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Privacy Commissioner awards $14,603 to Dalhousie University for a study on the legal and privacy implications of RFID tags

Ottawa, January 27, 2005 – The Privacy Commissioner of Canada, Jennifer Stoddart, is pleased to announce that the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC) is awarding $14,603, under its Contributions Program, to Dalhousie University for a study analyzing the legal, technological and privacy implications of radio frequency identification (RFID) tags. The project is a collaboration of the Law and Technology Institute of the Dalhousie Law School and the Faculty of Computer Science.

"RFID chips offer manufacturers and retailers an ingenious and effective method of inventory control that can track individual products from fabrication to destruction, but this technology also offers an unprecedented ability to track consumer behaviour. RFID chips embedded in travel documents, smart cards, or drivers? licenses also potentially enable a surveillance history of individuals to be collected automatically," said Ms. Stoddart. "This project will help clarify the privacy implications of this set of technologies for the public."

The RFID technologies study will investigate technical interoperability and the potential for information stored in tags to be matched with data from other systems. An assessment of the privacy risks and legal measures needed to protect privacy will be based on this initial research.

"Our project is an interdisciplinary one involving the faculties of law and computer science.  We are very excited about this opportunity to explore the legal implications of technology using an interdisciplinary approach," said Teresa Scassa, Associate Professor at the Dalhousie Law School.

RFID tags are integrated circuits that use a tiny antenna to interact with wireless scanners that read the stored information in the chip. Because they use radio signals, stored data can be read from a distance. RFID tags can also store much more information than conventional product bar codes.

The Dalhousie University RFID project is funded from the OPC’s Contributions Program, launched in June 2004, to foster and develop Canada’s national capacity for research into privacy issues and emerging technologies. The project is one of 10 research initiatives funded by the OPC.

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For more information, please contact:

Renée Couturier
Director, Public Education and Communications
Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada
Tel: (613) 995-0103

Teresa Scassa, S.J.D.
Associate Professor
Dalhousie Law School
Tel: (902) 494-2798

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