Feeds

Wal-Mart attracts more RFID flak

Consumer group up in arms over privacy

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

The Power of One eBook: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

Grass-roots consumer group Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering (CASPIAN), which is fighting retail surveillance schemes, says that Wal-Mart's decision to tag individual items on its store floor using radio frequency identification or RFID violates a call for a moratorium issued last November by 40 privacy and civil liberties organisations.

Wal-Mart began item-level RFID tagging of consumer goods last week as part of a trial in Texas. Shoppers at seven Dallas-Fort Worth area Wal-Mart stores can walk into the consumer electronics department and find Hewlett-Packard products for sale with RFID tags attached.

Wal-Mart says that RFID tags in its stores are harmless since they contain nothing more than identification numbers. "While technically that's true, Wal-Mart fails to explain what it means for items to carry remote-readable unique ID numbers," says Katherine Albrecht, founder and director of CASPIAN. "It's like saying someone's social security number is 'only' a number, so sharing it with perfect strangers should be of no concern."

Albrecht explains that many major retailers routinely link shoppers' identity information from credit, ATM and "loyalty" cards with product bar code numbers to record individuals' purchases over time. The same will happen with RFID numbers on products, she claims. This means that if retailers can read an RFID tag on a product they previously sold, they can immediately identify the customer as he or she enters the store.

"Wal-Mart is blatantly ignoring the research and recommendations of dozens of privacy experts," says Albrecht. "When the world's largest retailer adopts a technology with chilling societal implications, and does so irresponsibly, we should all be deeply concerned."

The most publicised trial of item-level RFID tagging to date, Metro-AG's "Future Store" in Rheinberg, Germany, met with some public outcry earlier this year, culminating in a small protest outside the store. So far consumer revolt against RFID remains marginal. ®

Related stories

Subdermal RFID chip provokes furore
Moratorium on RFID chips urged
Wal-Mart turns customers into RFID lab rats

The Power of One eBook: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
Mozilla fixes CRITICAL security holes in Firefox, urges v31 upgrade
Misc memory hazards 'could be exploited' - and guess what, one's a Javascript vuln
BMW's ConnectedDrive falls over, bosses blame upgrade snafu
Traffic flows up 20% as motorway middle lanes miraculously unclog
LibreSSL RNG bug fix: What's all the forking fuss about, ask devs
Blow to bit-spitter 'tis but a flesh wound, claim team
Manic malware Mayhem spreads through Linux, FreeBSD web servers
And how Google could cripple infection rate in a second
Yorkshire cops fail to grasp principle behind BT Fon Wi-Fi network
'Prevent people that are passing by to hook up to your network', pleads plod
Don't look, Snowden: Security biz chases Tails with zero-day flaws alert
Exodus vows not to sell secrets of whistleblower's favorite OS
Researcher sat on critical IE bugs for THREE YEARS
VUPEN waited for Pwn2Own cash while IE's sandbox leaked
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.