IT confidential: if privacy's a contract, who's the winner?

Tuesday, 15 April 2003, 12:43 AM EST

Italian retailer Benetton Group appears to be backing off its ambitious plan to implement radio-frequency identification technology. The tony clothier had indicated last month that it was planning to incorporate as many as 15 million RFID tags from Philips Semiconductors in its various clothing lines, and that RFID readers in some 5,000 stores would collect point-of-sale data and automatically send it to Benetton's ordering systems. But Benetton issued a statement last week that "no feasibility studies have yet been undertaken with a view to the possible industrial introduction of this [RFID] technology." Benetton's plans for RFID tags set off a storm of protest from privacy groups concerned about the technology's potential for monitoring individual consumers. Benetton said further study of the technology would include "careful analysis of potential implications relating to individual privacy."

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