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RFID in My Underpants?

From Politech: this past Sunday, the Chicago Sun Times reported that “Wal-Mart and Procter & Gamble conducted a secret RFID trial involving Oklahoma consumers earlier this year. … Customers who purchased P&G’s Lipfinity brand lipstick at the Broken Arrow Wal-Mart store between late March and mid-July unknowingly left the store with live RFID tracking devices embedded in the packaging. Wal-Mart had previously denied any consumer-level RFID testing in the United States.”

But wait, there’s more! Politech added, “early this year, CASPIAN [an anti-RFID advocacy group] called for a worldwide boycott of Italian clothing manufacturer Benetton when the company announced plans to equip women’s undergarments with live RFID tracking tags (see”

This is where it all ties into librarianship: I’m convinced the Librarian Action Figure’s long blue dress is actually a foil-lined anti-RFID protection garment. Scorned by so many jeune fille librarians (not to mention those who are no longer so jeune and really should start revisiting their wardrobe options–you know who I mean!) , the LAF’s on us–because all along our demure blue doll has been modeling 21st-century privacy survival methods.

For that matter, we should listen to LAF, because ultimately, what’s going on with RFID is not that funny. As a profession, we’re walking into RFID without having first done our homework: establishing best practices, nailing down vendors about our needs, and writing the specs we can live with–or deciding to delay RFID implementations until we have done more to ensure our patrons’ long-term privacy needs are met. We’re stumbling into RFID with about the same level of naivete we had about filtering.

This is not a simple “RFID Bad” rant. It’s more of a riff on how we wander into these new technologies first, and ask questions later. And sometimes, late might as well be never.

Re-read that Politech post. And remember Deep Throat’s advice: “follow the money.”

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