This page aims to explain the following:
- How RFID is used in the Library.
- The potential risk to privacy posed by RFID technology.
- What actions Information Services have taken to warn Library users of these risks.
- What individuals can do to protect themselves from this risk.
Note: For the purposes of this page, ‘book’ may refer to any item borrowed from the Library.
What is RFID?
Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) in libraries involves the insertion of small RFID tags containing
basic information into library books, and the use of Self Service kiosks and other technologies to
enable users to borrow and return books and for security purposes.
No personal data is held on the tags.
What is the risk to privacy?
Identifying the book
The EU has issued two mandates to encourage member states to adopt measures to limit risk from
the use of RFID tags. BIC > RFID Privacy in Libraries.
The risks identified are
- Identification of an individual’s identity, lifestyle or affiliations.
- The ability to track an individual’s movements.
The RFID tag by itself poses no risk but, under exceptional circumstances, it could be used to inform
a third party which book the user has borrowed from the library and track the movements of a
borrower through the book tag.
However, as the device used to read the tag would need to be placed very close to the book and
cross referenced to the title information held by the library, these risks are very low.
We advise you to:
- Be aware of the slight risk to privacy posed by RFID tags on library item.
- When borrowing a book be aware that keeping it under cover e.g. in a bag or briefcase, may not
be sufficient to ensure privacy as under the circumstances outlined above it could be possible
for the book to be identified.
- Be alert to the behaviour of others, for example someone trying to place a device e.g. a smartphone near your person or bag or briefcase in order to read the tag on your hidden library book.
What steps have Information Services taken to alert you to the risk?
- Signage has been displayed wherever RFID is in use and at the main entrance(s).