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The Saker
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CASPIAN announces worldwide Tesco boycott on BBC television

category international | consumer issues | press release author Wednesday January 26, 2005 22:01author by Liz McIntyre - CASPIANauthor email BoycottTesco at nocards dot org Report this post to the editors

Consumers react to UK retailer's planned expansion of item-level RFID

CASPIAN (Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering)
has launched a worldwide boycott of Tesco in response to the retailer's
escalating use of RFID on consumer products. CASPIAN Founder and
Director Katherine Albrecht made the announcement to millions of viewers
watching BBC Newsnight, the popular UK news program, on Tuesday.

Tesco is the world's third largest retailer, with over 2,300 stores across Europe and Asia.

RFID stands for Radio Frequency Identification, a controversial technology that hooks miniature antennas up to tiny computer chips smaller than a grain of sand to track items at a distance. The
technology raises privacy concerns because RFID tagged items can be monitored invisibly right through items consumers normally consider
private, like clothing, purses, backpacks and wallets.

During the BBC segment, Albrecht outlined CASPIAN member objections to Tesco's expansion of its item-level RFID tagging trials, saying they "would involve potentially hundreds of thousands more shoppers....it essentially means that more people will be taking home items containing [RFID] spychips." She concluded, "that's simply unacceptable."

Newsnight correspondent Paul Mason said Tesco was taking the announcement of the boycott "seriously," and read a prepared statement
from the retailer that was intended to assure consumers that the store did not have plans to track products after purchase.

Mason concluded that "all the big names in this [RFID] industry will be watching this battle very intently."

Tuesday's Newsnight program will be available for replay until Wednesday evening at the Newsnight website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsa/n5ctrl/tvseq/newsnight/newsnight.ram. Real Player users can scroll forward to the 30:44 time stamp to view the Tesco RFID segment.

CASPIAN has launched http://www.boycottTesco.com in conjunction with its boycott announcement. The site details Tesco's RFID involvement, including its past misconduct with the controversial Gillette RFID "smart shelf."

Albrecht vows to maintain the boycott until Tesco complies with the moratorium on item-level RFID tagging of consumer goods as outlined in a
position statement endorsed by CASPIAN and over 40 of the world's leading privacy and civil liberties organizations. (See Position
Statement on the Use of RFID on Consumer Products at

"We believe Tesco's decision to pursue item-level RFID tagging is irresponsible," Albrecht added. "We're calling on consumers to boycott the chain until the practice is stopped. If people must shop at Tesco, we are asking them to reduce their purchases. After all, as Tesco says,
'every little helps.'"

Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering (CASPIAN) is a grass-roots consumer group fighting retail surveillance schemes since 1999. With thousands of members in all 50 U.S. states and over 30
countries worldwide, CASPIAN seeks to educate consumers about marketing strategies that invade their privacy and to encourage privacy-conscious
shopping habits across the retail spectrum.

For more information, see:
http://www.spychips.com and http://www.nocards.org

Related Link: http://www.boycottTesco.com
author by Gerry In Dublinpublication date Thu Jan 27, 2005 13:30author email cgmurphy at gofree dot indigo dot ieauthor address Dublinauthor phone Report this post to the editors

Can you help me ?

I really do not know how the RFID data would be used ?

What would it tell the source ?

Are car loads of supermarket managers going to travel around the country checking up on where the chips are located ?

What does this prove ?

Surely purchase information can be collected by the use of store loyalty cards anyway ?

Are the stores going to amass mountains of information, are they then going to ask the next door neighbours who lives in the house, what is the address ???

I am totally confused. There are much easier ways of finding out about buyer behaviour + gathering mailing lists.

Gerry In Dublin

author by Liz McIntyre - CASPIANpublication date Thu Jan 27, 2005 23:51author email BoycottTesco at nocards dot orgauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors


Here's a link to an article that gives a good overview of the industry RFID plans and the dangers:


You're right that "loyalty" or "club" cards are also an issue, but RFID data is much more granular and can be collected without the knowledge or consent of consumers.

Let us know if you would like additional information. Thanks for caring and asking good questions.

Related Link: http://www.boycottTesco.com
author by Gerry In Dublinpublication date Fri Jan 28, 2005 12:40author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I'm still confused, do you not realise that if everything was 'tagged' that there would be so much data available, it could not be used.

Who would collect it ?

How would that mountain of data be collected ?

How / who would determine what information was useful and what was not useful ?

Even if data on tagged cans of coke was collected say, what in God's name would it mean to Coke anyway ? What use would the fact that I brought the can in my car mean ?

How would they know that it was MY can in MY car.....perhaps it was a used empty can lying there for months. What do they care anyway?

Get real you guys, you really think TOOOOOOOO deeply on meaningless issues.


Gerry in Dublin

author by evil scientistpublication date Fri Jan 28, 2005 12:54author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"so we can figure out which ones are toads!
6.7billion tags to catch a handful of spawning toads.
what's silly about that?
I'll glady volunteer".

concerned mother of teenagers, PD voter

"I got fingerprinted at templemore, if you don't do anything wrong you shouldn't be scared of the law.
I'd glady donate my vital bodily fluids to a private corporation to put in liquid nitrogen coz i trust them implicitly".

