What is RFID?

RFID stands for Radio Frequency IDentification, a technology that uses tiny computer chips smaller than a grain of sand to track items at a distance. RFID "spychips" have been hidden in the packaging of Gillette razor products and in other products you might buy at a local Tesco, Wal-Mart or Target store - and they have already been used to spy on people.

Each tiny chip is hooked up to an antenna that picks up electromagnetic energy beamed at it from a reader device. When it picks up the energy, the chip sends back its unique identification number to the reader device, allowing the item to be remotely indentified. Spychips can beam back information anywhere from a couple of inches to up to 20 or 30 feet away.

Some of the world's largest retailers and product manufacturers have been plotting behind closed doors since 1999 to develop and commercialize this technology. If they are not opposed, their plan is to number and tag every manufactured item on earth with this system as a replacement for the bar code.

Many huge companies, including Tesco, Gillette, Proctor and Gamble, and Wal-Mart, have begun experimenting with RFID spychip technology. Tesco recently made the largest publicly announced single order of EPC RFID readers. Companies like Tesco envision a day when every single product on the face of the planet is tracked with RFID spychips!

Is it a better barcode?

This is NOT an "improved bar code" as the proponents of the technology would like you to believe. RFID technology differs from bar codes in three important ways:

1. With bar code technology, every can of Coke has the same UPC or bar code number (a can of Coke in Toronto has the same number as a can of Coke Topeka). With RFID, each individual can of Coke would have a unique ID number which could be linked to the person buying it when they scan a credit card or a frequent shopper card (i.e., a "registration system").

2. The second way it's different from a bar code is that these chips can be read from a distance, right through your clothes, wallet, backpack or purse--without your knowledge or consent--by anybody with the right reader device. In a way, it gives strangers x-ray vision powers to spy on you, to identify both you and the things you're wearing and carrying. Imagine walking through a doorway and having a hidden reader device identify the books in your briefcase and the brand of your underwear.

3. Unlike the bar code, RFID could be bad for your health. RFID supporters envision a world where RFID reader devices are everywhere - in stores, in floors, in doorways, on airplanes -- even in the refrigerators and medicine cabinets of our own homes. In such a world, we and our children would be continually bombarded with electromagnetic energy. Researchers have discovered that exposure to this type of energy could cause permanent harm to DNA.

Where are the chips?

As consumers, we have no way of knowing which products contain these chips. While some chips are visible inside a package (see our pictures of Gillette product spychips), RFID chips can be well hidden.

Magnified image of actual tag found in Gillette
Mach3 razor blades.

For example they can be sewn into the seams of clothes, sandwiched between layers of cardboard, molded into plastic or rubber, and integrated into consumer package design.

RFID chips shown here look like specks of sand.

This technology is rapidly evolving and becoming more sophisticated. Now RFID spychips can even be printed, meaning the dot on a printed letter "i" could be used to track you. In addition, the tell-tale copper antennas commonly seen attached to RFID chips can now be printed with conductive ink, making them nearly imperceptible. Companies are even experimenting with making the product packages themselves serve as antennas.

As you can see, it could soon be virtually impossible for a consumer to know whether a product or package contains an RFID spychip.


Fight for your privacy!

We believe the public has an absolute right to know when they are interacting with technology that could affect their health and privacy.

Don't you?

Join us. Let's fight this battle before big companies like Tesco track our every move.
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The Boycott Tesco website is a project of CASPIAN, Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering

Copyright CASPIAN 2005