the photos I took at the Frontline conference hit a nerve, as now there
has been a request (see the Advanstar letter below) not to share them with
"Unauthorized" Images of Item-Level RFID
These photos depict item-level
RFID tagging of consumer items including: Calvin Klein, Champion, and Abercrombie
& Fitch clothing, Huggies baby wipes, Kimberly Clark diapers, Nyquil
cold medicine, CVS vitamins, Similac baby formula, and Lanacane cream. (Click
The RFID tagging of these items is quite shocking from a consumer privacy
standpoint, since the RFID industry has been telling lawmakers and the press
that they are interested in only "supply side" inventory tracking on crates
and pallets. They have claimed that item-level tagging of consumer goods
is not feasible for the near term, thus there is no need to worry about
its consumer privacy implications.
Over 40 consumer
groups (including CASPIAN) came out against item-level RFID tagging of consumer
goods in a position
statement issued last November. Since that time, the RFID industry has
carefully kept any item-level tagging far from public view. The fact that
vendors were openly promoting item-level tagging among themselves at this
"private conference" is huge news -- news that I am sure they would prefer
not be discovered by the public.
The RFID industry's desire to keep these images hidden underscores the dangers
the public faces from this powerful and insidious surveillance technology
and the companies that would deploy it in secrecy.
September 27, 2004
Ms. Katherine Albrecht
CASPIAN Consumer Advocacy
It has come to my attention that you falsely represented yourself
as a member of the press at the recently-concluded Frontline
Solutions Conference & Expo in Chicago. In addition
to attending the event under false pretenses, you surreptitiously
took pictures of the exhibitors booths and products and posted
those photographs on your websites without obtaining the permission
of the exhibitors.
Advanstar Technology Group accommodated you and invited you
in to the Frontline Solutions Conference & Expo, a private
event, as a member of the press representing [name
redacted*]. It is disappointing that you abused our generosity
by taking unauthorized photos at our event, thereby violating
established protocol for press at our events.
I am writing to request that you remove all unauthorized photos
that you obtained at Frontline Solutions Conference & Expo from
your websites, www.spychips.com,
any other websites under your management and that you refrain from
making the photos available to anyone else. If these
photos are not promptly removed from your websites, then Advanstar
will not allow you access to Frontline or any RFID-related Advanstar
exhibitions or conferences in the future.
I hope that you find Frontline Solutions Conference & Expo
a valuable source of information for your business and that
you will want to continue attending our events.
Frontline and RFID Systems events
Advanstar Technology Group
70 Walnut Street
Wellesley Hills, MA 02481
*This is a well-respected computer industry publication that
contracted with me to write an article on RFID.
Katherine Albrecht's Response to Advanstar
Ms. Mary LaSelva
Frontline and RFID Systems Events
Advanstar Technology Group
Dear Ms. LaSelva:
As you are aware, I had your company's full authorization to
attend Frontline Solutions Conference
& Expo in Chicago as a member of the press. Your
claim that I falsely represented myself as such is perplexing in
light of the fact that your company itself gave me that designation.
I provided documentation to meet your
guidelines for press/analysts, checked in with your staff, was
issued a press badge, and was encouraged by your staffers to speak
with vendors exhibiting at the event.
sign at the exhibit hall entrance made it clear that members
of the press were authorized to use cameras and recording devices.
At no point was I told, either in writing or verbally, of any restrictions
whatsoever on my taking or disseminating photographs or recordings
from the event. Your use of the terms "permission" and "protocol"
imply the existence of guidelines. However, I was never informed
of these. It would seem unreasonable to implement restrictions after
an event and expect to enforce them retroactively.
The notion that I somehow "surreptitiously" photographed the displays
at your event is also baffling. As evidenced from the signage and
lighting that accompanied the displays, the items I photographed
were far from hidden. The reality was just the opposite -- vendors
at your event made every effort to attract attention to their wares.
The Checkpoint display I photographed was quite prominent, and the
Checkpoint's RFID-enabled clothing labels were in plain sight for
all to see.
I myself was hardly inconspicuous. I wore a bright red jacket and
a badge with my name and the word "Press" prominently displayed.
I held the camera openly to my eye as I took over 200 photographs.
I was very obvious with the camera (people even stepped aside and
moved from my path to facilitate my taking photos) and I was explicitly
encouraged to take photos at many of the booths I visited.
no secrecy involved at any point. Staffers at both Checkpoint
and Mead Westvaco's booths greeted me by name, and used my name
in speaking to others. Checkpoint and Mead Westvaco staffers stood
by and chatted with me the entire time I was taking photos of their
displays. I asked a constant stream of questions as I picked up
and positioned their RFID-tagged items to better photograph them.
I requested and was given the business cards of each staffer I spoke
with while taking the pictures.
I took -- of RFID tags hidden in clothing labels and other consumer
items -- document an issue of great public concern. These photographs
fairly and accurately depict the activities that took place at your
conference. It is unfortunate that Advanstar Technology Group would
feel a need to make inaccurate statements about its dealings with
me in an attempt to censor these images.
I regret that I am unable to comply with your request to remove
the photographs from the web.
With best wishes for continued freedom,