Garda recruit - FF voter greater dublin area.

"I was mugged and violated horribly by a teenager who had spent the previous 24 hours playing snuff video games, thanks to DNA the social workers and concerned authorities were able to pass this problem on to the gardai promptly"

little old lady. FG voter sleepy hollow south west of Ireland.

et cetera...
et cetera...
et cetera...

author by misepublication date Fri Jan 28, 2005 20:43author address author phone Report this post to the editors

As it also happens Tesco is owned by Leading Zionist Dame Shirley Porter - of Westminster Council Election Homes for Votes GerryMadering Fame. Thatchers bestest buddie also, I wouldnt piss on Tesco if it was on fire.

author by Liz McIntyre - CASPIANpublication date Tue Feb 01, 2005 18:25author email BoycottTesco. at nocards dot orgauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors


The industry IS expecting an overwhelming amount of information. I've heard one industry pundit compare it to trying to drink water from a firehose.

But, the industry has plans to manage and store the information they select to keep thanks to the bargain basement price of computer storage. Databases now are measured in Pedabytes and other numbers of which I cannot even conceive.

What data will they choose to keep and how long will they keep it? Will they keep a log with the unique RFID number for your can of peas? No one is saying. But let's say they choose to keep just selected information.

Say retailers decide to store just the unique RFID tag information from shoes. (And, by the way, I've been to conferences where the industry is very excited at the prospect of embedding RFID tags in shoes. At one, a pair of Wal-Mart running shoes was fitted with an Alien RFID tag as a prototype. That was two years ago!)

Adults typically must buy shoes specifically for themselves since fit is important. They're typically not gifts. Trading, buying used, or re-selling shoes is rarely done due to health and social norms. Adults don't typically lend their shoes to others. Adults tend to keep their shoes for a long time and favor certain shoes. So we could probably agree that if we could uniquely identify shoes with RFID, we could associate those shoes with the adults wearing them.

Now imagine the world envisioned by RFID proponents where RFID reader devices are ubiquitous. There would be RFID readers everywhere in the environment--store entryways, floors, walls, store shelves etc.
Put the shoe tags and the ubiquitous RFID reader environment together, and you could do a fair amount of people tracking based on shoe tags.

This tracking could be very personalized, based on associating the tag information with the purchaser when the shoes are bought. "Impersonal" tracking could also be done, but as shoppers are moving toward paying with plastic, checks and/or providing loyalty cards at checkout, the potential for "item registration" is real.

Some argue that retailer reader devices might have just a short read range--so what's the worry? Actually, sometimes a short read range is BETTER than a long read range for tracking. That's been hammered home to me as I've spoken with developers. (By the way, retailers are moving to UHF devices with passive read ranges of up to 20-30 ft.)

Let's say a retailer wants to know with some precision exactly who is standing in front of a display at its store. In that case, it might make sense to have a reader device with a two-inch read range embedded in the tile at that location so only one specific RFID shoe tag is captured. (Remember. RFID devices can be well hidden since line of sight is not necessary. The information is transmitted via invisible radio waves. The RFID tags can be embedded in shoe rubber and readers can be undetected in flooring, for example.)

Gerry, I'm guessing that you might not object to this information gleaning. Initially, you might not be bothered that a retailer could gather information about a shopper's behavior, like the fact that he or she is in a particular store and how long he or she lingers in a spot.

But what if that particular spot is in front of a gun display or in front of a rack of condoms?
What if that spot is at the til and the tag information is associated with the purchase of an item paid for in cash because the consumer wants it "off the grid?" That might change your opinion, as it should.

Take this a bit further, and imagine that a government decides to monitor the activities at protests announced by Indy Media. What's to stop their placing reader devices at the events and collecting shoe tag numbers? (It does seem like some governments are very interested in Indy Media as proven by the recent seizure of computers.)

In our post 9/11 world, the government could request store shoe tag information without too much fuss. Even if the tags were not matched with purchase records, the government could keep a log and, say, stop anyone with a tag logged at an Indy Media event at the airport for additional screening. Perhaps that individual would not be allowed on a plane at all.

Using the example of an isolated can of peas could make RFID technology seem innocuous, I agree. But if you look at the issue with a long-term vision, there are obvious privacy issues. These issues, by the way, have been acknowledged as real potential by those RFID proponents who are honest.

In the end, we must ask ourselves if we can trust global businesses and governments with RFID. While there are already other ways information is gleaned about consumers and their behavior, as you point out, RFID is different in that it offers much more granular information, and it can be collected without the knowledge or consent of consumers.

copyright by Liz McIntyre, CASPIAN Communications Director 2/1/2005
May be reprinted as long as the author is acknowledged. Thanks.

Related Link: http://www.boycottTesco.com
author by John Bon Jovialpublication date Wed Feb 02, 2005 10:19author address author phone Report this post to the editors

How will they (Tesoc et al) handle all the data?
Have you ever heard of the "computer"?

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