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Credit: Ateneo de Manila University

Credit: Ateneo de Manila University

Ateneo de Manila University explores data security in the use of RFID

According to the announcement made by the Ateneo de Manila University, the popularity gained by RFID is due to the fact that it has made life more convenient. But alongside its benefits is the possible issue of data privacy breach, given that an RFID contains an identifier that is uniquely assigned to the individual.

The use of the Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is popular nowadays. It works by electronically encoding data and storing it in a smart tag. Data will then be picked up during use by a reader through radio waves. Once captured, the data can be turned over to and processed by a computer.

The potential uses and applications of an RFID are varied. Smart cards or tickets equipped with RFID tags are being used to ride buses, trains, and other public transportation. It is more convenient since passengers only need to tap their card or ticket.

RFID made shopping easier as well. Amazon Go, for instance, allows customer to just grab items off the shelves and leave. Upon exit, tags attached to the items are processed by a reader. The store will then automatically charge the items to the customer’s Amazon account.

Organisations use RFID to keep track of employee attendance as well as facilitate employee access to certain areas, systems, applications and other company resources.

It should not be forgotten that although innovation and emerging technologies are vital to the economic growth of the country, it should not be at the expense of the fundamental rights and freedom of the people.

Privacy-related issues have been raised ever since RFID was first introduced. Concerns on how government and private sector use the data stored are unavoidable since an RFID tag can record unique identifiers assigned to an individual.

This may reveal information about them directly or indirectly. Something as simple as a loyalty card equipped with an RFID technology can give a general picture of a person’s spending habits or preferences which can then be linked to that person’s other records.

Moreover, once data systems are interconnected, profiling will also be so much easier. The possibility for an individual to lose control over their personal data may inevitable. There have been occurrences wherein organisations shared their databases with subsidiaries, affiliates, service providers, and other third parties.

Any one of them could use the data for unauthorised purposes. Any one of them could be potential targets for hackers and frauds. Having access to a trove of personal data can be very tempting.

As the capabilities of the RFIS continue to evolve, authorities need to keep up and regularly monitor its development. Appropriate regulations should always be instituted.

Attention should also be given to mechanisms that guarantee security of RFID systems. Users, on the one hand, must take into account all possible risks posed by the technology, particularly those related to a person’s privacy.

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