Express patent application #20050038718
"Method and System for Facilitating a Shopping Experience"
Read the full patent on file with the Unites States Patent and Trademark Office
U.S. Patent Application #20050038718 details the use of RFID readers that American Express calls "consumer trackers" to closely watch people in stores. The idea is that RFID-embedded objects carried by the shopper would emit a "consumer identification signal" when queried by consumer tracker devices in the environment. Businesses would pick up this signal and use it to identify shoppers, track their movements, and observe their behavior.
Fortunately, in a meeting last week with CASPIAN, American Express senior executives vowed not to engage in RFID-based consumer tracking without providing notice to consumers. See our press release, American Express Addresses RFID People Tracking Plans for more on this.
Here are a few troubling excerpts from the patent:
"...consumer interface [configured to...provide a consumer identity signal to a radio frequency identification reader via a radio frequency signal] may also collect and transmit time and location information regarding the path traversed by consumer within the merchant's facility. Such information may be acquired by consumer trackers situated at specific locations throughout the merchant's facility..." [Section 0212; Bracketed information from Section 16]In an application reminiscent of a scene from Minority Report, the American Express patent would not only track and observe shoppers, but it would also spam them with purchasing "incentives," advertisements, and even odors:
"In another exemplary embodiment, the system may include an incentive administrator... configured to receive the consumer identity signal and to emit an offer ...based at least in part on that consumer identity signal." [Section 0194]Identifying people through RFID-tagged items is not limited to stores. The patent document suggests that RFID readers be placed in other public places as well:
"In an exemplary embodiment, consumer may obtain incentives outside the merchant location. For example, consumer may interact with a self-service incentive administrator that may be located in a common area of a school, shopping center, bus station or other place of public accommodation."
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Invasion and Numbering.