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November 11, 2003

RFID in My Underpants?

From Politech: this past Sunday, the Chicago Sun Times reported that "Wal-Mart and Procter & Gamble conducted a secret RFID trial involving Oklahoma consumers earlier this year. ... Customers who purchased P&G's Lipfinity brand lipstick at the Broken Arrow Wal-Mart store between late March and mid-July unknowingly left the store with live RFID tracking devices embedded in the packaging. Wal-Mart had previously denied any consumer-level RFID testing in the United States."

But wait, there's more! Politech added, "early this year, CASPIAN [an anti-RFID advocacy group] called for a worldwide boycott of Italian clothing manufacturer Benetton when the company announced plans to equip women's undergarments with live RFID tracking tags (see http://www.boycottbenetton.org)."

This is where it all ties into librarianship: I'm convinced the Librarian Action Figure's long blue dress is actually a foil-lined anti-RFID protection garment. Scorned by so many jeune fille librarians (not to mention those who are no longer so jeune and really should start revisiting their wardrobe options--you know who I mean!) , the LAF's on us--because all along our demure blue doll has been modeling 21st-century privacy survival methods.

For that matter, we should listen to LAF, because ultimately, what's going on with RFID is not that funny. As a profession, we're walking into RFID without having first done our homework: establishing best practices, nailing down vendors about our needs, and writing the specs we can live with--or deciding to delay RFID implementations until we have done more to ensure our patrons' long-term privacy needs are met. We're stumbling into RFID with about the same level of naivete we had about filtering.

This is not a simple "RFID Bad" rant. It's more of a riff on how we wander into these new technologies first, and ask questions later. And sometimes, late might as well be never.

Re-read that Politech post. And remember Deep Throat's advice: "follow the money."

Posted by kgs at November 11, 2003 02:25 PM

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Tracked on October 24, 2004 04:22 AM