February 26, 2004

German Consumers Rebel over RFID Tracking at METRO Future Store
Saturday protest to call for an end to RFID trials

"We are not your guinea pigs!" will be the rallying cry on Saturday as German consumers protest RFID tagging at the METRO Extra Future Store. Consumers, led by German privacy organization FoeBuD, will call for an end to the store's item-level RFID trials. 

The store, located in Rheinberg, Germany, is the industry's showplace for radio frequency identification (RFID) tracking technology. There, companies like Gillette, Procter & Gamble, and IBM are testing the technology on live consumers.

"The German people are rightfully upset at being referred to as guinea pigs by the industry," said Katherine Albrecht, Founder and Director of CASPIAN (Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering), referring to an IBM news release about the activities at the store. "They feel like they have been reduced to experimental subjects and have not been given full disclosure about the technology in use at the METRO store."

Privacy advocates recently discovered RFID tags hidden in the METRO store's loyalty cards. Store disclosures failed to inform consumers of the devices, which can be read remotely at a distances of three feet or more through a shopper's purse or pocket. Advocates also found that RFID tags on products sold in the store couldn't be completely disabled by the store's "deactivation" kiosk, contrary to METRO's claims.

"By embedding RFID tags in their loyalty cards, METRO has taken consumer espionage to new lows," said CASPIAN's Albrecht. "Shoppers at the METRO Extra Future Store could be tracked secretly through these cards as they enter and move around the store in an effort to increase manufacturer and store profits."

The German people are the latest to join a growing global consumer movement opposing RFID. Critics contend that item-level RFID tagging of consumer products could jeopardize consumer privacy and civil liberties.

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.
The METRO protest will be held at 1 PM on Saturday, February 28, at the METRO Extra Future Store in Rheinberg, Germany. The organization sponsoring the protest, FoeBuD, will be joined by representatives from six other German privacy organizations. Additional information about the protest and the implications of the METRO RFID initiatives can be found at the CASPIAN RFID web site: or at the FoeBuD web site:

The IBM news release stating "...residents of the German town of Rheinberg will find themselves guinea pigs in what Metro and its partners...hope will become a global standard within the next five to 10 years" is online at:

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.


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