November 14, 2005

Panicked Proponents Resort to Half Truths, Outright Lies

What do you say you're caught red-handed planning to track people with RFID when you've promised you never would? If you're a global corporation with millions of dollars invested in the technology, you call in your chips -- er, favors. RFID industry mouthpieces AIM Global and RFID Journal have both heeded the call of their advertisers and supporters, nipping at the heels of the new book Spychips: How Major Corporations and Government Plan to Track Your Every Move with RFID.

Even start-up companies have tried to join the pack with critiques of their own.

"The companies behind the RFID industry must have thought they were calling out their attack dogs, but they apparently called their lap dogs by mistake" says Spychips co-author Katherine Albrecht. "Their attempts to criticize our book are toothless and feeble. In fact, they're using half-truths and outright lies to try to deflect from the real issues."

She points to several statements by RFID Journal's Mark Roberti as examples. In his review of the book he claims the authors "want a complete and total ban on the use of RFID for all consumer applications."

"That's absolute nonsense," says Albrecht, "Perhaps Mr. Roberti didn't read our book. We make it very clear that the only appropriate role for RFID legislation is to require companies to tell us when products contain RFID tags so we can make our own decisions about whether or not to buy them. We have never called for a ban on RFID."

The rest of Roberti's critique is equally flawed. Albrecht's rebuttal to his review is posted on the Spychips website at:

Spychips co-author Liz McIntyre takes on AIM Global's review of the book. "AIM Global sinks its gums into Spychips, shaking it almost imperceptibly from side to side before collapsing into agreement with us," she writes.

AIM admits the patents revealed in the book are "more than a little disquieting," and that "the book does contain some valid concerns and highlights some of the more outlandish claims made by RFID proponents." However, AIM's anonymous reviewer deflects the blame for these worrisome ideas away from IBM, Procter & Gamble, and NCR where they belong and attributes them to unnamed "marketers."

Among these more "outlandish claims" and "disquieting proposals" are IBM's patent pending "Identification and Tracking of Persons Using RFID-Tagged Items," Procter & Gamble's patent pending "Systems and Methods for Tracking Consumers in a Store Environment," and NCR's patented "Automated Monitoring of Activity of Shoppers in a Market," McIntyre notes.

"People can see through the industry's attempts at damage control and recognize them as spin," McIntyre observes. "When the industry expends this much energy trying to squelch a book, it's clear
they're afraid, and, frankly, they should be. They can't squirm out of the truth this time. We've caught them with their own words, and it's all footnoted and documented."

McIntyre has posted her rebuttal to AIM Global's review at:

When asked whether they'll be entertaining other rebuttal opportunities, the authors laugh, "We hate to turn down any opportunity to shame the opposition, but our editors remind us that we have more important tasks at hand. Besides, we've already done a thorough job addressing just about every issue the industry could lob our way."


Spychips: How Major Corporations and Government Plan to Track your Every Move with RFID is the winner of the Lysander Spooner Award for Advancing the Literature of Liberty. Authored by Harvard doctoral researcher Katherine Albrecht and former bank examiner Liz McIntyre, the book is

meticulously researched, drawing 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 and readable, according to critics, who have called it a "techno-thriller" and "a masterpiece of technocriticism."


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2003-2007 Katherine Albrecht and Liz McIntyre. All Rights Reserved.