A consumer-protection group is planning to lead a demonstration against the introduction of electronic identification technology critics say violates basic privacy rights.
According to a statement issued by Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering, or CASPIAN, opponents will protest the launch of the Electronic Product Code, or EPC, network during a Sept. 16 symposium at Chicago’s McCormick Place Convention Center.
Enlarged graphic of RFID tag.
Currently, all products are identified by a series of lines and numbers via the Universal Product Code, or UPC – which is commonly referred to as “bar coding.” But industry and manufacturing leaders want to adopt the EPC network, which involves embedding computer chips that emit radio signals inside products. The signals, which can be picked up by “readers” at varied distances, will alert in-store and warehouse managers to current stock levels, streamlining product management while aiding in the prevention of theft.
But opponents of the technology say the so-called “spy chips” could also be misused by industry and government to not only identify products but also consumers who buy them. By incorporating Radio Frequency Identification, or RFID, technology within the EPC network, corporations can identify shoppers as well as products.
“We have serious privacy and civil-liberties concerns about this technology. Corporations and governments could use it to register products to individuals and secretly track them after purchase,” says Katherine Albrecht, founder and director of CASPIAN.
Peter Fox, a spokesman for shaving supply giant Gillette – one of the first companies planning to use EPC technology – downplayed concerns about civil-liberties violations.
“There seems to be a level of misunderstanding” about the use of the technology, Fox told WorldNetDaily.
Back in 1999, Fox said Gillette was “a founding sponsor” of the AutoID Center, a corporation helping to develop both barcode and EPC technology, because “our goal is … to have our products on retail shelves where consumers can buy them.”
“That may be a simple goal, but the truth of the matter is, that doesn’t happen,” he said. “Each year billions of dollars are lost by manufacturers and retailers because products get lost in the supply chain, and for lots of different reasons.”
Data error, mistakes in inventory and outright theft are some ways products can get “lost” in the system. As the cost of covering those losses rises, so too does the cost of the product, he explained.
But Albrecht says RFID technology is much more than an “improved bar code,” and she believes industry is dismissing “consumer concerns.”
“These RFID spy chips can be read silently from a distance, right through your clothes, wallet, backpack or purse by anyone with the right reader device,” she said. “For example, the chips can be secretly embedded in credit cards or sewn into the seams of pants where they can be used to observe people’s movements without their knowledge or consent.”
As WorldNetDaily reported, CASPIAN led a boycott against Gillette for the company’s decision to use the technology.
Days later, Gillette renounced some uses of the technology.