And it's especially worrisome when you consider who Wal-Mart's business partners are," said Katherine Albrecht, founder of CASPIAN and co-author of the bestselling book "Spychips: How Major Corporations and Government Plan to Track Your Every Move with RFID."
She points to patent documents and promotional communications that she and co-author Liz McIntyre uncovered when doing research for their book.
"We discovered that Wal-mart's partners -- companies like NCR, IBM, Sensormatic, and Procter & Gamble -- have developed extensive plans to monitor and track people and exploit them commercially through RFID tags in the things they buy," Albrecht said.
"These companies are working with Wal-Mart to place RFID tags into all consumer products. This will make objects -- and the people wearing and carrying them -- remotely trackable. We have rock-solid evidence that they are already devising ways to exploit that potential," she added.
Albrecht cites NCR -- with millions of dollars of point-of-sale scanning equipment installed in Wal-Mart stores nationwide -- as just one example.
According to its own promotional literature, NCR has plans for retail store shelves that will change prices depending upon who approaches, pan and tilt cameras that will follow individual shoppers for the duration of their shopping trips, and RFID readers embedded in the store environment to individually identify and track shoppers everywhere they go, from the parking lot to the snack bar.
"This is not mere conjecture. These companies have laid out plans for a nightmarish world of total surveillance, and they've described these plans in their own words. If item-level RFID is not stopped now, Wal-Mart stores could soon become retail zoos, with customers as the closely watched exhibits," warns Albrecht. "And other public spaces will soon follow."
Wal-Mart has repeatedly denied that item-level RFID tagging poses a privacy risk, though the company was clearly concerned that discussion of its RFID plans could hurt sales.
A spokesperson issued a statement last week intended to pacify consumers. "Safety is always a top priority for us and customers should not have any concerns about shopping this weekend at our stores," she said.
Albrecht remained unconvinced, however. "If customers' safety and privacy were top priorities, Wal-Mart would confront its partners on their invasive plans and put an end to item-level tagging. But instead of thinking 'maybe we are deploying a technology that has real risks attached,' they seem to be asking themselves 'How can we get this past people?' "
The Texas protesters who turned out on Saturday are not alone in their concerns over RFID.
Studies show that the majority of consumers oppose RFID technology on privacy grounds.
WAL-MART HAMMERED FOR CONTROVERSIAL USE OF NEW TECHNOLOGY
Dozens Descend on Dallas Store to Protest RFID "Spychips"
PHOTOS AVAILABLE ONLINE
Photos of the Wal-Mart protest:
Photos showing Wal-Mart's in-store use of RFID:
ABOUT THE BOOK
Spychips: How Major Corporations and Government Plan to Track your Every Move with RFID is the winner of the Lysander Spooner Award for Advancing the Literature of Liberty and is currently on Amazon.com's nonfiction bestseller list. Authored by Harvard doctoral researcher Katherine Albrecht and former bank examiner Liz McIntyre, the book is meticulously researched, drawing on patent documents, corporate source materials, conference proceedings, and firsthand interviews to paint a convincing -- and frightening -- picture of the threat posed by RFID.
Despite its hundreds of footnotes and academic-level accuracy, the book remains lively and readable, according to critics, who have called it a "techno-thriller" and "a masterpiece of technocriticism."
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT:
Katherine Albrecht (firstname.lastname@example.org) 877-287-5854
Liz McIntyre (email@example.com) 877-287-5854
CASPIAN Consumer Privacy
www.spychips.com // www.nocards.org