Now for a bit of a respectful rebuttal.
I admit: I missed the need to "opt-out" of this tracking when I registered for their meeting. But I really didn't realize that registering for a scientific meeting also required signing (checking?) a contract to not permit tracking when I registered at the time. Who knew?
Now more than ever, I believe the use of our personal data should be on the basis of an “opt-in” policy rather than an “opt-out” policy. Requiring someone the check a box to NOT have something is a pernicious way to illicit approval for an activity. I get that we could “opt-out,” but why should I HAVE to? My privacy (and that of all of the ACC’s membership) should be kept confidential first and foremost, marketing efforts should come second.
The ACC states that they use the RFID data for “two main functions,” (1) meeting planning and (2) to collect “rent” for the use of RFID data by exhibitors:
Exhibitors were able to rent RFID readers from the vendor. They are able to use the data in much the same way as the ACC – to evaluate how effectively their work stations are structured and to improve their offerings to attendees….ACC’s intention was not to create a revenue source by offering attendee data to exhibitors (in fact, only five out of more than 300 exhibiting companies decided to invest in RFID in their booths), but rather to provide exhibitors another resource by which to understand the traffic flow in their booths and to better align their displays with attendees’ needs.They suggest that the ACC’s “intent” was not to create a revenue source by offering attendee data to exhibitors because only 5 vendors opted to pay for the rental. If so, why not offer the data for free? While the data given was reportedly “the same information that was available on meeting attendees badges in print (name/city/state/institution). No contact information is provided” we really see that other data were also derived from this meeting, and hence distributable:
The attendee then goes to a session on appropriate use of PCI, followed by a session on imaging because he or she is interested in new advances in the intersection of imaging and intervention. Let’s also say that several other people in these sessions followed a similar track. In this scenario, the ACC would receive a report of aggregated data, showing a significant level of physician interest in both imaging and interventional sessions.If the ACC collected and controlled the data themselves, then the ACC could assure the data’s privacy, but they did not. The ACC contracted with an outside vendor, Alliance Tech, to collect the tracking data and, as such, they have the ultimate control over it. By supplying our demographic information to Alliance Tech, the ACC makes the tracking data useful to vendors and others. What assurance do members have that Alliance Tech has the same good intentions with the data as the ACC? Realize that this same tactic was used by the American Medical Association to provide our prescribing information to Heath Information Organizations with the same "opt-out" requirement.
This is not to say the ACC does not need the revenue. Putting on these meetings is expensive. But we must not lose sight of the real purpose of these meetings, education. Many doctors I know shook their head when the opening plenary session started with a light show and red carpet walk. Is funding of these “shows” why they need to see our personal data? Like it or not, we have to wonder.
Also, RFID data are easily hacked. One only needs to watch the short video of Adam Savage from the popular TV show Mythbusters at the 2010 Hackers Conference to see why the Discovery Channel opted not to air their show on RFID technology to understand how important this data is to businesses.
No doubt the ACC need to find ways to raise funds as pressure mounts on all of us to cut costs in health care. These scientific meetings are a major source of revenue for their organization and they do perform an important advocacy role for cardiologists in Washington. But there is a need to remember why they exist in the first place: to advocate for their physician members while respecting their practice of medicine, not sell us (and our personal data) short to other industry interests.