November 9, 2005

Beleagered Retailer Faces Criticism for Item-level Tracking Agenda

"In New Hampshire we live free. We don't want R-F-I-D!" was the chant Saturday as 26 New Hampshire residents protested at a Bedford, New Hampshire, Wal-Mart store. The beleagered retailer has been drawing criticism from privacy groups because of its RFID tagging of products like Hewlett-Packard printers in violation of a moratorium called for by over 40 of the world's leading privacy and civil liberties organizations.

"It's time they face the music," said Joel Rauch, founder of the newly formed New Hamphire branch of the consumer privacy group CASPIAN. "Consumers will not tolerate being spied on through the things they buy, wear, and carry. We're making that clear here today, and we're taking that sentiment all the way to the State House."

CASPIAN members have taken their concerns about RFID technology to the New Hampshire state legislature where a bill requiring labeling of RFID-tagged items is progressing through committee. Passage of this legislation would be a victory for privacy advocates, but it could spell trouble for Wal-Mart and other retailers who worry that consumers will boycott stores that carry items tagged with RFID. The industry's own studies show the vast majority of consumers object to RFID technology on privacy grounds.

Wal-Mart is expected to be especially hard hit by consumer-driven anti-RFID efforts since it has invested millions of dollars in the technology and taken a very public stance in favor of it. "This controversy comes at a time when Wal-Mart can least afford it," said Katherine Albrecht, Founder and Director of CASPIAN. "They are coming under fire from all sides, for many aspects of their operations. This will hurt their attempts to position themselves as a more upscale shopping experience and put their publicized bad behavior behind them."

Saturday's event followed close on the heels of a similar protest in Dallas, Texas, in mid-October that drew over 70 protesters. Albrecht promises that more events are being planned.

Photos of the New Hampshire protest are available online at:


NH CASPIAN the New Hampshire chapter of CASPIAN (Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering), a grass roots consumer group fighting retail surveillance schemes since 1999. With thousands of members in all 50 U.S. states and over 30 countries worldwide, 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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