A consumer-advocacy group is launching a global boycott against the world’s largest manufacturer of shaving supplies to protest the company’s use of customer-tracking technology.
Sponsored by Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering, or CASPIAN, the boycott against Gillette seeks to punish the shaving supplier for utilizing in-store and in-product technology that is capable of tracking buyers of its products.
“We have corroborated evidence that a Gillette ‘smart shelf’ fitted with radio frequency identification (RFID) devices can sense when packages are removed from a store shelf and, in response, take pictures of consumers handling them,” said CASPIAN founder and director Katherine Albrecht. “Tracking and photographing consumers without their knowledge and consent is unacceptable.”
Attempts to reach Gillette officials by e-mail and phone were unsuccessful.
Albrecht says her organization last month sent a letter to management officials at Boston-based Gillette requesting information about the RFID program. She says she also asked officials for assurances the corporation would not condone the photographing and tracking of customers anywhere in the world.
But, she said, Gillette failed to honor her requests.
“Since Gillette failed to renounce the photographing and tracking of innocent shoppers, we can only conclude that they plan to continue down this ill-advised path,” Albrecht said. “We want to send a clear message to Gillette and other companies that consumers will not tolerate being spied on through the products they buy.”
As WorldNetDaily reported, RFID technology – which actually dates back to World War II – is most commonly used for “tracking goods in the supply chain, tracking assets, tracking parts moving to a manufacturing production line, security (including controlling access to buildings and networks) and payment systems that let customers pay for items without using cash,” according to the RFID Journal, an online industry publication.
Developers describe RFID as an automatic data-capture technology that uses tiny tracking chips affixed to products. The chips can be used to track items at a distance, through personal items such as a purse, backpack or wallet. More and more companies would like to replace the bar codes affixed to consumer goods with the RFID chips so they can better manage assets and merchandise, and reduce theft and product loss.
Only recently, though, has the technology become affordable enough for widespread use.
“Photographing adult consumers has already cost Gillette a loss of consumer goodwill,” Albrecht says, adding she believes the boycott may cost Gillette more than just revenue. “Just imagine if a picture of a minor is snapped without permission. Gillette will have a firestorm on its hands if its shelf photographs a teen-age girl as she bends down to examine Venus shaving products.
“Her father, his attorney and the whole world would be knocking on CEO James Kilt’s door,” she said.
Albrecht says the concept has been tested in England, but she “suspects” it also has been used at select locations in the U.S. The London Guardian reported the British chain store Tesco has utilized the technology.
Together with the nation’s largest retailer, Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Gillette had planned to conduct an in-store trial of RFID this summer at a Brockton, Mass., Wal-Mart store. The retail giant eventually abandoned its plans, however, and instead will incorporate RFID technology at each of its 103 distribution centers around the country to monitor inventory.