THE MAGAZINE

A Chip Off the Privacy Block?

By Peter Piazza

Concerns over privacy raised as a result of advancements in technology have joined religion and politics in the pantheon of discussion topics guaranteed to result in an argument, with deeply polarized advocates on both sides digging in to immovable, and often extreme, positions. While these arguments often taper off as the technologies become more commonplace and well-accepted—think of concerns once raised by now-common devices like cell phones and bar codes—it is inevitable that as technologies begin to be applied in new areas, the same concerns will arise. One of the latest candidates for the technology-versus-privacy debate is radio frequency identification (RFID) tags. Proponents of the tags see these devices helping businesses to save millions by making supply chains more efficient and by reducing theft of high-value items. Detractors raise the specter of businesses tracking consumers without their knowledge or consent in a way that would not be possible with bar codes, which RFID tags are slowly replacing. Both sides raise important issues that need to be considered as use of RFID becomes more widespread.

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