Tesco extends its item level DVD RFID tagging trials

January 26, 2005

Spy Blog

Tesco, the largest retail chain in the United Kingdom, and apparently the third largest in the world, seems to be set to increase its controversial item level RFID tagging trials of DVDs from two stores to ten.

According to a statement from Tesco read out on Tuesday night's BBC Newsnight TV programme, by Paul Mason, their Business Correspndent:

"Suggestions that Tesco might use this technology to track products once they've been purchased, thereby invading customers' privacy , are simply wrong. In fact it would be illegal in Europe. In fact the "radio barcode" is only activated when it is in close proximity to the reader, located in the store, or distribution centre."

Tesco are being "economical with the truth" in their statement, as these RFID tags do not just work with readers in Tesco stores, they work and can be tracked via their "unique" individual serial numbers by any compatible reader, in rival stores using the same technology, or readers with extended range antennas in the hands of various snoopers.

As we have pointed out before, the current "radio barcodes" which is what Tesco are calling their RFID tags, are too electronically simple to incorporate any encryption technology and they are not "killed" at the checkout.

Whether Tesco continue with their existing Mead West Vaco intelligent labels or they use their new supplier ADT remains to be seen.

"Tesco is expanding a yearlong trial tracking on-shelf availability of DVDs from two stores to 10. The U.K. retailer earlier this month ordered 4,000 RFID readers and 16,000 antennas from Tyco Fire & Security's ADT Security Services."

RFID tags should be kept in the warehouse and logistics chain, and not allowed to pollute the infospace with their anti-privacy pollution beyond the retail checkout.

Consumer privacy groups such as CASPIAN are calling for a boycott of Tescos RFID tagged products (c.f. www.BoycottTesco.com), who despite their claims to be in consultation with consumer groups, are simply ignoring the RFID position paper supported by many privacy and consumer groups, including those in the UK such as notags.co.uk

Cross posted from Spy Blog

Posted by wtwu


It's unlikely with the current system set up by Tesco that they would be tracking customers as if they came back into the store. But even if they did, is it such a crime that the store employees know who you are? What happened in small towns for hundreds of years? Everyone knew the owner of the local store who could tell a customer what vegetables were fresh or when the next delivery was coming.

Posted by: Dennis Bailey at January 26, 2005 04:44 AM

The large supermarket or massive hypermarket retail model favoured by Tesco, WalMart etc. offers economies of scale which lead to increased profits, more consumer choice, even fresher vegetablese etc. flown in from around the world, no matter the season, and better value for money and than the "local store".

Given the choice, people who are rich enough, seem to throng to larger towns and cities served by this retail model.

Lots of people prefer the relative anonymity of an urban lifestyle, rather than that of small towns.

People should be able to make an informed choice as to whether or not the goods which they have purchased remain RFID tagged beyond the shop checkout till.

In some cases consumers may choose to retain still active RFID tags, especially if there are financial incentives for them to do so, but they need to be assured that third parties cannot snoop on them remotely and undetectably, which, with current RFID tags, is simply not the case.

Posted by: Watching Them, Watching Us at January 27, 2005 05:30 AM
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