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There is an article on that reports on the current level of hysteria in California over RFID use in stores and libraries.  I found one paragraph to be particularly amusing.

“Privacy advocates fear RFID will become as omnipresent as video surveillance and give marketers an even more sophisticated way to track people's whereabouts, interests and habits. For example, could a store's RFID readers collect information on what products a shopper previously purchased?”

Unless you have paid cash for every purchase you have ever made in every store anywhere, the answer is already YES, even without RFID.  Credit cards, debit cards, customer appreciation cards and possibly even gift cards are all trackable.  The article has a cute I-need-to-ensure-I-get-votes-in-the-next-election quote from the bill's sponsor State Senator Debra Bowen (D-Redondo Beach).

"There's no reason to let RFID sneak up on us when we have the ability to put some privacy protections in place before the genie's completely out of the bottle," said Bowen.

Um ... too late by several decades.  The RFID hysteria is similar to what went on with bar codes.  The problem businesses have is that of too much data.  They have little interest and few business case arguments to track individuals.  There is a big business case in preventing theft, a good percentage of which is done by employees.

It seems this has turned into another rant about “advocates.”  In this case it is “privacy advocates.”  Who voted for them to be our defenders?  Why are they fighting against something that should reduce the cost of goods sold?  I would endorse such measures if the privacy advocates pay me for the difference in cost I will incur as a result of their breathless fearful suppositions.  That seems fair.

Posted on Saturday, May 1, 2004 6:03 AM & Etc. | Back to top

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