Metro Future Store
METRO "Future Store"
METRO's Decision to Drop the Loyalty Card
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
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
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: www.spychips.com
or at the FoeBuD web site: http://www.foebud.org/texte/aktion/rfid/demo/callfd.html.
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.