Canada Issues RFID Privacy Guidelines

Last week Ontario 's Information and Privacy Commissioner, Dr. Ann Cavoukian, released privacy guidelines for item-level consumer RFID applications and uses. "I have always found it beneficial to assist those working on emerging technologies, and to be proactive whenever possible -- to develop effective guidelines and codes before any problems arise," said Commissioner Cavoukian. EPCglobal Canada has been collaborating with Cavoukian in the development of these guidelines.

The concern with RFID tags is at the item level in the retail sector when the tags can be linked to personally identifiable information which can in turn facilitate tracking and surveillance of individuals. The guidelines aim to "alleviate concerns about the potential threat to privacy posed by this technology and to enhance openness and transparency about item-level use of RFID systems by retailers."

To address privacy issues the commissioner recommends the following:

  • Focus on RFID information systems, not technologies: The Guidelines should be applied to RFID information systems as a whole, rather than to any single technology component or function;
  • Build in privacy and security from the outset -- at the design stage: Just as privacy concerns must be identified in a broad and systemic manner, so, too, must the technological solutions be addressed systemically. Users of RFID technologies and information systems should address the privacy and security issues early in the design stages, with a particular emphasis on data minimization. This means that wherever possible, efforts should be made to minimize the identifiability, observability and linkability of RFID data; and
  • Maximize individual participation and consent: Use of RFID information systems should be as open and transparent as possible, and afford individuals with as much opportunity as possible to participate and make informed decisions.

To view the guidelines as well as Practical Tips for Implementing RFID Privacy Guidelines visit

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