Tesco 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."
-RFID Journal

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 shopping bag.

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 clothing.

The time to object is long before we get to that stage.

Tesco "expects to finalize a deal within weeks for the purchase of millions of [RFID] tags."
- Computerworld

"Tesco has been experimenting with RFID since 1992 and has discussed plans to integrate the technology into...stores and, eventually, at all its tills."
- ZDNet


"RFID 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 carry."
- The Guardian


"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


Tesco 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.

Eighteen Months Ago:
Tesco's Photo-Snapping
RFID Spyshelf

"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 [(p.1) (p.2)] 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 spychip trial.

For an entire website dedicated the Tesco-Gillette spy shelf trial, click here.


"Big Brother technology now trained on razor buyers"
- Silicon.com

"The world's stupidest anti-shoplifting campaign"
- CommsWorld

"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."
- The Guardian

The Boycott Tesco website is a project of CASPIAN, Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering

Copyright CASPIAN 2005