Friday, February 27, 2004
Public Safety or Surveillance?

Call me an alarmist, but I think RFID technology is one step away from Big Brother. Many have dismissed my concern but I find these tags to be one of the greatest potential threats to privacy that exists today. So far consumer resistance has kept the tags from wide use in hard goods like books and blue jeans, but now they've come up with a product that no one can boycott - prescription drugs.

(COMPUTERWORLD) - The Food and Drug Administration views radio frequency identification technology as the best way to track, control and identify prescription drugs and anticipates the widespread use of RFID tags to identify prescription drugs in the supply chain within three years.
Prescription drug manufacturers, in general, back the plan, with key manufacturers, distributors and the National Association of Chain Drug Stores settling on Accenture Ltd. to serve as their RFID program manager.

The FDA of course, is an agency in the Bush administration's pocket, and how very handy for the prohibitionists to have a way to track your private legal drug consumption. They spin it as inventory control.

The FDA, in a report released yesterday on combating counterfeit drugs, called RFID tags the most likely technology to bring about "mass serialization" of prescription drugs. The FDA defined mass serialization as "assigning a unique number (the electronic product code or EPC) to each pallet, case and package of drugs and then using that number to record information about all transactions involving the product." [emphasis added]

Think about that for a minute. That means that your private medical information will be recorded according to your prescriptions. A lot about you can be extrapolated from the medications you take and it's not difficult to see how that information could be abused.

The FDA's premise that the tracking insures chain of possession is a valid protection for the consumer but we should be insisting on the end of the chain being the pharmacist. The individual prescriptions should not be tracked. The time to be concerned about this technology is before it's assimilated as an industry standard or do you really want this company to be tracking your health needs?

Accenture Ltd., a consulting firm in Hamilton, Bermuda, said in a statement that it would act as the RFID program manager for a group of pharmaceutical manufacturers, distributors and retailers. That group includes Abbott Laboratories, Barr Pharmaceuticals Inc., Cardinal Health Inc., CVS Corp., Johnson & Johnson, McKesson, Pfizer Inc., Procter & Gamble Co. and Rite Aid Corp.

I don't know about you but I don't think I want some stranger in Bermuda to have that kind of information about my life.


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