Gartner: Retailers must allay consumer fears about radio ID tags

Retailers must educate consumers about radio frequency identification (RFID) technology, or risk consumer opposition stifling its...

Retailers must educate consumers about radio frequency identification (RFID) technology, or risk consumer opposition stifling its growth, analyst firm GartnerG2 has warned.

RFID tags, which allow goods to be electronically tracked along the supply chain, are gaining popularity among European retailers, with high-profile trials at companies such as Tesco, Marks & Spencer and German supermarket chain Metro.

Some European consumer groups are urging customers to boycott retailers considering using RFID tags, because they claim the technology will allow corporations to track individuals’ buying behaviour and infringe their civil liberties.

G2 said retailers must act immediately to counter these concerns with public education campaigns, because the fears do not reflect the facts about the technology.

“Some of the claims we are seeing about RFID are more science fiction than science fact,” said John Davison, head of retail research at G2.

“But if the retail companies do not move immediately to rebut them, then consumer concerns over privacy infringement will frustrate the implementation of the technology.”

G2 research has found that European consumers instinctively oppose RFID technology, fearing that it represents a step towards a “Big Brother” society, but that their attitudes become more positive as they learn more about how it works.

However, the early running in the public debate over RFID has been led by vocal consumer groups, such as Caspian (Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering), which are conjuring up vivid images of constant personal surveillance, he said.

How to win support for retail RFID:

  • Notify the customer of the presence/existence of an RFID tag in any product
  • RFID must be switched off or killed when the customer leaves the store or upon request, which includes the ability to opt out/turn off the tags
  • Reinforce the message that no individual link chip will be connected to any personally identifiable information

 Source Gartner G2

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