is Leading the Push for RFID
Live trials underway, tens
of thousands of UK shoppers affected
"Tesco has been among the most
active retailers testing RFID technology."
This is an image of a Tesco DVD case with an RFID
tag attached. This tag can be read remotely, right through a customer's
For the past year, Tesco has been running trials
that put it in violation of an international call for a moratorium
on item-level RFID tagging issued by privacy experts from around
the world. Item-level tagging means placing an RFID tag on a product
a consumer buys (as opposed to putting a tag on the outside of a
crate or box of products in the warehouse).
Tesco's experiments have already involved thousands
of unwitting shoppers at its Sandhurst and Leicester stores.
Now Tesco has announced plans to expand the trial
from two to ten stores -- a move that will involve tens of thousands
of people across Great Britain and set a precedent for other retailers
to follow. The time has come for shoppers to draw the line.
The RFID industry is hoping to put customers at
ease by placing these tags on the plastic wrapping of DVDs and other
packaging material that will be thrown away.
Ultimately, however, the industry plans
to use RFID to replace the bar code, which means putting a spychip
on everything -- even your
The time to object is long before we get to that
Tesco "expects to
finalize a deal within weeks for the purchase of millions of [RFID]
has been experimenting with RFID since 1992 and has discussed plans
to integrate the technology into...stores and, eventually, at all
tags...can still work long after the product has been bought. If
the tags become as ubiquitous as the manufacturers would like, people
could be bristling with the chips in clothes and possessions. Anyone
from police to potential thieves could work out exactly what they
"A major concern is that the RFID
chip could result in every product on earth having its own unique
ID. The use of unique ID numbers could lead to the creation of a
global item registration system in which every physical object is
identified and linked to its purchaser or owner at the point of
sale or transfer."
Food Production Daily
provides inadequate notice
Tesco promises to provide full disclosure when RFID
is in use. However, Tesco customers standing in front of a llive
RFID shelf see only this sign:
While the sign tells consumers that
something is happening, it's not clear exactly what. For example,
they left out one major fact: that this is just the beginning. The
industry's plan is to tag and track every item on earth and have
a ubiquitous network of reader devices in the environment.
If RFID is deployed as the industry
envisions, someday we and our belongings could be scanned by every
doorway we walk through.
Already, Tesco's doorway security company,
Sensormatic, has developed portals capable of scanning RFID chips
that customers are wearing and carrying -- whether they're on their
way out of the store, or on their way in.
For a complete overview of RFID, see
our Spychips.com website.
"We would like to be a test bed for many more trials
of this kind in the future."
Tesco Manager, Alan Robinson, 2003
Eighteen months ago, Tesco and Gillette were caught
hiding tiny RFID surveillance chips in the packaging of Gillette
shaving products. These tiny, high tech spy tags were used to trigger
photo taking of unsuspecting customers.
Here are the infamous photo-snapping Tesco smart
shelves below. (Note the black RFID sensor underneath.)
Images from SmartLabels Analyst Magazine,
Issue 27, April 2003. (Use for educational purposes protected
under U.S. copyright law)
This industry article in Smart Labels Analyst Magazine
describes the trial in detail. Here is a photo of the Tesco
command center (above) where shoppers' photos were captured and
scrutinized by employees.
According to the article, Tesco invited 20 different
teams of business executives from around the world to gawk at their
For an entire website dedicated the Tesco-Gillette
spy shelf trial, click
"Big Brother technology now trained
on razor buyers"
"The world's stupidest anti-shoplifting
"Even if all chips
are indisputably killed beyond resurrection at the checkout, the
tagging industry...is still raving about the prospect of tracking
customers while they are still in the store."