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EU directive would forbid removal of RFID tags

Voluntary Slave | 13.08.2003 12:58 | Technology | Cambridge

RFID tags can be embedded in items you buy, and then broadcast information about that item to anyone listening. The proposed EU IP Enforcement Directive includes a measure that would make it illegal for Europeans to de-activate the chips in RFID tags. This would mean that, if you bought an RFID tagged item, you would have no way of preventing it from violating your privacy.

The proposed EU IP Enforcement Directive is the latest in a series of repressive Intellectual Property (IP) related initiatives from the EU, following on from the EU Copyright Directive and the EU Software Patent Directive. All three give intellectual property owners increased power over how intellectual property can be used, even in private. The IP Enforcment directive, in particular, contains an article outlawing any attempt to circumvent technical IP protection measures, whether or not any illegal copying or distribution is taking place.

RFID (Radio Frequency ID) tags are small tags containing a chip which can be 'read' by radio over short distances. Recent trials involving attaching these tags to products have raised concerns about privacy, as information on the tag could be read long after the product was purchased. The tags continue to work indefinitely, so attaching tags to, for example, clothes, would could be used to track people's movements. Because RFID tags contain intellectual property in the form of a computer chip, deactivating the tag would count as circumventing an intellectual property control measure, and so would be illegal under the IP Enforcement Directive.

This consequence of the IP Enforcement Directive demonstrates the dangerous effects of IP controls on civil liberties. As computers become increasingly omnipresent, the IP law that restricts our freedoms in regards to computers increasingly also affects our everyday lives. Intellectual property law is increasingly being used by corporations to restrict the activities of individuals, and recent initiatives from the WTO aim to extend this use of IP law. The EU Copyright, Software Patent, and IP Enforcement Directives are all designed to make EU law comply with the WTO's Trade Related Aspect of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement.

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Display the following 6 comments

  1. Another thought — Tim
  2. Whatever — dh
  3. What are the arguments for these tags? — David
  4. "benefits" — Erin
  5. Open qustion — Jama
  6. Destroying RFID Tags — Alex