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German revolt against RFID

Metro scraps trial

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Metro Group has abandoned a trial of RFID radio tags, after protests by digital rights activists.

The German retail giant has tested RFID tags at its Extra Store in Rheinberg, near Duisburg for nearly a year. The chips, hidden underneath price tags for cream cheese, shampoo and razor blades, were read over the air using radio waves, without physical contact and unnoticed by customers.

On Saturday FoeBuD, a digital rights group, demonstrated in Rheinberg against RFID tags. Only 40 protesters turned up, but they scored an immediate success. Metro is to replace 10,000 RFID-"enhanced" customer cards at the Rheinberg store.

But surely it won't be too long before the retailer returns again to RFID. This a key plank in its 'Future Store' platform, which calls for RFID tagging across the entire process chain, starting with 100 suppliers, ten central warehouses and approximately 250 stores. Around 40 IT vendors are involved in the roll-out, including IBM, Intel, SAP and Microsoft.

RFID technology creates new opportunities for spying on consumers. None of the chips are destroyed at the shop exit, so they continue to be readable by any interested party.

Katherine Albrecht, director of US-based CASPIAN (consumers against supermarket privacy invasion and numbering), said: "Consumers are telling businesses like Metro, Procter & Gamble, and Gillette that they won't tolerate being spied on through products or services."

Last week, a California state lawmaker introduced a bill to force businesses to tell customers that they're using RFID systems which can collect information about them.

Also last week RSA Security demoed a prototype of a RSA Blocker Tag technology at its user conference. The device prevents readers from performing unwanted scanning of people or goods. ®

Related stories

RSA shows RFID tag blocker
MS demos Jetsons' kitchen on FoodTV
European retailers have the hots for RFIDs
Intel: rethinking RFID?
MS joins in German chain's RFID Future Store project

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