Technology, security, and individual privacy: New tools, new threats, and new public perceptions



Highly portable information collection and transmission technologies such as radio frequency identification (RFID) tags and smart cards are becoming ubiquitous in government and business—employed in functions including homeland security, information security, physical premises security, and even the control of goods in commerce. And, directly or indirectly, in many of these applications, it is individuals and their activities that are tracked. Yet, a significant unknown is (a) whether the public understands these technologies and the manner in which personally identifiable information may be collected, maintained, used, and disseminated; and (b) whether the public consents to these information practices. To answer these and related questions, we surveyed a select group of citizens on the uses of this technology for business as well as homeland security purposes. We found a significant lack of understanding, a significant level of distrust even in the context of homeland security applications, and a very significant consensus for governmental regulation. We conclude that a primary objective for any organization deploying these technologies is the promulgation of a comprehensive Technology Privacy Policy, and we provide detailed specifications for such an effort.