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RFID tags used in retail products will have to be deactivated at the point of sale to protect consumers’ privacy under draft guidelines drawn up by the European Commission (EC).

A public consultation has been launched that will run until 25 April 2008. The EC hopes its recommendations will be adopted by all 27 member states by the summer.

The RFID (radio frequency identification) devices are used for a variety of functions like inventory management. The guidelines address growing privacy concerns among consumers that their movements can be tracked and monitored after a purchase has been made.

EU Commissioner for Information Society Viviane Reding, who yesterday announced the proposals, handed regulation of smart chip technology over to the industry in March last year.

She recommends that retailers automatically deactivate the RFID tags at point of sale unless the consumer chooses to leave it active.

Reding wants a common logo to be created that alerts customers that a product carries an RFID chip to avoid them being used covertly. Trade bodies are also being urged to draw up a manufacturers’ code of conduct.

The full guidelines can be viewed here. ®

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