Example: [Starrett, 2003]
Starting this week, the nation's largest discount retailer will quietly begin selling tracking-chipped products to clueless shoppers. The first volley in their war against our privacy is set to start at their Brockton, Massachusetts store.
Wal-Mart will put Radio Frequency I.D. sensors on shelves stocked with RFID-tagged Gillette products, but they'd rather you didn't know about it, because, hey, you might not like it, and then you might make noise and then they'd have a big PR mess on their hands.
You might even stop buying Gillette products or, say, refuse to shop at Wal-Mart.
These chips, researched at M.I.T.'s Auto-ID Center are about the size of a grain of sand. Chipsters say the technology will only be used to help retailers keep track of
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Origins: One of the keys to the success of giant retailing chains such as
The adoption of the Universal Product Code, or UPC (more commonly known as the "bar code"), in the 1970s was one of the most significant steps in automating the tracking of inventory. With every product assigned a unique code (encoded in bar form on the packaging) which could be read by a scanner and matched up with information stored in a database, retailers could eliminate the costly and time-consuming processes of individually price-tagging every single item and manually counting items to determine the amount of inventory on hand; instead, prices could be read by scanners at the point of sale, and purchases could be tracked automatically and the number of items sold subtracted from stock-on-hand to calculate current inventory levels.
A more recent advance in inventory control has been the development of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology. Described as "bar codes on steroids," tiny RFID chips are being embedded in products (or their packaging) to assist retailers with Automatic Identification and Data Capture (AIDC). The RFID chips, when triggered by sensors, emit short bursts of identifying data streamed via radio waves; this system is a significant improvement over bar coding system for a number of reasons, including:
- RFID chips can store much more information than bar codes.
- RFID chips are a read/write technology, so more information can be added to them as needed.
- RFID chips don't require line-of-sight proximity (i.e., the information they store can be read even when products are still encased in boxes or crates).
- RFID chips are more robust (i.e., not subject to problems caused by tearing, creasing, or alteration) than bar coding.
The announcement in
(RFID tags have no built-in batteries or power supplies; they're activated by radio waves sent out from RFID readers which emit just enough power to trigger the tags and have a limited range limit, so Orwellian nightmare scenarios involving avaricious corporations tracking the locations of every one of their products all over the globe are not yet a reality.)
The wireless inventory control system trial referenced in this particular 2003 warning did not take place. On
They also worry that retailers will be able to scan customers who carry new types of personal ID cards as they walk through a store, without their knowledge. Several states, including Washington and
"Concerns about privacy are valid, but in this instance, the benefits far outweigh any concerns," says Sanjay Sarma, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "The tags don't have any personal information. They are essentially barcodes with serial numbers attached. And you can easily remove them."
|Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering
Bustillo, Miguel. "Wal-Mart Radio Tags to Track Clothing." The Wall Street Journal. 23 July 2010. Gaither, Chris. "Tiny Tracking Chips Surface in Retail Use." The Boston Globe. 9 June 2003. Shim, Richard. "Wal-Mart to Throw Its Weight Behind RFID." CNET News.com. 5 June 2003. Shim, Richard and Alorie Gilbert. "Wal-Mart Cancels 'Smart Shelf' Trial." CNET News.com. 9 July 2003.