RFID Privacy in Libraries

What Librarians (Public & Academic), Library Suppliers and Library Systems Vendors Need to Know

Radio Frequency IDentification (RFID) in libraries involves the tagging of library books with RFID tags and the use of self-services kiosks and other technologies to enable library customers to self-issue and self-return library books. The EU has issued two mandates for member states to encourage them to adopt measures to limit the risk to privacy from the use of RFID-tagged items. The risk has been identified as: 

  • identification of the citizen's identity, lifestyle or affiliations, e.g. their sexual orientation or membership of a trades union 
  • the ability to track the citizen's movements e.g. across a city

Libraries are identified as high risk within this analysis because unlike retail RFID tags which are switched off during purchase, RFID tags on library books are always available to be read so that, on their return to the library, the tags can be read as part of a self-return process.

Many library professionals involved with the RFID privacy issue, point out that compared to other sources of privacy risk, such as CCTV, wearing a smartwatch or carrying a mobile phone, the risk to the citizen's privacy posed by library RFID tags is very small indeed, but it does not negate the duty of libraries to explain the risk and warn their users. Most library users will be unaware that there is any risk to their privacy and they need to be warned so that they can make an informed decision, for example whether or not to use the library, and to take any necessary precautions.

This webpage including its content and documentation will be relevant to librarians, library suppliers and library systems vendors.


BIC RFID Privacy Code of Practice document - July 2017

A draft version of the BIC RFID Privacy Code of Practice document has now been published and is available to all (for free). To receive your copy and to find out more about the 11 steps your organisation should carry out to mitigate the potential risks to your patrons that are imposed by RFID usage, please sign up here.

By signing up using the link, above, you will be sent both the BIC RFID Privacy Code of Practice and Policy documents plus any subsequent updates, as and when they are ready for publication.


BIC RFID Privacy Policy - July 2017

A draft version of the BIC RFID Privacy Policy has now been published and is available to all (for free). To receive your copy and to find out more about the risks associated with RFID usage, what steps to take to alert library users to the risks / reduce the risks and the steps library patrons can take to protect themselves, please sign up here.

By signing up using the link, above, you will be sent both the BIC RFID Privacy Code of Practice and Policy documents plus any subsequent updates, as and when they are ready for publication.


BIC RFID Privacy Poster Template - July 2017

These poster templates are available for use in libraries to help inform library patrons about the potential risks associated with RFID tags. Please feel free to use the template to produce a poster for your organisation.
Text-based poster template
Image-based poster template