EC chucks RFID regs back to industry

Smart chips too hot to handle

CeBIT The European Commission effectively handed regulation of RFID to the RFID industry today when it announced the results of last year's consultation on the technology.

Commissioner for information society and media Viviane Reding said: "Today I'm going to tell you no regulation."

After announcing a consultation on the implications of RFID a year ago, Reding and her team have concluded the best thing to do is hand regulation over to the stakeholders. An RFID Stakeholder Group will provide advice and assistance to the commission in developing Europe's RFID policy. The group will work with the Article 29 Data Protection Working Party.

By the middle of this year, RFID related amendments to the e-Privacy Directive will be proposed. By the end of the year, we'll see a recommendation on how to handle data security and privacy. By the end of the next, together with the stakeholder group, the commission will decide whether any further legislation is needed.

Talking about the stakeholder group, she said: "We'll leave this group to come up with the regulations." The commission would rather concern itself with "raising awareness" and stressing "the absolute need for citizens to decide how their personal data is used".

The fact Reding herself admits that prior to last year's consultation she had little idea of what RFID was suggests awareness is something that definitely needs raising. Whether the commission can do this quickly enough that ordinary citizens can be meaningful participants in the stakeholder group is quite another matter.

Where the commission does seem to want to get involved is in driving standardisation to ensure Europe is major player in the world of RFID.

It seems Reding has drunk a large glass of RFID-enable koolaid, predicting the market, worth €500m last year, will be worth €7bn by 2016. It seems this will come from value added to existing industries - eg, pharma, retail – rather than a rash of factories turning out RFID chips and scanners.

The EU has carved out a chunk of spectrum for RFID. Reding has already been working closely with the US and is heading to Asia next week to bang the gong. The US is to follow suit very soon. ®

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