NFC: Near Field Communication

Ethical Implications of NFC

Alternative payment methods offered by NFC are very exciting to vendors and producers of NFC technology because they have great potential to revolutionize marketing and advertising. NFC technology will allow for easy and precise tracking of shopping and purchase habits of customers along with location tracking. Marketers are excited because they will be able to utilize hyper-targeting marketing techniques outside of the online context where it currently resides. This means that they will be able to deliver one to one, personally tailored advertising campaigns that can be delivered on location and at the point of sale to increase impulse buys.

This raises ethical concerns for several reasons:

Concerns with Targeted Advertisements

In addition to these concerns, fraud is also a valid concern. Although one of the proclaimed security features of NFC is the need to be in close proximity to a sensor to complete a transaction, it may be possible [for thieves] to intercept data from longer distances using an antenna.

Security Concerns

Questions that should be explicitly addressed before the ubiquity of NFC include:

  • Who is responsible for ensuring that proper security methods are used to protect against fraud and identity theft?
  • Who is liable for purchases that are made fraudulently?
  • Am I being tracked for marketing or law enforcement purposes?
  • Should there be a requirement to explicitly disclose who is using what information and for what purposes?
  • Are we replacing personal customer service with automated interactions?
  • What impact will this have on workers in customer service and related fields?
  • It is also troubling that the NFC forum is supposed to be responsible for educating the world about NFC technology when, in fact, all of the officers and members of the board of directors are representatives from companies that would greatly benefit from the proliferation of NFC technology (see These companies range from credit card companies and mobile phone manufacturers to NFC chip manufacturers. There is an obvious conflict of interest when it comes to accurately educating the public and fully disclosing the risks, capabilities, and applications of the technology and data collected from NFC usage.

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