FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 31, 2005


CASPIAN UNCOVERS U.S. GOVERNMENT RFID PROMOTION SCHEME
Heads of Federal Agencies encouraged to "advance the industry"

Have you wondered why the U.S. Government seems so keen on RFID lately? CASPIAN (Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering) may have found the answer in the form of a General Services Administration (GSA) bulletin issued last month. The GSA is a federal agency that manages purchasing administration for other federal agencies.

In Bulletin "B-7 Radio Frequency Identification," heads of federal agencies are "encouraged to consider action that can be taken to advance the [RFID] industry by demonstrating the long-term intent of the agency to adopt RFID technological solutions." 

In addition, the document specifies that "agencies need to determine how to best implement RFID technology on current or proposed contracts, grants, and cooperative agreements."

The directive was signed by G. Martin Wagner, Associate Administrator for the Office of Governmentwide Policy, on December 4, 2004. Coincidently, since that time, major RFID initiatives have been publicized by a number of government agencies, including Social Security, NASA, the Postal Service, and the Department of Homeland Security, among others.

"Buying needed equipment is one thing. Finding excuses to purchase and promote controversial technology at taxpayer expense is another," said Katherine Albrecht, Founder and Director of CASPIAN. "The RFID industry has planned to use 'top tier' government officials to advance their agenda since 2002. Apparently those efforts are now paying off." “

Albrecht points to a cache of confidential documents that her group discovered in 2003. These included a strategy document prepared for a prominent RFID industry consortium by public relations firm Fleischman-Hillard. The document recommended identifying "key government, regulatory, and interest group leaders" to bring into the "inner circle" of support for the RFID industry (see pages 28-29).

In one of the confidential documents, Fleischman-Hillard indicated that there had even been a "successful meeting with Office of Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge."

"We have no evidence that any specific public official was co-opted," said Albrecht, "but it's curious how many well-publicized RFID deployments have been announced since that bulletin was released."

 

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