An enquiry into the ethical efficacy of the use of radio frequency identification technology

Ethics and Information Technology 10 (1):27-40 (2008)
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This paper provides an in-depth analysis of the privacy rights dilemma surrounding radio frequency identification (RFID) technology. As one example of ubiquitous information system, RFID has multitudinous applications in various industries and businesses across society. The use of this technology will have to lead to a policy setting dilemma in that a balance between individuals’ privacy concerns and the benefits that they derive from it must be drawn. After describing the basic RFID technology some of its most prevalent uses, a definition of privacy is derived in the context of information systems. To illustrate current attempts at controlling the undesirable side effects of RFID, Lessig’s cyberspace framework is presented. It is found that each of Lessig’s components is inadequate at preventing individual privacy violations in RFID. The main focus within this framework is on the norms of society. The social norm mechanism that addresses privacy issues in cyberspace is the Fair Information Practices Principles (FIPP). After an analysis of these principles, it is posited that the FIPP only deal with procedural justice issues related to data collection and omit distributive and interactional justice reasoning related to the actual beneficial and detrimental outcomes to the individuals whose data is being obtained. Thus, RFID is presented in the context of the tension between the many benefits that are provided by the technology in social exchanges, and the risk it carries of the loss of privacy. The new, expanded framework recognizes both sides of the issue with the ultimate goal of providing a greater understanding of how privacy issues can be addressed with RFID technology



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