Brussels, 12 May 2009
"A promising technology for the future, smart chips can make life simpler in all sorts of ways. We are talking about everyday objects suddenly becoming smart by connecting to a network and exchanging information. Think of smart-fridges that inform you your milk is past its use-by date or smart-food packaging warning parents about possible allergies," said Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for Information Society and Media. "There is clear economic potential in using small, smart chips to allow communication between objects. But Europeans must never be taken unawares by the new technology. This is why the Commission issued strong recommendations to the industry today. European consumers must be confident that if and when their personal data is involved, their privacy will be impregnable also in a changing technological environment. The Commission therefore wants RFID technology to empower consumers to control their data security, which is the best way to make sure it is an economic success. After all, the European share of the global smart chips market will reach 35% in the next eight years."
Smart chips, or radio tags, can, and already do, have a huge impact on business tasks, public services and consumer products, from more efficient recycling and healthcare to less time spent at toll booths and waiting for luggage at the airport. To make sure Europe is ready for these changes, the Commission today laid out the following principles for protecting privacy and data protection in their use:
2.2 billion RFID tags, such as the ones used at toll booths or to identify shipping containers, were sold worldwide in 2008, roughly a third of these in Europe. The worldwide market value for RFID tags is estimated to be of €4 billion in 2008 and to grow to about €20 billion by 2018.
In 2006, the European Commission launched a public consultation (IP/06/289) on the development and use of smart chips (or Radio Frequency Identification technologies). Based on this, it then adopted a Communication in March 2007 (IP/07/332) showing that further action was expected by the public in terms of privacy and data protection. Today's Recommendation, which was elaborated by consulting all stakeholders from both the supplying and using industries, standardisation bodies, consumers' organisations, civil society groups, and trade unions, responds to these expectations and seeks to create a level-playing field for the European industry while respecting individual's privacy. Member States now have two years to inform the Commission on the steps they intend to take to make sure that the objectives of the Recommendation are met. Within three years, the Commission will report on the Recommendation's implementation, including an analysis of its impact on companies and public authorities using smart chips as well as its impact on citizens.
The Recommendation can be found at: