Have you taken home more from the store than you bargained for? Unwitting shoppers have arrived home with live, track able RFID-tagged items from their Wal-Mart "supercenters".
Just as news headlines declare the retail heavy-weight is posting double-digit profits for the first quarter we should take note of a sinister scheme being played out in stores like Dallas, Texas area Wal-Marts.
Now it seems, Wal-Mart -that insatiable super power of the retail world- has officially said to you, the consumer: "Drop Dead!" Last week, Wal-Mart began slapping live Radio Frequency I.D. tags on products at seven of their Dallas-Fort Worth area stores. To make matters worse, those tags aren't being de-activated at the register. What that means is the "spy chips", computer chips the size of a grain of sand, and track able at a distance have been affixed to the very products shoppers are carting home with them. No signs tell of this Orwellian setup and that alone should tell us something about the plan itself. See, industry research has shown time and time again that shoppers are overwhelmingly opposed to the use of this technology at the consumer level.
Proctor and Gamble, one of the biggies in this plot has done studies showing that 78% of consumers asked are worried about the privacy issues surrounding this technology.
Despite a call by over 40 privacy and civil liberties groups for a moratorium on the use of RFID chips on consumer goods, Wal-Mart's thumbed it's nose at you, the consumer.
Banking on apathetic shoppers, Wal-Mart continues the march toward tagging and tracking every item "on the planet".
Not only is Wal-Mart leading the way on the use of these chips but the leviathan chain has ordered 100 of it's largest suppliers to join the assault on consumer privacy as well. The woman who's sounded the alarm on this, Katherine Albrecht, founder of C.A.S.P.I.A.N. (Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion And Numbering) has devoted an entire doctoral thesis at Harvard to outlining the dangers of a technology that tracks goods and thus the people who buy them. Albrecht says of Wal-Mart's efforts to pretend the chips(electronic product codes or ePC's) are simply "new and improved" bar codes that "when the world's largest retailer adopts a technology with chilling societal implications, and does so irresponsibly, we should all be deeply concerned."
To make matters worse, in addition to ignoring a call to refrain from using the track able tags in stores, Wal-Mart has begun a spin campaign they call "consumer education". The proof of their concern over potential shopper backlash can be seen on their website which is filled with half-truths and downright lies about what their foray into RFID is really all about.
Albrecht says "read the FAQs at the Wal-Mart corporate website ….the omissions and spin make it feel more like a calculated disinformation campaign." She adds that while Wal-Mart tries to defuse the privacy concerns by saying the tags only contain a number and are therefore benign, that would be "like saying someone's social security number is 'only' a number, so sharing it with perfect strangers should be of no concern."
Few people realize the connection between RFID tags and store "loyalty" cards, ATM and credit cards. Now that shoppers have gleefully given up their privacy to obtain a "savings" card at their favorite super market, corporations have seen just how easy it is to have people agree to accept a number to get food.
How easily they'll trade privacy for the illusion of saving big. (For a comparison of supermarket prices showing costs at stores with cards and costs at stores without cards, go to www.nocards.org). The purchases made by an individual are recorded. Even if shoppers use fake names, their purchases are linked over a period of time (again ,to find out how this is done go to www.nocards.org). Now add RFID and what you have is a way to identify YOU by a spy chipped product you've already purchased. You then become a track able entity each time you walk past a reader in a store. (Or airport? Or highway checkpoint?)
The Wal-Mart website states: "Eight manufacturers participating in first phase of RFID technology at the case and pallet level".
So that means this is just the beginning. Soon eight manufacturers will become 100 of the largest producers of retail products that will be tagged. The spin on this nightmare says "Wal-Mart expects new technology to benefit consumers…"
What Wal-Mart DOESN'T expect is for you to show them they're wrong. Let's give new meaning to the word BACKLASH by refusing to purchase ANYTHING at Wal-Mart. While we're at it I'd suggest telling the folks at Proctor and Gamble, Unilever, Max Factor, Kimberly Clarke, Gillette and Coca Cola, just to name a few, that we're wise to their intentions to jump on the RFID bandwagon and that we'll be watching. (www.spychips.com)
With RFID technology comes a most serious invasion of privacy when used at the consumer level- especially when it's done without any sign, label or notification.
Before this goes any farther tell Wal-Mart and the big corporations you're not willing to play "Tag".
© 2004 Mary Starrett - All Rights Reserved
Mary Starrett was on television for 21 years as a news anchor, morning talk show host and medical reporter. For the last 5 years she hosted a radio program. Mary is a frequent guest on radio talk shows. E-Mail M123STAR@aol.com
"With RFID technology comes a most serious invasion of privacy when used at the consumer level- especially when it's done without any sign, label or notification."