San Francisco Rejects RFID By MATTHEW ARTZ

Tuesday July 05, 2005

The controversial radio devices coming to Berkeley this August won’t be arriving in San Francisco anytime soon. 

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors Budget Committee voted 4-1 Thursday to reject the library’s request for $680,000 to begin phasing in the technology. 

With two anti-RFID supervisors not on the committee, RFID opponents appear to have a majority of the 11-member board of supervisors. 

“This vote will have far reaching implications,” said Peter Warfield of the anti-RFID Library Users Association. “I think the more people learn about RFID the more they understand how bad it really is.” 

RFID is a hi-tech alternative to the traditional library bar code. Instead of a code, RFID’s are palm sized radio antennas that emit a frequency read by specially designed machines. 

The technology, used in numerous types of industries, is advertised to boost self check-out rates at libraries to 90 percent, thereby freeing staff to perform other jobs. 

But privacy advocates, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, fear the devices could ultimately be used to track library patrons rather than books. 

Last year Berkeley spent $650,000 to convert to RFID and will roll out the system next month. 

The San Francisco vote would funded the first phase of RFID implementation at the city’s 26 branches. The entire RFID program for San Francisco was estimated to cost $3 million.r