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Radio Frequency Identification Technology

Organizations Opposing the Misuse of RFIDs | RFID Discussion List | News about RFIDs | Sources | Resolution on Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) Technology and Privacy Principles (ALA policy adopted January 19, 2005)|

Implementing RFID Technologies in Libraries: Privacy and Confidentiality Guidelines and Technical and Managerial Aspects

RFID in Libraries: Privacy and Confidentiality Guidelines, adopted by the ALA Intellectual Freedom Committee, June 27, 2006, can help libraries both to benefit from RFID deployment and to protect the privacy of library users.

ALA's Library & Information Technology Association (LITA) may be your best source of information on the technical and managerial aspects of implementing RFID technologies in libraries. LITA sponsors RFID Technology Interest Group, a special interest group dedicated to considering just this issue.

Similar resources include RFID in Libraries (a blog), Management of RFID in Libraries (Karen Coyle), ALA TechNotes: RFID Technology for Libraries (Richard Boss), and Position Paper: RFID and Libraries (Lori Bowen Ayre; PDF).

For background information, see Jim Lichtenberg's presentation, "RFID at Mid-decade: What have we learned? Where are we going?" (PDF), is available on the OIF Web site.

Organizations Opposing the Misuse of RFIDS

Electronic Frontier Foundation

Privacy Rights Clearinghouse

World Privacy Forum

RFID Discussion List

RFID_LIB (April 21, 2004)

"I [Margaret E. Hazel] am beginning a new discussion list, called RFID_LIB. RFID_LIB is, as far as I know, the first general online email forum for libraries to discuss the uses and implications of using Radio Frequency Identification technology in libraries. RFID is currently a hot topic in the library community as a method of controlling inventory, offering self-check, and using automated materials handling. The technology is developing rapidly, and this is a chance to get in on the ground floor of creating a potentially powerful tool for libraries. There is currently a small variety of vendors offering RFID technology to libraries in the United States and around the world. At the same time, there are public concerns about privacy and health issues, and there are similar technologies being developed in the commercial and defense arenas. This forum offers a chance for librarians to discuss the issues and keep abreast of developments. To join, send an e-mail message to the list software, which in San Jose's case is called listproc. To: Ignore the Cc, attachment, and Subject lines. In the body, type subscribe RFID_LIB Firstname Lastname (where firstname is your first name and lastname is your Lastname.) Do not include anything else in the message. This is an automated command that the listproc software at the other end recognizes."

News about RFIDS

Radio Frequency Identification and the San Francisco Public Library (PDF; October 2005)

''In early 2004, the San Francisco Public Library became interested in using Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology to achieve a multitude of goals, including reducing repetitive stress injuries, increasing the efficiency of circulation and collection management processes, and improving security. The proposed use of RFID raised significant concern among the public, specifically surrounding privacy, health and cost issues. As a result, the Library Commission created the San Francisco Public Library Technology and Privacy Advisory Committee (LTPAC), whose role would be to explore the technology and privacy issues associated with Library initiatives. The first incarnation of the LTPAC was charged with investigating RFID, generating questions to include in a Request for Information to RFID vendors, and organizing one or more public educational workshops. The Committee began meeting monthly starting in April of 2005. In June of 2005 however, the funds that were earmarked for generating a Request For Information for RFID system vendors was transferred by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to other Library programs. At that point, the LTPAC decided to conclude its work, capturing what had been learned to date in a summary report, which is this document. During its tenure, the LTPAC explored the privacy, health, operational, security, and cost issues associated with using RFID systems in the library setting. Sources of information included library staff, issue experts, articles, vendors and others. The LTPAC considered the potential gain from such a system, as well as the potential risks of integrating RFID into the SFPL. The benefits the Library was hoping to achieve included reducing repetitive stress injuries, creating efficiencies in circulation tasks, redeploying staff to other patron-focused areas, improving collection management, and increasing security. The potential disadvantages that were raised included possible threats to privacy, the cost and uncertainty of the Return On Investment (ROI), the uncertainty of the quality of the performance, and potential effects on staff and patron health. Almost all aspects of RFID in libraries require further investigation, whether those aspects are potential benefits or disadvantages. For instance, in the areas of performance, ROI, and operational efficiencies, a paucity of data exists from libraries with RFID systems. This will be partially addressed by an upcoming Bay Area Library Information System (BALIS) survey of RFID and California libraries. However, at the time of this report, conclusive data was not available. In regards to health, a literature review of various health agencies found that currently available research and studies on radio frequency exposure to devices in the frequency range at which an RFID system for libraries operates do not suggest any health risks from radiofrequency (RF) exposures below guideline levels. However, agencies and organizations that have researched the possible health effects of RF on humans all agree that further research is needed to address uncertainties in current RF knowledge. In addition, health agencies advise that manufacturers of medical devices and security systems should provide sufficient information about current and new products to minimize the risks of emissions from security systems interfering with electrically powered active medical devices, such as pacemakers. The possibility of breaching individual privacy comprised a large part of the LTPAC's discussion. An important point that arose was regardless of whether RFID is ever implemented at the Library, privacy risks should be addressed throughout the library’s operations and in particular when new systems (technical or other) are introduced. To assist the SFPL in this task, the LTPAC developed a set of recommendations to the Library, of which the most important was conducting a privacy audit to ensure that practices and policies are sufficient, up-to-date and responsive to the organization’s privacy commitments and legal obligations. While the LTPAC did not conclude its work in an RFI or with public educational workshops, it did create a set of questions regarding RFID for inclusion in future RFIs, as well as a bibliography. It is hoped that these resources will provide a useful starting point should there be an interest in exploring RFID in the future."

