FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 9, 2007


AMERICAN EXPRESS ADDRESSES RFID PEOPLE TRACKING PLANS
Promises Full Patent Review, Tracking Notice, and Chip-Free Option

The top brass at American Express, chagrined at the discovery of its people tracking plans, met with CASPIAN (Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering) last week to discuss the issue. One outcome of the meeting was a promise by American Express to review its entire patent portfolio and ensure that any people-tracking plans be accompanied by language requiring consumer notice and consent.

The meeting was organized after CASPIAN called attention to one of the company's more troublesome patent applications. That patent application, titled "Method and System for Facilitating a Shopping Experience," describes a Minority Report style blueprint for monitoring consumers through RFID-enabled objects, like the American Express Blue Card.

According to the patent, RFID readers called "consumer trackers" would be placed in store shelving to pick up "consumer identification signals" emitted by RFID-embedded objects carried by shoppers. These would be used to identify people, track their movements, and observe their behavior.

The patent also suggested such people-tracking systems could "be located in a common area of a school, shopping center, bus station or other place of public accommodation."

Allegations of American Express people-tracking blueprints first came to light at a conference sponsored by the Consumer Federation of America in Washington, D.C. last month. There, Dr. Katherine Albrecht, Founder and Director of CASPIAN, revealed the patent pending plans that she and her "Spychips" co-author Liz McIntyre uncovered in their ongoing RFID research.

Soon thereafter, American Express arranged for four of its vice presidents, including the vice presidents of Contactless Payments and Public Affairs, to meet with CASPIAN leaders in a phone conference.

"We are pleased that American Express responded to our concerns," said Albrecht. "It's clear the company is thinking about privacy issues and wants to address them constructively. However, we had hoped that American Express would renounce its people tracking plans altogether and be more sensitive to the fact that placing RFID tags in consumer items, like credit cards, puts consumers at risk for surreptitious tracking by others."

In response to CASPIAN concerns, American Express also promised that it would make a chip-free version of its credit card available to concerned consumers who ask for it.

"Offering a chipless credit card is a positive step and should serve as an example to the rest of the industry," said McIntyre. "Consumers don't like RFID technology. Contrary to American Express ads, most people would rather leave home without it."

The complete text and excerpts from the American Express people tracking patent application can be found at:
http://www.spychips.com/press-releases/american-express-tracking-patent.html


ABOUT RFID

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is a controversial technology that uses tiny microchips to track items from a distance. These RFID microchips have earned the nickname "spychips" because each contains a unique identification number, like a Social Security number for things, that can be read silently and invisibly by radio waves.


ABOUT CASPIAN

CASPIAN (Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering) is a grass-roots consumer group fighting retail surveillance schemes since 1999 and irresponsible RFID use since 2002. With thousands of members in all 50 U.S. states and over 30 countries worldwide, CASPIAN seeks to educate consumers about marketing strategies that invade their privacy and encourage privacy-conscious shopping habits across the retail spectrum.

To join or support CASPIAN or to sign up for our mailing list, please see:
http://www.spychips.com/get_involved.html


ABOUT THE BOOK

"Spychips" is the winner of the 2006 Lysander Spooner Award for Advancing the Literature of Liberty and has received wide critical acclaim. Authored by recent Harvard graduate Dr. Katherine Albrecht and former bank examiner Liz McIntyre, the book is meticulously researched. "Spychips" draws on patent documents, corporate source materials, conference proceedings, and firsthand interviews to paint a convincing -- and frightening -- picture of the threat posed by RFID.

Despite its hundreds of footnotes and academic-level accuracy, the book remains lively, readable, and hilarious, according to critics, who have called it a "techno-thriller" and "a masterpiece of technocriticism."

"A chilling story about an emerging future in which spychips run amok as Big Brother and Big Shopkeeper invade our privacy in unprecedented ways."
    - Chicago Tribune

"Paints a 1984-ish picture of how corporations would like to use RFID tags to keep tabs on you."
    - The Associated Press

 



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The Spychips website is a project of CASPIAN, Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering.
© 2003-2007 Katherine Albrecht and Liz McIntyre. All Rights Reserved.