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Europe calls for rules on RFID chips

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The European Commission has put out a series of recommendations to protect European citizens from the privacy risks associated with RFID chips.

Radio Frequency IDentification chips are used across the continent. Applications include Oyster travel cards, building access cards and for tracking inventory. Retailers are increasingly using the chips - either attached to individual items or more often attached to pallets of items.

But the Commission is calling on member states to work to ensure that privacy controls are included when designing systems using the chips.

These include deactivating chips when they are no longer required - for instance when leaving a shop.

Viviane Reding, the EU's tech Commissioner, said the RFID industry offered clear economic potential for Europe but that consumers must be protected. She said: "European consumers must be confident that if and when their personal data is involved, their privacy will be impregnable also in a changing technological environment. The Commission therefore wants RFID technology to empower consumers to control their data security."

She also recommended that companies starting RFID projects offer punters clear and simple information on use of the chips and personal data. Retail bodies should pay for consumer awareness campaigns to explain the chips.

Any group running an RFID project should carry out a privacy and data protection impact assessment first.

About one in three of the 2.2bn RFID tags sold in 2008 were sold in Europe.

Reding noted that the success of the RFID industry was dependent on acceptance from consumers - something that would only happen if they were happy with the privacy protections offered.

Press statement is here. ®

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