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'Smart chips, a promising technology for the future' - Viviane Reding
15
May '09
EU Commissioner for Information Society and Media
EU Commissioner for Information Society and Media
Europeans should be able to have control over smart chips, a worldwide market set to grow five times over in the next decade, while still being able to easily use them to make everyday life simpler. There are already over 6 billion smart chips, microelectronic devices that can be integrated into a variety of everyday objects from fridges to bus passes. With Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology, they can process data automatically when brought close to 'readers' that activate them, pick up their radio signal and exchange data with them.

They are in the passes you use to enter your office and the smart cards that pay highway tolls. Today, the European Commission adopted a set of recommendations to make sure that everyone involved in the design or operation of technology using smart chips respects the individual's fundamental right to privacy and data protection, contained in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union proclaimed on 14 December 2007.

"A promising technology for the future, smart chips can make life simpler in all sorts of ways. We are talking about everyday objects suddenly becoming smart by connecting to a network and exchanging information. Think of smart-fridges that inform you your milk is past its use-by date or smart-food packaging warning parents about possible allergies," said Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for Information Society and Media.

"There is clear economic potential in using small, smart chips to allow communication between objects. But Europeans must never be taken unawares by the new technology. This is why the Commission issued strong recommendations to the industry today. European consumers must be confident that if and when their personal data is involved, their privacy will be impregnable also in a changing technological environment. The Commission therefore wants RFID technology to empower consumers to control their data security, which is the best way to make sure it is an economic success. After all, the European share of the global smart chips market will reach 35% in the next eight years."

Smart chips, or radio tags, can, and already do, have a huge impact on business tasks, public services and consumer products, from more efficient recycling and healthcare to less time spent at toll booths and waiting for luggage at the airport. To make sure Europe is ready for these changes, the Commission today laid out the following principles for protecting privacy and data protection in their use:

Consumers should be in control whether products they buy in shops use smart chips or not. When consumers buy products with smart chips, these should be deactivated automatically, immediately and free-of-charge at the point of sale, unless the consumer explicitly opts-in by asking to keep the chip operational. Exceptions can be granted to avoid unnecessary burden on retailers, for example, but only after an assessment of the chip's impact on privacy.


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