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OT: RFID & Privacy - long (was Re: [ale] Radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips)
I find it hard to get up in arms about the RFID thing (maybe I'm just
ignorant or not paranoid enough). A friend of mine who works at a
*really* big data center (couple of thousand machines) has had vendors
present a DC management solution based on RFID chips though. He said
they like the idea, I guess they tend to lose machines there or something...
For me, I get much more upset by the idea of the government tracking my
comings and goings by my cellphone, or worse, one side or the other
rigging elections by tampering with poorly conceived electronic voting
I guess my question is: short of a dudes-in-black-helicopters style
conspiracy, why should I care if a retailer can track my shopping habits
in their own stores? For that matter, if they really wanted to, couldn't
they use some of this snazzy new biometrics tech to just use their
security cameras to follow me around as I shop?
For me, the 2 ideas seem the same, its simply a question of how much
someone in the afformentioned conspiracy is willing to spend on hardware
and systems to implement it.
Maybe the bigger question isn't really about RFID's per sea, but about
the level of technology driven observation we're willing to allow in our
society? Is it more a fear of getting to the point where there is a
ubiquitous system to track our movements, Minority Report style?
Robert Reese wrote:
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> On 1/7/2004 at 2:07 PM Preston Boyington wrote:
>>if i remember correctly there was a test of product tracking tried
>>with razors, is this related?
> Your memory serves correct. Below my signature is the Politech list
> email in its entirety which relates to this. Also a completely
> related article by Politech's owner Declan McCullagh is here:
> Additionally, I have a pretty good article from howstuffworks.com
> from a few years back. The articles are now numerous, and quite
> insightful. Really good reading!
> Here is a thought to brighten your day... Hypothetical retailer "W"
> implants a rugged RFID device in an article of clothing. A customer,
> let's call her "M", checks out and pays with likely a check card,
> credit card, or check. The RFID reader reads the device and logs it
> to "M"'s profile. "W" already has a good profile on customer "M",
> and knows her purchasing habits. Now "W" wants to know how "M"
> interacts with the merchandise and the store layout. So rather than
> disable the RFID device, the reader/writer implants the customer's
> UID in the clothing's RFID creating an RFUID.
> A few days later, "M" visits a "W" store (whether it is the same one,
> it doesn't matter) and proceeds to shop. Overhead, powerful RFID
> readers pick "M" up as she enters the vestibule. The RFID device,
> embedded in her clothing and previously loaded with her UID, readily
> gives up its payload to the reader. Like cell towers, the various
> readers positioned around the store pick up "M"'s RFIUD as she
> meanders between the shelves and stacks of goods. As she fills her
> cart with merchandise, the cart's RFUID is also tracked and attached
> to "M"'s session log along with the RFID of the merchandise. More
> interestingly, "W"'s RFID system watches her as she looks at items
> and either returns them to the shelf, or deposits them in her cart,
> ultimately to check out.
> I'd go on, but you get the big Orwellian picture. ;c)
> Robert Reese~
> POLITECH ARTICLE:
> [Politech] Wal-Mart and P&G accused of secret RFID testing [priv]
> - ---
> Date: Tue, 11 Nov 2003 01:58:34 -0600
> From: Andrew Edelstein <andrew at pure-chaos.com>
> To: declan at well.com
> Subject: [Fwd: [priv] [Fwd: Scandal: Wal-Mart, P&G Involved in Secret
> FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
> November 10, 2003
> *Scandal: Wal-Mart, P&G Involved in Secret RFID Testing *
> /American consumers used as guinea pigs for controversial technology/
> Wal-Mart and Procter & Gamble conducted a secret RFID trial involving
> Oklahoma consumers earlier this year, the Chicago Sun Times revealed
> Sunday. Customers who purchased P&G's Lipfinity brand lipstick at the
> Broken Arrow Wal-Mart store between late March and mid-July
> left the store with live RFID tracking devices embedded in the
> packaging. Wal-Mart had previously denied any consumer-level RFID
> testing in the United States.
> "It proves what we've been saying all along," says Katherine
> Founder and Director of Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy
> and Numbering (CASPIAN). "Wal-Mart, Procter & Gamble and others have
> experimented on shoppers with controversial spy chip technology and
> tried to cover it up. Consumers and members of the press should be
> to learn that they've been lied to."
> The Sun Times also reported that a live video camera trained on the
> shelf allowed Procter & Gamble employees, sometimes hundreds of miles
> away, to observe the Lipfinity display and consumers interacting with
> "This trial is a perfect illustration of how easy it is to set up a
> secret RFID infrastructure and use it to spy on people," says
> "The RFID industry has been paying lip service to privacy concerns,
> calling for notice, choice and control. But companies like P&G,
> and Gillette have already violated all three tenets when they thought
> nobody was looking. This is exactly why we oppose item-level RFID
> tagging and have called for mandatory labeling legislation."
> The Lipfinity tests were conducted while Wal-Mart and Procter &
> were sponsors of the MIT Auto-ID Center, a consortium of over 100
> corporations and government agencies founded in 1999. Auto-ID Center
> activities were supervised by a Board of Overseers, which included
> Wal-Mart and Procter & Gamble, along with the Uniform Code Council
> (UCC), the standards body that oversees the bar code. The UCC (along
> with EAN International) took over commercial functions from the
> center on November 1 of this year.
> "Given the players, the Wal-Mart Lipfinity trial probably isn't an
> isolated incident," says CASPIAN spokeswoman Liz McIntyre. "UCC and
> Auto-ID Center documents suggest that other products, including
> baby wipes, Pantene shampoo, Caress soap, Purina Dog Chow and Right
> Guard deodorant were also slated for live RFID field trials. Coca
> Kraft, Kodak and Johnson & Johnson products are also implicated.
> However, it may be difficult for consumers to learn the extent of
> trials in the current climate of secrecy and denials."
> (Links to documentation provided below.)
> Disclosure of the Broken Arrow trial is only the latest scandal to
> the privacy plagued RFID industry. Early this year, CASPIAN called
> for a
> worldwide boycott of Italian clothing manufacturer Benetton when the
> company announced plans to equip women's undergarments with live RFID
> tracking tags (see http://www.boycottbenetton.org). This summer,
> uncovered an RFID-enabled Gillette "smart shelf" in a Brockton,
> Massachusetts Wal-Mart and helped disclose Gillette's scheme to
> photograph consumers picking up Mach3 razor blades in UK Tesco stores
> (see http://www.boycottgillette.com/spychips.html). The group also
> revealed confidential industry plans to "pacify" consumers and
> "neutralize opposition" in the hope that consumers will be
> and "resign themselves to the inevitability" of RFID product tagging
> (see: http://www.nocards.org/press/pressrelease07-07-03_1.shtml).
> CASPIAN encourages consumers to contact Wal-Mart, P&G and the UCC to
> voice their opinion about the use of RFID spy chips in consumer
> products. Contact information for these companies is provided on the
> group's RFID website at http://www.spychips.com.
> For links to documents implicating other consumer products in
> tagging trials, see:
> "/The EPC Network, RFID and data/" at
> mirrored at: http://www.cryptome.org/rfid/ucc-rfid.pdf
> "/EPC Field Test/" at http://cryptome.org/rfid/field_test_nov02.pdf
> "/Lessons Learned in the Real World/" (note, for example, pages 25 &
> at http://cryptome.org/rfid/rfid-field-test.pdf
> Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering
> is a grass-roots consumer group fighting retail surveillance schemes
> since 1999. With members in all 50 U.S. states and over 20 nations
> across the globe, CASPIAN seeks to educate consumers about marketing
> strategies that invade their privacy and to encourage
> shopping habits across the retail spectrum.
> The Chicago Sun Times article is online at:
> We encourage you to duplicate and distribute this message to others.
> To subscribe or unsubscribe to the CASPIAN mailing list, click the
> following link or cut and paste it into your browser:
> If you have difficulty with the web-based interface, you may also
> subscribe or unsubscribe via email by writing to:
> admin at nocards.org <mailto:admin at nocards.org>
> For CASPIAN's overview of RFID product identification and tracking
> technology, please see: http://www.stoprfid.org/rfid_overview.htm
> Politech mailing list
> Archived at http://www.politechbot.com/
> Moderated by Declan McCullagh (http://www.mccullagh.org/)
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