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Despite the attention privacy has gotten with regards to radio-frequency identification technology, only a small number of consumers are aware of RFID at all. So says a study conducted by Capgemini Group and the National Retail Federation.
The study, which surveyed more than 1,000 consumers, found that 77% weren't familiar with RFID. Of those that were, 42% had a favorable perception of the technology, and 31% had no opinion.
Still, companies like Procter & Gamble Co. aren't taking chances. "We realize RFID is a concern for consumers," Sandy Hughes, P&G's global privacy executive, told attendees at this week's RFID Forum at the Federal Trade Commission, where Capgemini shared its study's results. P&G is pledging to treat all RFID data the same as it does other customer data and will give customers notice, opt-in or opt-out choices, and provide education. It's also putting notices on cases that are tagged with RFID just in case one such case ends up in a consumer's hands.
P&G currently tags only a small number of cases and pallets of products as part of a trial with Wal-Mart Stores Inc., and Hughes says the company has no intention of tagging individual products. "We are focused on the supply chain, and we haven't even begun to think about what's going to happen with the items post-sale," she said.
The Federal Trade Commission held the forum to begin a dialogue on RFID, its uses and benefits, and potential concerns. Much of the privacy concerns stem from the idea that companies will collect data about customers without their knowledge, and then misuse that data.
"Today is an important first step in a process," Mozelle Thompson, commissioner with the FTC, told the audience. "But I am confident that it will take longer than today to find the appropriate balance," to reap RFID's benefits without infringing on privacy. The FTC says it has not begun any regulation with regards to RFID, and is only exploring the issues.