You need not be paranoid to fear RFID (October 10, 2005)

'''I think the shocking part is they've spent the past three years saying, oh no, we'd never do this,' Albrecht said. But instead of taking their word for it, Albrecht and her colleague, former bank examiner Liz McIntyre, began reading everything they could find on the subject. Now they're serving up the scary results of their research in a scathing new book, 'Spychips.'"

Privacy and Security in Library RFID: Issues, Practices, and Architectures (David Molnar and David Wagner; CCS'04, October 25-29, 2004, Washington, DC)

Big Brother Under Your Skin The future is now. The microchip implant for humans is here. Free with every vente latte! (October 20, 2004)

It is all possible. It is all just on the cusp. All we must do is welcome the sinister intimations and the positively draconian implications and say a big warm slightly terrified hello to the new, FDA-approved implantable microchip, coming soon to a hospital and a Starbucks and a bleak government agency and a human dermal layer near you. Very, very near you.

The RFID Riddle (Library Journal Netconnect; October 15, 2004)

Are Book Tags a Threat? (October 4, 2004)

Position Paper: RFID and Libraries (Lori Bowen Ayre; August 19, 2004)

RFID Technology in Libraries (Richard Boss; May 14, 2004)

California lawmaker introduces RFID bill (February 25, 2004)

"Senate Bill 1834 would apply to any business or state government agency using radio frequency identification (RFID) systems to track merchandize or peoplean activity that's on the rise. According to people familiar with the technology, state Sen. Debra Bowen is the first legislator in the nation to introduce a bill that seeks to govern the use of RFID, a technology that has sparked controversy since retailers began experiments last year."

RSA polishes RFID shield (February 25, 2004)

"The security software maker announces a cloaking technology designed to protect information emitted by radio frequency identification tags."

They Know Where You Are (January 22, 2004)

"New technologies can pinpoint your location at any time and place. They promise safety and convenience but threaten privacy and security."

RFID Implementation in Libraries: Some Recommendations for "Best Practices"  (January 10, 2004)

Position Statement on the Use of RFID on Consumer Products (November 2003)

"Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is an item-tagging technology with profound societal implications. Used improperly, RFID has the potential to jeopardize consumer privacy, reduce or eliminate purchasing anonymity, and threaten civil liberties."

RFID and Libraries: Both Sides of the Chip (Karen Schneider; November 19, 2003)

Chipping away at Your Privacy (November 9, 2003)

"RFID chips could make your daily life easier, but they also could let anyone with a scanning device know what kind of underwear you have on and how much money is in your wallet."

Three R's: Reading, Writing, RFID (October 24, 2003)

"Stillman has gone whole-hog for radio-frequency technology, which his year-old Enterprise Charter School started using last month to record the time of day students arrive in the morning. In the next months, he plans to use RFID to track library loans, disciplinary records, cafeteria purchases and visits to the nurse's office. Eventually he'd like to expand the system to track students' punctuality (or lack thereof) for every class and to verify the time they get on and off school buses."

Perfecting the game of Tag (October 20, 2003)

"Years of predictions that everyday use of radio frequency identification technology is just around the corner are about to come true."

RFID Zeitgeist (October 15, 2003)

"We have never before lived in a world where your telephone knows your name, social networks hitch rides on objects and places, doorknobs decide who gets into a room and know who has entered, and every place you go, every thing you touch, is more likely than not to contain a processor and a miniature radio."

