The Ethical Debate Surrounding RFID

The Ethical Debate Surrounding RFID

Stephanie Etter (Mount Aloysius College, USA), Patricia G. Phillips (Duquesne University, USA), Ashli M. Molinero (Robert Morris University, USA), Susan J. Nestor (Robert Morris University, USA) and Keith LeDonne (Robert Morris University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-960-1.ch083


Radio frequency identification (RFID) is a generic term that is used to describe a system that transmits the identity of an object or person wirelessly using radio waves (RFID Journal, 2005). It falls under the broad category of automatic identification technologies. RFID tags, in the simplest of terms, are “intelligent chips that can be embedded in or attached to a product to transmit descriptive data” (Gelinas, Sutton, & Fedorowicz, 2004, p. 6). According to the online RFID Journal (2005), there are several methods of identifying objects using RFID, including the most common of storing a serial number that identifies a product on a microchip that is attached to an RFID tag. RFID is not a new technology, but it has only recently been in the spotlight as more businesses are receiving press for putting the technology to work in their supply chains. RFID tag technology is sometimes associated with the term electronic product code (EPC). An EPC uniquely identifies objects in a supply chain. According to EPCGlobal, “EPC is divided into numbers that identify the manufacturer and product type. The EPC uses an extra set of digits, a serial number, to identify unique items.” The EPC number is placed on a tag composed of a silicon chip and an antenna, which is then attached to an item. Using RFID, a tag communicates its numberto a reader (EPCGlobal, 2005). In broad terms, RFID tags are placed into one of two categories: active or passive. According to the Association for Automatic Identification and Mobility (AIM, 2005), active RFID tags are powered by an internal battery and are typically designated as read-write tags. When a tag has read-write capabilities, the tag data can be modified. Passive tags, according to AIM, operate without a power source and obtain operating power from the tag reader. Passive tags are typically read-only tags, having only read-only memory. Active tags generally have a longer read range than passive tags.

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