Commission investigates right to 'chip silence'
Will it help me shut these bloody yoghurt pots up?
The European Commission is to investigate whether or not people have the right to disappear from the ever-more pervasive digital networks that surround them.
The Commission has expressed concern about the privacy implications of personally-identifying technologies such as radio frequency identification (RFID) chips. It said that it is important to discuss whether or not people should be able to disappear from networks.
"The Commission will launch a debate on the technical and legal aspects of the ‘right to silence of the chips’, which has been referred to under different names by different authors and expresses the idea that individuals should be able to disconnect from their networked environment at any time," said a Commission consultation paper.
The consultation will form part of an action plan published by the Commission outlining how it will legislate and regulate the coming phenomenon it calls the 'internet of things'. This is the name it gives to the increasing automatic communication between devices and tags that are forming complex networks around citizens.
"Every day we see new examples of applications that connect objects to the internet and each other: from cars connected to traffic lights that fight congestion, to home appliances connected to smart power grids and energy metering that allows people to be aware of their electricity consumption or connected pedestrian footpaths that guide the visually impaired," said Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for Information Society and Media.
"The promise of this new development of the internet is as limitless as the number of objects in our daily life it involves. However, we need to make sure that Europeans, as citizens, as entrepreneurs and as consumers, lead the technology, rather than the technology leading us," she said.
The Commission believes that existing trends towards the interconnection of objects as well as people using networks will continue.
"These can be simple everyday items like yoghurt pots that record the temperature along their supply chain, or two prescription drugs that warn patients of a possible incompatibility," said its statement outlining its plans. "Or they can be more sophisticated, such as health monitoring or recycling systems… with everyone surrounded daily by several thousand objects, this interconnection of physical objects will amplify the profound effects that modern communications are having on our society."
The Commission has outlined the areas in which it will take action to try to ensure that any new object networks do not trample on the rights of the individuals who interact with them.
Its first objective is to create a set of principles which it wants to underlie the 'internet of things'. It wants to make sure that privacy and data protection are considered from the outset in the building of any systems, and wants to ensure change is measured. It will produce statistics on the use of RFID chips starting in December of this year, it said.
The report can be read here (pdf).
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Well I for one...
... welcome our privacy watching overlords.
I think the first step would be banning ISP's from being able to packet sniff or profile any of your information without a court order, especially selling "sniffing spots" on their networks for rackets like Phorm - they are meant to be a gateway, if it isn't profitable being one then maybe we should nationalise our network properly and run it as an essential public service, not a luxury.
The second would be like somebody said above, making it the law to make it completely obvious what the devices are and are not doing, and not being allowed to add the catch all "these terms may be changed at any time without prior notification" to eula's etc.
XP phone home
This should be fun for proprietary software vendors with excessive DRM.
Is it society that defines the citizen or the citizens that define the society?
Many RFID tags, and indeed other traceable devices, are put their for the convenience and benefit of the manufacturer (temperature on Yoghurt is to help with supply chain management in case there is litigation later from a customer claiming food poisoning (Not our product M.Lord.. or You stored it badly...) but can be of benefit in tracking down to individual purchasing tastes. Neither of these cause me concern but the data in the wrong hands can be of immense "value" from which I derive no tangible return - indeed it costs me 'cos RFID is not without cost!
Only the customer pays - in the end - but we have no input to the process as legislators and manufacturers will decide. If mandated we can't withdraw.
Every product is required to carry a CE mark(?) and may be this is were the RFID ID tags and the like should be located so that a user - like me - can just snip it off if we don't want to be part of the system.
The only change to the law would then be the requirement to locate RFID tags in a removable position. Game over?