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Building theory from consumer reactions to RFID: discovering Connective Proximity

Abstract

Academic research into RFID technology has largely neglected ethics. What scarce research was being performed has now dwindled despite having some consumers continue to express their ethical concerns. This article aims at reducing this apparent void by exploring the antecedents that cause the public to react when consumers are targeted by RFID technology. Through the analysis of 11 real RFID implementations used to target consumers, our research indicates that several factors can influence consumer response through the distinct nature of the technology, namely, (1) Customization of communications, (2) Imposition of tag use, (3) Segmentation and targeting, (4) Modified role of the sales representative, (5) Physical distance between the consumer and the tag, and (6) Security of transactions. The article then proposes a construct to determine the risk of raising consumer ethical concerns. The construct of “Connective Proximity” and its three components (physical proximity, exposure time, and information proximity) are defined. Our research highlights the need for further studies on the ethical considerations of tagging humans and specifically tracking consumers when performing marketing activities with RFID technology. Our article aims at invigorating research on this topic, which has a lot to contribute to both society and corporations.

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Acknowledgments

This research was funded by Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and Fonds de recherche du Québec – Société et Culture.

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Correspondence to Anna Margulis.

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Margulis, A., Boeck, H., Bendavid, Y. et al. Building theory from consumer reactions to RFID: discovering Connective Proximity. Ethics Inf Technol 18, 81–101 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10676-016-9388-y

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Keywords

  • RFID
  • Privacy
  • Ethics
  • Consumer
  • Human tracking
  • Case study