Experts cautiously embrace adoption of wireless ID tags

Use of such technology has reduced government defense costs by millions, one expert says.

A key lawmaker and others on Tuesday lauded the uses of wireless radio technology but urged firms and others to use caution in deploying the rapidly proliferating tools.

Radio-frequency identification technology is great and "one that we shouldn't be afraid of," said Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va. It has been transforming business practices and has far-reaching policy implications for many sectors such as health and communications spectrum, he said.

RFID tags offer a range of uses, including tracking livestock and expediting library book checkouts, he noted, adding that it can reduce costs and provide "exciting opportunities."

Dan Caprio, an executive vice president with the Progress and Freedom Foundation, said the technology enables competitiveness. He called it the "sweet spot" of tech policy for the many issues it impacts, such as privacy and security. It has reduced government defense costs by millions, he said.

Caprio called for comprehensive public and private partnerships to facilitate the technology's adoption.

Robert Cresanti, the Commerce Department undersecretary for technology, said that anyone who cares about commerce and competitiveness cares about RFID. More should be done to inform the public about RFID, he said, or difficulties will arise to hurt its adoption and growth rate.

The technology affects all sectors, Cresanti said, adding that RFID technology could be used to authentic intellectual property.

Douglas Farry from the law firm McKenna Long & Aldridge noted that RFID technology has existed for years. An estimated 20 states have passed RFID-related legislation, Farry said. He referenced a Wisconsin law that does not allow RFID chips to be implanted into human skin.

Jeff Richards, a vice president with VeriSign, said education is one of the biggest challenges with the technology. Richards said the private sector has done a good job quashing the public's privacy and security concerns.

Elizabeth Board, the executive director of EPCglobal, a firm that specializes in supply-chain management, said companies are working together on RFID standards. Panel members also highlighted the important role that the National Institute of Standards and Technology plays in RFID discussions.

Paula Bruening, staff counsel of the Center for Democracy and Technology, said the group believes RFID offers tremendous benefits and is seeking feedback on best practices. However, she said building early privacy protections is critical, especially during a "time when there is a proliferation of data."

The "key is optimal transparency to consumers," Bruening said.

Shannon Kellogg, the director of government and industry affairs with RSA Security, said it is way too early to legislate in the RFID sector. He cautioned lawmakers about "the consequences of legislation."

CDT also released a policymaker's guide to RFID during the luncheon event.