RFID - Ethical implications of this modern technology

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RFID Social and Ethical Issues[edit]

“Radio-frequency identification (RFID) is the wireless non-contact use of radio-frequency electromagnetic fields to transfer data, for the purposes of automatically identifying and tracking tags attached to objects. The tags contain electronically stored information.” Wikipedia

This technology offers huge potential benefits to modern society. However its implementation needs to be monitored to prevent abuse, such as the degradation of privacy.....

It is important to remember that RFID is not an unethical, or invasive technology. In order to discuss social and ethical issues surrounding RFID, its application must be discussed. I have discussed RFID in a shopping context as it is likely to be its greatest form of application.


RFID allows for the tracking of products to a much greater sense, as opposed to conventional barcodes. This is due to a number of reasons: Current barcode standards can only hold a limited number of characters. RFID is a wireless technology. Where as to scan a barcode you need to a have a visible line of sight. This allows for stealthy scanning of RFID chips, when the owner enters the range of a scanner. Where as barcodes can only be written once, RFID chips at specific standards can have the data they contain changed. This allows for potential tracking if user data is implanted on the chip. RFID has the potential to be mapped to a physical location by readers. This is because readers can determine the distance between the tag and its location. RFID chips can be hidden inside products without consumers knowledge. This also makes them difficult to remove. Being a new technology, RFID challenges current privacy and technology laws. Therefore the law must play catch up.

Environmental impact[edit]

Negatives: We can see the impact of current technology on our environment. RFID has the potential to further increase the harmful impaction of humans on the environment. RFID like most technology is “created using non-biodegradable materials... RFID tags are housed in plastic or petrochemical based material...“ How green is RFID?

Positives: “The overall contribution of RFIDs to the green agenda of the information age should not be discounted as they are lowering the carbon footprint of a number of areas of human activity: Improving recycling through refuse management Reducing vehicle emissions through better usage Improve the management of natural resources Encouraging the re-use of containers that have RFIDs implanted on them Reducing equipment by better asset management Tracking the license plates of drivers in the supply chain” How green is RFID? There is research into biodegradable RFID chips.