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CASPIAN Press Release:
METRO's Decision to Drop the Loyalty Card

February 27, 2004

Scandal Forces METRO to Drop RFID Loyalty Card like Hot Wienerschnitzel
"This is the power of the free market at work," says CASPIAN

Hammered by the press and facing a Saturday protest, METRO executives announced Thursday that they would stop putting Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags in their shopper "loyalty cards" at the Extra Future store. In addition, they will replace cards already issued to consumers.

The tags, hidden within the card's plastic, could transmit identifying information about consumers at distances of 3 feet or more via invisible radio waves. This information could be read secretly, right through a shopper's purse, backpack or wallet, said Katherine Albrecht, Founder and Director of CASPIAN (Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering).

Revelation of the stealthy cards infuriated privacy and civil liberties advocates, especially since the store failed to disclose the existence or capabilities of the embedded RFID tags. In addition, privacy advocates discovered that RFID tags on products sold in the store couldn't be completely disabled at the store's deactivation kiosks, contrary to METRO's claims.

METRO's Extra Future Store, located in Rheinberg, Germany, is the industry's showplace for RFID tracking technology. There, companies like Gillette, Procter & Gamble, and IBM are testing the technology on live consumers in what the press has called a "life-sized petri dish."

"METRO and its partners were blindsided by the consumer backlash," said Albrecht, explaining METRO's retreat. "This demonstrates the power of the free market at work. The world's people are telling global businesses like METRO, Procter & Gamble, and Gillette that they won't tolerate being spied on through products and services."

The German people are the latest to join a growing global consumer movement opposing RFID. Critics charge that item-level RFID tagging of consumer products could jeopardize consumer privacy and civil liberties.

METRO has faced a tidal wave of negative press in Germany since privacy advocates discovered the abusive RFID practices at the store, following a visit by CASPIAN's Albrecht in January. A sampling of headlines about the scandal with loose English translations can be found at:

German privacy organization FoeBud will lead a protest in front of the METRO Future Store in Rheinberg, Germany, this Saturday at 1:00 PM.  "While METRO's announcement was encouraging, it did not go far enough," explained Rena Tangens, Founder of FoeBud. "We are asking METRO and its partners to comply with the terms of a position statement that calls for a moratorium on item-level product tagging. We also want them to fund the process of addressing all of the serious privacy issues that are associated with this technology."

FoeBuD will be joined by representatives from 13 other German privacy, civil rights, and citizen organizations.

METRO AG is Germany's largest retailer and the fifth largest retailer in the world. METRO runs more than 2,000 stores in 28 countries, including the UK, Spain, France, China, Japan and India. Their holdings include supermarkets, department stores, home improvement stores and electronics stores that operate under names like Cash & Carry, Real and Extra.

Because of its global reach, METRO's policies have an impact on millions of consumers worldwide.

Information about the protest and the implications of the METRO RFID initiatives can be found at the CASPIAN RFID web site: or at the FoeBuD web site:

CASPIAN (Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering) is a grass-roots consumer group fighting retail surveillance schemes since 1999, and item-level RFID tagging since 2002. With members in all 50 U.S. states and over 20 nations across the globe, CASPIAN seeks to educate consumers about marketing strategies that invade their privacy and to encourage privacy-conscious shopping habits across the retail spectrum.



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The Spychips website is a project of CASPIAN, Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering.
© 2003-2006 Katherine Albrecht and Liz McIntyre. All Rights Reserved.

Photographs © Peter Ehrentraut, FoeBuD e.V., used with permission.