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D2.2: Set of use cases and scenarios

Introduction  Title:
 Emerging Technology: Radio Frequency IDentification (RFID)


Current Technology: Loyalty Cards

It is perhaps not always appreciated how much information about ourselves and our personal identity that we willingly allow third party companies and individuals access to because of a perceived benefit to ourselves. For example, one of the more surreptitious technologies that has appeared over the last few years is that of the supermarket loyalty card. Whilst offering money saving vouchers and discounts to the customer, the system allows direct association between items bought and an individual, specific details of whom are disclosed by the individual themselves during the initial sign-up procedure.  

Supermarket chains argue that such information allows for more tailored discounts to be offered to the customer and research has shown that loyalty cards help keep customers tied to a specific store chain, thus maintaining their existing customer base. More importantly for the retailers, shopping habits, such as the type of cereal bought, can be monitored, and bonuses such as additional loyalty points offered to the customer if they try a similar, but more expensive brand, in essence a form of targeted advertising.

However, beyond this simple application, improvements in database technologies and data-mining techniques mean that new information can potentially be inferred from other seemingly innocuous data, thus producing complex (although not necessarily accurate) profiles of customers. For example, a sustained increase in the amount of basic foods such as bread and milk may imply a new member in the household, whilst the start of regular purchasing of nappies suggests a new baby. This information is invaluable to third-parties wishing to target a specific group of people or to product manufacturers, and notably in the US, disclosure of loyalty card information has enabled its use in personal injury and family law cases. However, more worryingly are reports that law enforcement agencies have reviewed loyalty card records of people convicted of specific terrorism acts to build a hypothetical profile of ethnic tastes and supermarket shopping patterns associated with terrorism.

The UK government has expressed its concern over the potential (mis)use of information gathered through supermarket loyalty cards. However, it has already highlighted the possibilities by noting that such information could be used to identify customers who bought excessive amounts of foods high in fat, sugar and salt, and that this information could be used to promote healthier alternatives to these customers.



Figure 8‑: Market research by TNS shows that by mid 2003, around 85% of UK households had at least one loyalty card

Whilst it is assumed that due to existing data protection laws in the UK such information would not be used to the extent of criminal profiling, concerns exist over the ‘function creep’ phenomenon, i.e. an information system design for one application can end up being used for another. 

With this in mind, it is pertinent to extrapolate existing technology to examine the identity concerns that may arise in the future information society scenario. 



Introduction  fidis-wp2-del2.2.Cases_stories_and_Scenario_04.sxw  Emerging Technology: Radio Frequency IDentification (RFID)
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