BIG BROTHER COMES TO WAL-MART
Surveillance in the Supermarket
Starting this week, the nation's largest discount retailer
will quietly begin selling tracking-chipped products to
clueless shoppers. The first volley in their war against
our privacy is set to start at their Brockton, Massachusetts
Wal-Mart will put Radio Frequency I.D. sensors on shelves
stocked with RFID-tagged Gillette products, but they'd rather
you didn't know about it, because, hey, you might not like it,
and then you might make noise and then they'd have a big PR
mess on their hands.
You might even stop buying Gillette products or, say, refuse
to shop at Wal-Mart.
These chips, researched at M.I.T.'s Auto-ID Center are about
the size of a grain of sand. Chipsters say the technology will
only be used to help retailers keep track of inventory - like
bar codes. But privacy-loving consumers question the very
concept of a device that sends out radio waves to "readers"
that not only identify the article, but where and with whom
The Big Brother implications of this thing need little hyping
to get your skin crawling.
Wal-Mart's putting the pressure on its top 100 suppliers to
make sure their inventory is all chipped by the end of next
year. But why start this in Brockton, Mass?
Could it be because the store's customers are typically lower
income minorities who'd be less likely to be aware of the
tracking devices, and even less likely to make a fuss about
Their thinking? Let's foist it on folks who're too concerned
about paying the electric bill to be aware of these types of
Retailers are SUPPOSED to alert their customers to the
tracking chips and offer to "kill" the tags at the checkout
Don't count on it, because what you don't know won't hurt
you, right? And to PROVE those RFID tags won't be "killed"
at the cash register one of the ways they're planning on
convincing you, the shopper that these tags are A-OK is by
touting how "hassle-free" returns will be. Huh? If the tags
are supposedly turned off at purchase, how can they be read
after the item's brought back to the store? Just one of the
myriad lies you'll be told about this technology.
Are we to expect that in addition to being asked the "paper
or plastic" question we'll get an option on whether the RFID
tags are left on or turned off? Not only will consumers be
witnessing the death throes of privacy, but it's going to cost
them. Currently, the chips cost about 60 cents each. Add that
to the cost of each and every item that uses this Orwellian
technology. Gillette and Wal-Mart are only the pioneers here,
the stated plan is to affix each item produced on the planet
with RFID tags. Each pack of gum, each roll of film, each
bottle of Merlot.
So what's a freedom-loving shopper to do?
Fortunately for us, there's a really smart lady finishing up
a Ph.D. at Harvard. She started a group that's bellowing out
the urgency of fighting this technology; her name is Katherine
Albrecht and she's founder of CASPIAN (Consumers Against
Supermarket Privacy Invasion And Numbering). Albrecht's
CASPIAN has proposed a piece of federal legislation called
"RFID RIGHT TO KNOW ACT OF 2003".
It's a law that would let consumers know which products
had tracking chips attached to them. In short, the proposed
bill would amend the Fair Packaging and Labeling Program
by adding language that requires manufacturers to state (in
a conspicuous location) that the package contains a radio
frequency identification tag that can transmit unique
identification information to a "reader" device both before
and AFTER it's purchased(!).
This is where you come in.
The bill needs a sponsor.
Maybe YOUR Congressional Representative would like to go
on record as having helped stop this assault on our privacy.
Forward this article to him/her and tell them the entire
text of the bill can been seen at http://www.nocards.org.
Will you make it a point to email, call or fax your
representative today, before our Big Brother gets any bigger?
Do it NOW before the lobbyists and big money special
interests get to them and convince Congress these RFID
chips are consumer-friendly!
"Offshore & Privacy Secrets, July 10 2003"
Sponsored by "My Privacy Club"
The Internet's #1 Online Privacy Club