Frequently Asked Questions About CASPIAN
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
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
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).
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?