT stand of the major trading group Metro.

Toward the end of the year the EU Commissioner means to present concrete proposals on the topic. In the meantime she would be talking to consumer protection organizations, industrial associations and governments, in an attempt to discuss the deployment of RFID technologies and its attendant problems, Ms. Reding explained. "What we also need, for example, is a uniform standard not only for Europe but for the world as a whole," she declared.

"The public debate on RFID launched by the Commission will rely on a series of workshops to build consensus on key issues associated with the use of RFID. These workshops will address RFID applications, end-user issues, interoperability and standards, and frequency spectrum requirements. They will take place in Brussels between March and June 2006 and their conclusions will assist the European Commission in drafting a working document on RFID. This document will be published in September in an online consultation. Additional feedback obtained will then be analyzed and integrated in a Commission Communication on RFID, to be adopted before the end of the year," it says in yesterday's press release by the European Commission.

The Commission would also be stepping up its exchanges on RFID with the United States and Asia, "in order to define globally-accepted interoperability standards and practices with regard to data privacy and ethical principles when applying the technology," the statement goes on to say.

Robert W. Smith

Heise Online, Hannover, 10. März 2006

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