RFID privacy forum sets positive foundation for 2006

A recent privacy forum held in California is being hailed as a crucial first step in creating a positive framework for balancing public privacy concerns with the rapidly expanding uses for RFID technology in our society.

Sponsored by Irvine-based HID Corporation, "RFID & Privacy in the Information Age" provided a daylong forum December 1 for industry, policymakers and RFID end users to discuss a range of important issues.

"The feedback we've been hearing is excellent and suggests our initial goals for a healthy exchange of information, perspectives and dialogue were achieved," said Denis Hébert, President and CEO of HID. "We have definitely built a positive foundation for future discussions on privacy policies as they relate to our industry in California."

The event provided an excellent opportunity for improving understanding of RFID and how it is essential to protecting privacy and enhancing security.

"The industry was able to correct some misconceptions about RFID and establish this technology as integral to meeting the public's need and desire for greater security and privacy protection," Hébert said.

Notable participants included: California State Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto), author of pending legislation to restrict RFID for some public-sector applications; Professor J. Clark Kelso, the State of California's Chief Information Officer; Brian Zimmer, Senior Investigator for the U.S. House of Representative's Committee on the Judiciary; and P.K. Agarwal, California Department of Technology Services.

Professor Kelso called RFID technology a "transformational" technology that will fundamentally alter our society and economy. Privacy laws must keep pace with the technology, he said, and the forum was important as "the first of many" discussions that will need to take place.

Senator Simitian provided insights into his long personal background as a supporter of the technology industry and why he believes it is prudent to enact legislation that ensures privacy protections for certain public-sector applications of RFID. He underscored how the economic health of the RFID industry depends on the public feeling confident that the technology does not compromise its privacy.

The senator, who said privacy issues will remain a top public priority, pledged to work with industry to find common ground to address legitimate concerns.

HID's Hébert echoed that sentiment, citing a number of fundamental truths that emerged from the conference:

· RFID technology is here to stay; its uses and benefits to society will only expand as applications grow;

· Public privacy concerns will likewise remain a priority;

· There remains a great deal of work to do and ongoing dialogue will be necessary.

"The forum marks the beginning of an important process that is dedicated to finding constructive solutions to legitimate concerns," Hébert said. "We are all pleased that the door remains open for future discussions going into 2006."

Other speakers throughout the day included, Dan Greenwood, lecturer at MIT Media Lab; Bill Newill, Securakey; Neville Pattinson, Axalto, Dan Combs, Global Identity Solutions, L.L.C; Kent Kuo, University of California at Merced; Richard Varn, RJV Consulting; Steve Wagner, HID; Marc Freundlich, Indala Corporation; and Debra Spitler, ASSA ABLOY Identification Technology Group.

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