City Library Adopts Controversial RFID Chips (October 10, 2003)

"Berkeley librarians insist that embedding their books with a state-of-the-art monitoring device despised by privacy advocates will not grant Big Brother a glimpse at patron’s reading material."

Ethics of library tag plan doubted; Privacy advocates skeptical of tracking via computer chip (October 6, 2003)

"Privacy advocates worry that the San Francisco Public Library's proposal to tag all of its books with tiny computer chips could allow Big Brother to peek into a patron's backpack long after he leaves the building."

Plan for Library Book Tagging Generates Privacy Concerns Electronic Frontier Foundation Advises Public Library (October 2, 2003)

"The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) today sent a letter to the San Francisco Public Library Commission (SFPLC) warning of privacy concerns in the use of radio frequency identification (RFID) tagging of library books."

RFID Chips Everywhere (September 6, 2003)

"In "Hitachi develops RFID chip for bank notes, documents," IDG News Service said this week that Hitachi has developed a new radio frequency identification (RFID) chip which doesn't needed an external antenna. This opens the possibility to embed these chips into virtually anything, from bank notes to plane tickets. Here is a picture of these RFID chips sitting close to grains of rice (Credit: Hitachi, Ltd.)."

RFID blocker may ease privacy fears (August 28, 2003)

"Researchers at a major security firm have developed a blocking technique to ease privacy concerns surrounding controversial radio frequency identification technology."

RFID and the Public Policy Void (August 18, 2003)

Testimony by Beth Givens (Privacy Rights Clearinghouse) before the Joint Committee on Preparing California for the 21st Century California Legislature, Senator Debra Bowen, Chair

"If ever there were a technology calling for an in-depth multi-disciplinary holistic analysis involving all stakeholders, it is RFID. Yet this technology has sprung upon the scene with little attempt so far to address its many probable adverse impacts upon society."

RFID Will Stop Terrorists (August 8, 2003)

"Facing increasing resistance and concerns about privacy, the United States' largest food companies and retailers will try to win consumer approval for radio identification devices by portraying the technology as an essential tool for keeping the nation's food supply safe from terrorists."

RFID Chips Are Here (June 27, 2003)

"I'm here to tell you that the bar code's days are numbered. There's a new technology in town, one that at first blush might seem insignificant to security professionals, but it's a technology that is going to be a big part of our future. And how do I know this? Pin it on Wal-Mart again; they're the big push behind this new technology. So what is it? RFID tags."


Resolution on Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) Technology and Privacy Principles (ALA policy adopted January 19, 2005)

BISG Policy Statement: Policy #002: RFID - Radio Frequency Identification Privacy Principles (PDF)

RFID: A Brief Bibliography (ALA)

RFIDs in Libraries (blog managed by Laura Smart)

Intellectual Freedom IssuesPrivacy and ConfidentialityPrivacy Tool Kit.

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID)

"Radio frequency identification (RFID) first appeared in tracking and access applications during the 1980s. These wireless AIDC systems allow for non-contact reading and are effective in manufacturing and other hostile environments where bar code labels could not survive. RFID has established itself in a wide range of markets including livestock identification and automated vehicle identification (AVI) systems because of its ability to track moving objects."

RFID Journal

"RFID Journal is an independent, online daily devoted to one thing: educating business people about radio frequency identification and its many business applications."

Bibliothese RFID Library Systems

"The BiblioChip™ RFID library system greatly improves circulation productivity and security while simplifying patron self check-out and self check-in. One of the biggest benefits of the BiblioChip™ Library System is that it allows the library staff more time to assist patrons, which greatly improves their overall library experience."

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) Systems (EPIC; Electronic Privacy Information Center)

RFID: Tracking everything, everywhere by Katherine Albrecht, CASPIAN Founder

"RFID would expand marketers' ability to monitor individuals' behavior to undreamt of extremes. With corporate sponsors like Wal-Mart, Target, the Food Marketing Institute, Home Depot, and British supermarket chain Tesco, as well as some of the world's largest consumer goods manufacturers including Proctor and Gamble, Phillip Morris, and Coca Cola it may not be long before RFID-based surveillance tags begin appearing in every store-bought item in a consumer's home."

See also Stop RFID.

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Related Files

RFID at Mid-decade: What have we learned? Where are we going? (PDF File)
RFID and Libraries: Both Sides of the Chip (Karen Schneider; November 19, 2003) (PDF File)

Related Links

Resolution on Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) Technology and Privacy Principles