Parkinson, chairman of the Information Technology Association of America's RFID Standards Task Group, recommended that retailers and other RFID users adopt guidelines for the appropriate use of RFID and begin educating the public about the potential uses for RFID. "It would be better to communicate with consumers now rather than later," he said. "Some of the things they worry about are things industry only dreams it could do."
But some proposals by RFID users to protect consumers may not go far enough, Givens said. One idea, to give consumers the power to kill RFID tags when they leave stores, may be inconvenient for consumers or may be discouraged by retailers that will want the RFID tags active when the consumer returns a product, Givens said. A woman with two small children and a cart full of groceries may not want to take the time to run each item through a scanner to kill the tags, she said.
"Killing tags or blocking them does not address in-store tracking," she added.
When RFID tags leave stores, they will continue to broadcast information to all readers unless turned off, added Deirdre Mulligan, director of the Samuelson Law, Technology and Public Policy Clinic at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law. "My RFID is talking to everybody," she said. "There's no access control on this."
While Mulligan joined Givens in calling for a federal government assessment of RFID, others on the panel suggested it was too early in the adoption of RFID for government to get involved. William MacLeod, a Washington, D.C., lawyer and former director of the FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection, said new regulations aren't needed because the FTC already has the power to take action against consumer fraud.
"You can bet there will be FTC enforcement long before 'RFID' appears in a law," MacLeod said.
MacLeod and other supporters of RFID encouraged the free market to determine the rules for RFID uses.
"We need to find out what the technology can actually achieve before we put the brakes on,'' added Mallory Duncan, senior vice president and general counsel for the National Retail Federation.