Radio Frequency Identification Technology in the Federal Government

The main technology components of an RFID system are a tag, reader, and
database. A reader scans the tag for data and sends the information to a
database, which stores the data contained on the tag (see figure).

The major initiatives at federal agencies that use or propose to use the
technology include physical access control and tracking assets, documents,
or materials. For example, the Department of Homeland Security is using it
to track and identify assets, weapons, and baggage on flights.

RFID standards define a set of rules, conditions, or requirements that the
components of the system must meet in order to operate effectively. There
are multiple sets of standards that guide the use of RFID technology. In
addition, the standards used often depend on the type of activity the
application is used for and the industry or country in which it is used. For
applications where global interoperability between systems is necessary,
such as electronic passports or global supply chains, a common set of
standards can assist with the proper interaction and interchange of
information between systems.

Of the 16 agencies that responded to the question on legal issues associated
with RFID implementation in our survey, only one identified what it
considered to be legal issues. These issues relate to protecting an
individual’s right to privacy and tracking sensitive documents and evidence.

The use of tags and databases raises important security considerations
related to the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of the data on the
tags, in the databases, and in how this information is being protected. Key
privacy concerns include tracking an individual’s movements and profiling
an individual’s habits, among others. Tools and practices are available to
address these considerations, including existing and proposed information
security technologies and practices, and other practices required by law