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Katherine Albrecht, Ed.D.
RFID and Consumer Privacy Expert
Award-winning Author, Speaker, Privacy Advocate
Founder and Director, CASPIAN Consumer Advocacy
(Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering)
Doctorate in Education, Harvard University

click here for Katherine Albrecht's BIO

 

Liz McIntyre
RFID and Consumer Privacy Expert
Award-winning Author, Speaker, and Privacy Advocate
Co-author of the "Spychips" series of books

click here for Liz McIntyre's BIO


Frequently Asked Questions About CASPIAN

Q. When and why was CASPIAN founded?


A. CASPIAN was founded in October 1999 to oppose grocery store "loyalty cards." Our initial research into supermarket cards and data collection led us to look into the multi-billion dollar "CRM" or "Customer Relationship Management" industry that makes its living by collecting and trafficking in people's personal data. We were horrified at what we discovered, and even more concerned at how little the average American knows about this industry that daily invades their privacy.

We began tackling the RFID issue in 2002.

(If you are interested in learning more our origins and our other projects, we encourage you to visit our home website, nocards.org. There you can learn more about supermarket cards and the surveillance and price manipulation problems they have created in the last decade. For further details on CASPIAN's founder, Katherine Albrecht, click here.)



Q. Is CASPIAN anti-business?

A. No. CASPIAN Founder and Director Katherine Albrecht holds an undergraduate degree in Business Administration with an emphasis in International Marketing. She graduated with magna cum laude honors and maintains a strong interest in marketing and market research issues. Katherine holds a Doctorate in Education from Harvard University.

Associate Director John Vanderlippe owns a small business. Communications director Liz McIntyre has a background in accounting, auditing, finance and banking. Media associate Mary Starrett has a long history in business journalism. Hundreds of other CASPIAN volunteers and members are also involved in corporate and local business endeavors.

It is not anti-business to encourage companies to engage in honorable, pro-consumer practices as a means to economic success.

Q. The term "free market activism" has been used to describe your work. Can you say more?

A. CASPIAN operates under free market, Libertarian principles. We believe that a healthy free market depends on consumers having access to information that impacts them so they can work to ensure that their best interests are met in the marketplace. When consumers are not given pertinent facts, they get saddled with things like loyalty cards, CRM, retail surveillance, unbridled RFID usage, and the thousands of other offenses to their dignity, privacy, and economic well-being that have sprung up in recent years.

It is our hope to re-empower consumers after decades of apathy to feel confident saying things to business like "we prohibit" and "you must" -- since that is consumers' appropriate role in the free market equation. Consumers have too long relied on government to serve this function. We believe it is time for them to act in their own best interest.

Businesses can chose to respond to these demands or not, but the market will punish those who fail to pay attention to consumer concerns.


Q. Where does CASPIAN stand on legislation?

A. In general, we are not big fans of legislation as a way to solve consumer privacy problems -- with one exception. It is appropriate for legislation to protect consumers by preventing fraud and misrepresentation. For that reason, CASPIAN has developed sample federal legislation titled the "RFID Right to Know Act of 2003" [overview] that would require labeling on consumer items containing RFID tags.

We believe that, for example, selling a pair of shoes that doubles as a tracking device without telling consumers about the RFID device it contains is essentially a form of fraud. When a shopper buys a pair of shoes, she has a reasonable expectation that she is getting shoes -- not something else. Once mandatory labeling is in place, if people chose to buy shoes that can track them, that should be their free choice. But consumers must be informed of what that choice means.

Our sample legislation was authored for CASPIAN by Zoe Davidson of Boston University in the spring of 2003. It has since served as a model for lawmakers in several states to draft their own state-level RFID labeling legislation.


Q. Does CASPIAN want RFID banned?

A. No. We have never called for legislation to ban either RFID tags or supermarket loyalty cards. We do believe, however, that these technologies pose serious risks to consumers, and we have called on the world's shoppers to reject them. CASPIAN hopes to see both technologies ultimately fail in the marketplace as a result of consumer opinion.

In the long run, outright market failure would offer more effective consumer protections than temporary legislative band-aids. (What the legislature grants, the legislature can easily take away, limiting the field of consumer espionage to itself.)


Q: How many members do you have?

A: We do not reveal membership numbers except to say that we have many thousands of members in all 50 U.S. states and over 30 countries worldwide (see partial list below).

Australia
Austria
Belgium
Canada
Czech Republic
Costa Rica
Denmark
England (UK)
Finland
France
Germany
Greece
India
Ireland
Italy
Japan
Mexico
Netherlands
Nigeria
Pakistan
Philippines
Poland
Scotland
South Africa
Spain
Sweden
Switzerland
Togo
Turkey
UK
US Virgin Islands

We view our members as the people we work for, not the other way around. We do not sell, share, or exploit membership information in any way.


Q: How is CASPIAN funded?

A: Since our founding in 1999, no one associated with CASPIAN has drawn a salary from their work with the organization. What we have accomplished to date, we have done through grass-roots volunteer efforts with individual donations of time, effort, and money.

Individuals with an interest in donating to CASPIAN are encouraged to contact us.


Q: Where are you located?

A: CASPIAN is part of the new breed of activist organization that operates primarily through the Internet and by telephone. We do not have a "central office;" members of CASPIAN's volunteer staff are located throughout the USA.



Q: How did CASPIAN get its name?

A: In addition to being an acronym for "Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering," CASPIAN is named after Prince Caspian of the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis.

"The Voyage of the Dawn Treader" contains a passage where Caspian, the adolescent boy-prince-turned-king (nearly always depicted with a sword in his hand), overturns the table of a despotic local official who has lost his concern for the people of his realm. Worse still, this bureaucrat profits from his nation's involvement in the slave trade.

As king of the realm, Caspian demands to be acknowledged as sovereign over the despot and calls for an immediate end to the trafficking in slaves. When the local official refuses, Caspian unceremoniously routs him from office.

CASPIAN, the national consumer organization, is like that prince with a sword in his hand demanding his birthright. We will overturn as many tables as necessary until the corporate usurpers recognize that we consumers are the true sovereigns of the commercial enterprise. Enslavement of our data -- and by extension us -- must stop.


Q: Is CASPIAN a Christian organization?

A: CASPIAN is a secular (non-religious) organization which welcomes members from all faiths and backgrounds. While CASPIAN Founder Katherine Albrecht is a Christian who has spoken publicly about her personal and religious views on technology and society, her beliefs do not necessarily reflect those of other CASPIAN members or volunteers.


Q: Where do CASPIAN members fall politically?

A: CASPIAN members span a wide range of political, philosophical, and social viewpoints, making us fairly unique as an advocacy organization. Our members include business owners, homemakers, politicians, engineers, students, scientists, lawyers, factory workers, authors, schoolteachers, and others, representing nearly every position on the political spectrum. While we may differ on outside issues, we are united by a common belief:

It is wrong to spy on people through the products and services they buy.

 

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The Spychips website is a project of CASPIAN, Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering.
2003-2007 Katherine Albrecht and Liz McIntyre. All Rights Reserved.