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By | Ashlee Vance 30th September 2004 23:15

RFID promoter can't stand being tracked

Don't look at me looking at you

It's apparently okay for RFID tag promoters to watch you apply lipstick from 750 miles away, but not for a privacy advocate to keep an eye on companies using the pesky technology.

Yes, the cloak and dagger operations of consumer trackers have come under the microscope and it's not to the liking of Frontline Solutions. The conference organizer sent a letter to CASPIAN (Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering), requiring that the organization pull down "unauthorized" photos of CheckPoint's RFID tags popping up in clothing from the likes of Abercrombie & Fitch and Champion taken at a recent event here. CASPIAN's leader Katherine Albrecht has refused to gag herself, opting instead to print Frontline's complaint online.

"It has come to my attention that you falsely represented yourself as a member of the press at the recently-concluded Frontline Solutions Conference & Expo in Chicago," the complaint states. "In addition to attending the event under false pretenses, you surreptitiously took pictures of the exhibitors’ booths and products and posted those photographs on your websites without obtaining the permission of the exhibitors.

"I am writing to request that you remove all unauthorized photos that you obtained at Frontline Solutions Conference & Expo from your websites, www.spychips.com, www.spychips.org , www.nocards.com, www.nocards.org and any other websites under your management and that you refrain from making the photos available to anyone else."

Albrecht wrote back saying she was in fact working for a "well-respected computer industry publication" and received the needed press credentials that permitted photography.

"I myself was hardly inconspicuous," she writes. "I wore a bright red jacket and a badge with my name and the word "Press" prominently displayed. I held the camera openly to my eye as I took over 200 photographs."

Along with jeans and shirts, Albrecht uncovered RFID tags in diapers, tissue boxes, baby formula, cold medicine and vitamins. RFID haters would suggest these little trackers will be used to monitor your baby's every crawl and bowel movement with frightening precision. Pop a pill and Uncle Sam is there . . . watching . . . in an uncomfortable manner.

More to the point, critics suggest that retailers are about to flood the market with RFID-tagged goods before politicians have had time to debate thoroughly the use of the technology. Albrecht's work points to a coming onslaught of trackable gear. Companies such as Wal-Mart and Procter and Gamble have not been shy about their RFID aspirations, so it's not clear why this would come as a shock, but it does. To some.

Elsewhere, a BBC reporter chipped himself, like a dog, while in a Barcelona bar. The purpose of having an RFID tag injected under his skin? Well, access to the VIP room and an easy way of paying for drinks of course. Makes total sense. A real "opportunity" as the emergent glob puts it.

Looks like things are going to end up just like Sun Microsystems' CEO Scott McNealy predicted.

"They're going to slap that baby's bottom, then slip an ID chip in their neck or between their shoulders so you can keep track of your kid," McNealy once said. ®

Related link

Oh, Prince CASPIAN, there's a chip in my shorts and it's blinking

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