The Californian State Senate will hold a hearing next Tuesday to discuss Senate Bill 1834, which seeks to regulate the use of RFID tagging in the state.
Californian Senator Debra Bowen has published a bill that seeks to force retailers to notify customers when they are using RFID systems to track and collect information about them.
Under the Bill, retailers will have to seek express consent from customers to run RFID tracking solutions. They will also have to destroy any tags attached to merchandise or packaging before the customer leaves the shop.
Although the law is restricted to California it would have a large impact nationwide, because many other states traditionally look to California for a steer on local legislation.
A significant portion of retailers’ revenues also comes from the state, so there would be a sizable impact from RFID-limiting laws on the rest of the US.
Two of these proposed rules are already being explored by retailers in the UK. Notifying customers is part of existing RFID trials, such as Marks & Spencer’s tests at Aylesbury, High Wycombe, Kingston Upon Thames, Ealing and Marble Arch stores, which use tags on men’s clothing.
The tags measure 15 cm (6 inches) in length, and participating outlets also make leaflets about the technology available to customers.
The RFID pilot in Germany’s Metro Future Store initiative tracks the movement of products from Gillette, Procter & Gamble and Kraft. It gives customers the ability to kill chips on products if they wish. However, tags are not wiped clean as a matter of course.
As far as UK legislation goes, the furthest Parliament has got was an adjournment debate on January 27 conducted by MP for West Bromwich East Tom Watson and DTI Minister for Energy, E-commerce and Postal Services, Stephen Timms.
In the debate, which was held after the business of the House had been conducted and did not require a vote, Watson requested information about the Government’s stance on the use of RFID tagging.
Timms replied that best practice was being developed hand-in-hand with technology pilots. He also praised privacy campaigners, such as Liberty, for furthering the debate.
However, he gave no indication that the Government was preparing any activity over the issue.