Date of Award

8-2006

Level of Access

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Spatial Information Science and Engineering

Advisor

Harlan J. Onsrud

Second Committee Member

M. Kate Beard-Tisdale

Third Committee Member

Peggy Agouris

Abstract

Recent advancements in location tracking technologies have increased the threat to an individual's personal privacy. Radio frequency identification (RFID) technology allows for the identification and potentially continuous tracking of an object or individual, without obtaining the individual's consent or even awareness that the tracking is taking place. Although many positive applications for RFID technology exist, for example in the commercial sector and law enforcement, the potential for abuse in the collection and use of personal information through this technology also exists. Location data linked to other types of personal information allows not only the detection of past spatial travel and activity patterns, but also inferences regarding past and future behavior and preferences. Legislative and technological solutions to deal with the increased privacy threat raised by this and similar tracking technologies have been proposed. Such approaches in isolation have significant limitations. This thesis hypothesizes that an approach may be developed with high potential for sufficiently protecting individual privacy in the use of RFID technologies while also strongly supporting marketplace uses of such tags. The research develops and investigates the limits of approaches that might be us,ed to protect privacy in pervasive RFID surveillance environments. The conclusion is ultimately reached that an approach facilitating individual control over the linking of unique RFID tag ID numbers to personal identity implemented though a combination of legal controls and technological capabilities would be a highly desirable option in balancing the interests of both the commercial sector and the information privacy interests of individuals. The specific model developed is responsive to the core ethical principle of autonomy of the individual and as such is also intended to be more responsive to the needs of individual consumers. The technological approach proposed integrated with enabling privacy legislation and private contract law to enable interactive alteration of privacy preferences should result in marketplace solutions acceptable to both potential commercial users and those being tracked.

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