SEPTEMBER 30, 2004

Advanstar threatens CASPIAN founder: Pull or else

Photographs taken by privacy activist and writer Katherine Albrecht at the Frontline Expo 2004 conference are "unauthorized" according to Advanstar. The event management/PR firm has threatened to ban Albrecht, founder and director of CASPIAN (Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering) from future events it organizes unless she "refrain[s] from making the photos available."

The photographs in dispute show Checkpoint RFID-enabled prototypes of Abercrombie & Fitch, Calvin Klein, Champion and other name brand clothing labels.

"The notion that I somehow 'surreptitiously' photographed the displays at your event is baffling," Albrecht said in a written response to Advanstar. She characterized Advanstar s threat as "an attempt to censor images that fairly and accurately depict the activities that took place at their conference."

Advanstar's censorship "request," and Albrecht's response are posted at:

Advanstar made the decision to designate Albrecht as "press" for the event. A sign posted at the entrance to the exhibit hall indicated anyone designated as 'press' could take photographs. In addition to representing her organization's online RFID publication,, Albrecht attended the event to gather information for a well-known computer industry magazine.

"The photographs I took of RFID tags hidden in clothing labels and other consumer items document an issue of great public concern, and I plan to publish them over Advanstar's objections," said Albrecht. "The RFID industry's efforts to keep these images hidden underscores the danger the public faces from this powerful and insidious surveillance technology and the companies that would deploy it in secrecy."

In addition to the RFID clothing tag photos, Albrecht also documented the item-level tagging of Huggies baby wipes, Kimberly Clark diapers, Nyquil cold medicine, CVS vitamins, Similac baby formula, and Lanacane cream. Rather than bow to censorship demands, Albrecht has also posted these images at:

The RFID tagging of these items is disturbing from a consumer privacy standpoint, since the RFID industry has lately assured lawmakers and the press that they are interested only in "supply side" inventory tracking on crates and pallets.

Item-level tagging of consumer goods violates a call for a moratorium issued by CASPIAN and over 40 of the world's leading privacy and civil liberties organizations last November.

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