Information Society and Media Commissioner Viviane Reding is known as a keen promoter of RFID technology. "We need to build a society-wide consensus on the future of RFID. We need to ensure that RFID technology delivers on its economic potential and to create the right opportunities for its use for the wider public good, while ensuring that citizens remain in control of their data".
Peter Hustinx, the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS), in an opinion sent to the Commission, said: "RFID systems could play a key role in the development of the European Information Society but the wide acceptance of RFID technologies should be facilitated by the benefits of consistent data protection safeguards. Self-regulation alone may not be enough to meet the challenge. Legal instruments may therefore be required to guarantee that the technical solutions to minimise the risks for data protection and privacy are in place."
Monique Goyens, director of BEUC, the European consumers organisation, saidexternal : "All new technologies bring their share of advantages and drawbacks. RFID directly affects the very sensitive question of protection of privacy and personal data. Accordingly, all necessary measures must be taken to keep consumers from being relentlessly tracked and profiled."
Speaking for SME association UEAPME, Freek Posthumus said that with the present technology of barcoding items, the lack of interoperable standards was used by big companies to the detriment of their smaller partners, often requiring additional barcoding by SMEs. He urged, therefore, interoperable standards to apply to RFID already on an item level.
Oracle commented: "We consider RFID to be a technology that will have very many beneficial applications. Oracle therefore welcomes the EU’s open, collaborative and consultative approach to RFID policy development. As an international company, we also thoroughly support the EU’s call for collaboration and co-operation on the development of technologies and standards both inside its borders and on the international stage. We would like to see the EU encouraging RFID development by providing a supportive regulatory environment in which innovation can flourish."
CompTIA, a global ICT industry association, underlined in a letter to the Commission that "there is a dramatic skills gap of qualified ICT professionals who understand the technology". The text adds that "RFID skills shortages should be seriously addressed by national and European policymakers". "The recommendation should therefore include a provision referring to the necessity to take actions to tackle this situation," the document concludes.
"With the adoption of the Recommendation, we now have clarity and a framework in which manufacturers and retailers can begin or expand deployments to deliver the benefits of RFID for consumers in Europe,” said Miguel Lopera, Chief Executive Officer of GS1 EPCglobal, an organisation that promotes RFID standards, commenting the European Commission Recommendation on RFID.
On behalf of retailers, EuroCommerce Secretary General Xavier Durieu said: “We fully support the protection of consumers’ privacy, but the Commission text does not take into account the practical consequences. On the contrary, by adding constraints on operators, it will reduce the attractiveness of the new technology for them. This will inevitably be reflected in the costs. If RFID is to develop its full potential, and to contribute to European competitiveness, it must be made easy, cheap and attractive, both to develop and to use.”
However, big retailers did not back the line of EuroCommerce. The European Retail Round Table (ERRT), which represents big chains such as Carrefour or Metro, replied: "“There has been much discussion with consumer groups and others over the past 2-3 years about the uses of RFID, and the need to balance the benefits it can bring with the need to ensure the highest standards of privacy and data protection. We believe this Recommendation achieves that balance, allowing the technology to develop while ensuring that those who use the technology will use it responsibly and sensibly", Paul Skehan, ERRT Director said in a statement
Ryo Imura of Hitachi, representing one of the main manufacturers of devices using RFID, underlined the advantages of always-on tags: "RFID is key for the traceability of products, also after their sale. RFID is not only for industries and for supply chains, but also for people. Consumers can know where what they buy come from and can be helped in the maintenance, the potential recovery and the recycling," he said at a conference taking place alongside the ministerial meeting.