Tesco CEO Rejects RFID Privacy Worries

April 07, 2004

Tesco CEO Sir Terry Leahy has reportedly dismissed concerns over the privacy implications of RFID tagging.

He said that ''RFID tracks products, not people'' and likened RFID tags to barcoding.

He's right that RFID tags track products. However he misses the fundamental point that an RFID tag can be read from a distance without the bearer being aware it has happened. In this way RFID tags are very different from barcodes.

RFID tracks products - and in doing so it enables the tracking of people.

Cross-posted from The RFID Scanner

Posted by trevorm


RFID will help supermarkets to judge the behaviour of consumers whilst buying, I wonder if Tesco introduces RFID cards which will coexist with 'Clubcard'then how will the public react and how will activists react?

Posted by: Sufghan Khan at November 20, 2004 04:47 AM

January 26, 2005

Consumers react to UK retailer's planned expansion of item-level RFID

CASPIAN (Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering) has launched a worldwide boycott of Tesco in response to the retailer's escalating use of RFID on consumer products. CASPIAN Founder and Director Katherine Albrecht made the announcement to millions of viewers watching BBC Newsnight, the popular UK news program, on Tuesday.

Tesco is the world's third largest retailer, with over 2,300 stores across Europe and Asia.

RFID stands for Radio Frequency Identification, a controversial technology that hooks miniature antennas up to tiny computer chips smaller than a grain of sand to track items at a distance. The technology raises privacy concerns because RFID tagged items can be monitored invisibly right through items consumers normally consider private, like clothing, purses, backpacks and wallets.

During the BBC segment, Albrecht outlined CASPIAN member objections to Tesco's expansion of its item-level RFID tagging trials, saying they "would involve potentially hundreds of thousands more shoppers....it essentially means that more people will be taking home items containing [RFID] spychips." She concluded, "that's simply unacceptable."

Newsnight correspondent Paul Mason said Tesco was taking the announcement of the boycott "seriously," and read a prepared statement from the retailer that was intended to assure consumers that the store did not have plans to track products after purchase.

Mason concluded that "all the big names in this [RFID] industry will be watching this battle very intently."

Tuesday's Newsnight program will be available for replay until Wednesday evening at the Newsnight website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsa/n5ctrl/tvseq/newsnight/newsnight.ram. Real Player users can scroll forward to the 30:44 time stamp to view the Tesco RFID segment.

CASPIAN has launched http://www.boycottTesco.com in conjunction with its boycott announcement. The site details Tesco's RFID involvement, including its past misconduct with the controversial Gillette RFID "smart shelf."

Albrecht vows to maintain the boycott until Tesco complies with the moratorium on item-level RFID tagging of consumer goods as outlined in a position statement endorsed by CASPIAN and over 40 of the world's leading privacy and civil liberties organizations. (See Position Statement on the Use of RFID on Consumer Products at http://www.spychips.com/jointrfid_position_paper.html)

"We believe Tesco's decision to pursue item-level RFID tagging is irresponsible," Albrecht added. "We're calling on consumers to boycott the chain until the practice is stopped. If people must shop at Tesco, we are asking them to reduce their purchases. After all, as Tesco says, 'every little helps.'"

Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering (CASPIAN) is a grass-roots consumer group fighting retail surveillance schemes since 1999. With thousands of members in all 50 U.S. states and over 30 countries worldwide, CASPIAN seeks to educate consumers about marketing
strategies that invade their privacy and to encourage privacy-conscious shopping habits across the retail spectrum.

Posted by: No-RFID at January 27, 2005 01:04 AM

RFID can only be read up to a few feet away. On top of which all RFID tags have to be deactivated to allow the purchased goods to exit the shop without making all the horns and whistles go off. Therefore they do not function when deactivated. Radio Frequency tags are nowhere near as classey and complicated and capable of doing things than the chip and pin in all your credit cards. MF frequency tags do a lot more and are active in most libraries and department stores all over the USA, Canada and some store in Britain. I know because I worked for a manufacturer of these tags and the detectors usually placed at the doors. These tags are harmless until the chips get brains attached. Every card used to enter and exit business buildings all over this country uses them. They not only let you in and out but they record your name and work number and the date and time of each door you access. Whereas most RFID cannot do that unless it has a chip within it too. I think you are confusing the two different types of tags. And if you think your tag will make problems for you just make sure the product tag is deactivate or nuturalised before you leave the shop with the product. I know a lot more but in fairness to the businesses using these devices I will not print it here.

Posted by: Elizabeth Paddon at May 28, 2005 09:30 PM
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