January 29, 2004

CASPIAN RFID Privacy Activist Heads to Germany and England
Metro Store of the Future, Britain's Marks & Spencer among stops

When RFID privacy activist Katherine Albrecht shops at Germany's Metro Store of the Future this weekend, she won't be loading her cart with staples like bread and milk. Rather, the Founder and Director of CASPIAN (Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering) will be shopping for RFID tags, hidden cameras and other intrusive surveillance technology.

Metro's Store of the Future in Rheinberg, Germany, is the industry's showplace for radio frequency (RFID) product tagging technology. There, companies like Gillette, Procter & Gamble, and IBM are testing their product tracking technologies on real consumers.

"Metro has been gracious enough to arrange a tour of their store," said Albrecht, who will be meeting with store executives on Saturday, January 31. "I'm looking forward to better understanding what the industry has planned for consumers worldwide."

Albrecht's visit is being sponsored by the German privacy organization FoeBud, famous for its annual Big Brother Awards. The 2003 winner in the consumer privacy category was Metro. Foebud plans to present Metro with its Big Brother statue during Albrecht's visit.

While in Germany, Albrecht will also address German privacy
organizations and the media. Germany's federal privacy officer and several local officers have been invited to attend her formal talk in Bielefeld scheduled for Sunday, February 1.

Albrecht will then travel to London, where she will meet with Marks & Spencer on Tuesday to discuss the results of their recent RFID trials.

"It's going to be a pleasure to meet with Marks & Spencer," said Albrecht. "While we are opposed to the item-level tagging of consumer goods, they have approached the technology with a clear regard for the privacy of consumers. They also fully appreciate the dangers of RFID and have gone out of their way to address consumer concerns."

Wednesday, Albrecht is scheduled to meet with a representative from British retailer TESCO. "I'm looking forward to discussing the Gillette smart shelf that was widely reported to be photographing consumers as they picked up razor blades. I understand TESCO would like to clarify its involvement in the trial." TESCO has arranged for Albrecht to tour their Leicester store, where the retailer is conducting an item-level tagging trial of DVDs.

On Thursday, Albrecht will participate in the UK National Consumer Council (NCC) RFID Summit at the invitation of Dr. Susanne Lace, NCC Senior Policy Officer. 

"This trip represents an important milestone, as privacy organizations from three nations seek ways to protect consumers from the threats posed by RFID technology," said Albrecht.


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