CASPIAN announces worldwide Tesco boycott

January 27, 2005

Press release received: CASPIAN announces worldwide Tesco boycott

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 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."

CASPIAN has launched 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.

"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.'"

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