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The Commission has revealed its strategy for radio frequency identification (RFID) tags...

GMB will take part in the Stakeholder Group to advise the Commission on EU policy on RFID applications.

The European Commission today published a Communication on RFID. In this document the Commission has revealed its strategy for radio frequency identification (RFID) tags, with particular focus on concerns over the privacy of citizens. GMB in September 2005 published a briefing paper on "Surveillance in the Workplace - an overview of issue of privacy, monitoring, and ethics" the contents of which were raised with the EU Commission by the GMB office in Brussels. GMB sees a clear opportunity for the Commission to show global leadership in developing a balance between the social and economic implications of new technologies by engaging all players in a process that supports the positive use of RIFD technologies whilst avoiding adverse consequences for workers, customers and citizens.
GMB believes too many technologies have been developed in the absence of a serious and constructed debate and consideration of the social implications. GMB is working constructively with the Commission to ensure that RFID is socially and politically acceptable. The implementation and rapid innovation cycle of technologies mean that debates about social and ethical issues need to be continuous, reflective, and ultimately they must consider both the benefits and dangers in the system.

Kathleen Walker Shaw GMB European officer said, "GMB was the first union to raise our member's concern that the RFID technology provided the basis for a 'Big Brother' society unless the issues of privacy, security, and consent were dealt with upfront in any new legislative framework. The Commission today has agreed to set up an RFID Stakeholders Group and to publish recommendations on how to handle data security and privacy. This the GMB welcomes, and will take part in developing policy in this important area. It is essential that legislators get a grip of 'mission creep' to prevent a technology designed for one purpose ending up being used for another purpose without the consent of the workers and public. Governments and employers have a big job to do to explain how this technology can benefit society while not undermining privacy and security. At the AA, for example, GMB members have been subject to dataveillance without their knowledge and this has caused a lot of resentment."


Contact: Kathleen Walker Shaw, GMB European Officer on 07841 181549 or

GMB Press Office: Steve Pryle on 07921 289880 or Rose Conroy on 07974 251823.

Notes to editors:
1. RFID - also known as smart radio tags - is a technology that employs tags that emit radio signals as identifiers and devices that pick up the signal and identity of the tag. Over a wide range of applications, the system does not require direct contact or line-of-sight scanning. The potential of the system is impressive. In 2006 one billion RFID tag were sold worldwide and it is estimated that by 2016 the figure could be 500 times this number. The European market is expected to obtain seven billion euros by 2016.

2. Awareness over the system is low, however, as of the 2190 interviewees in the Commission's public consultation in 2006, 60% did not know enough to sufficiently asses the use of RFID technology. 70% viewed technical solutions to be a fundamental approach to reduce security, data protection and privacy concerns. 67% voiced support for awareness-raising campaigns, and 55% suggested RFID regulations.

3.In an attempt to encourage confidence from consumers in a market that has experienced a global growth of 60%, smart radio tags (used to record items purchased, emitting radio signals as identifiers), according to 67% of voters in a recent public consultation, require an awareness-raising campaign in order to appease the public's growing demand over the information and knowledge they provide when an individual purchases a product.

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