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Press release: Spy chips: RFID industry prefers PR offensive to constructive dialogue

Together with FoeBuD, the Deutsche Vereinigung für Datenschutz (DVD, German Association for Data Protection) criticises the unconstructive stance of the RFID industry who rather gives criticism-free jubilations than join in a contructive and critical dialogue.

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Joint press release by FoeBuD and Deutsche Vereinigung für Datenschutz (DVD, German Association for Data Protection)

Spy chips: RFID industry prefers PR stunt to constructive dialogue

On Thursday, 19 Jan 2006, the German RFID industry staged a lobbying event on the premises of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Science. It was hosted by the "RFID information forum", an association of retail and industry organisations, and organised by Pleon, one of Germany's leading PR companies. Invitations were restricted to representatives from politics, business and the media. Critics of RFID use, such as privacy and civil liberties advocates, and concerned members of the public were excluded. "At enormous cost, the RFID industry is pressing on with the introduction of this control and surveillance technology. On the other hand, industry and retailers are blockading opportunities for dialogue, such as the RFID expert forum at the ministry of economy. It seems that they want to snuff out criticism through PR", was the verdict of Rena Tangens from FoeBuD.

Since the summer of 2004, the federal government had invited retailers, privacy and consumer groups to several meetings of an expert forum that was to figure out guidelines for RFID implementation in consumer products. DVD speaker Sönke Hilbrans says: "The spread of RFID in consumer goods as electronic product code (epc) tags entails serious privacy problems that go beyond public control. Despite intense discussions in the expert forum at the ministry of economy, the RFID lobby to this day refuses to acknowledge that RFID data in consumer goods are personal data. We are wondering if the industry is at all interested in an agreement with privacy and consumer protection groups."

Rena Tanges of FoeBuD shares this dissatisfaction with the way the talks have gone so far. "There is not even a believable voluntary obligation about consumer protection from the industry. All we have heard are non-binding declarations of intent being recycled in each and every working meeting. It seems obvious that the industry were just using the consultations to win time, while they are busy influencing politicians through paid lobbyists and creating facts with RFID implementations. With such delaying tactics the RFID lobby are trying to avoid effective RFID legislation that would protect the people. We will not accept this any longer."

Even if the civil liberty groups should leave the federal government's consultations, they keep regarding RFID chips an urgent issue. "We would use the extra time for more public campaigns, consumer information, protests and demonstrations", says Tangens. "But we are still open for constructive exchange."

RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) chips are small memory devices with an antenna and store a globally unique, identifying number that can be read by radio transmissions, without line-of-sight contact and unknown to the people carrying them. Retailers intend to use RFID as the successor of current bar code technology, among other applications. In contrast to the bar code, which only identifies the type of product, RFID allows the identification of individual items -- every single shirt, each package of cream cheese. This makes it possible to link tagged objects to the persons carrying or wearing them. RFID chips open a new dimension of gathering data and surveilling and manipulating people. RFID chips concern people not just as consumers, they can become a danger to civil liberties and democracy.

Background information (mostly German):


Rena Tangens (FoeBuD), phone +49 521 175254, Fax: +49 521 61172

Sönke Hilbrans (DVD), phone +49 30 44679218

FoeBuD, Marktstr. 18, D-33602 Bielefeld, Germany,

Deutsche Vereinigung für Datenschutz, Bonner Talweg 33-35, D-53113 Bonn, Germany,

2006-01-31 20:02
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