Note: After we sent out this press release, Coles Myer spokesman Scott Whiffen told us by email that "There are no RFID tags in our Gillette razor blades." He indicated that the story in the Sydney Morning Herald was incorrect.

We followed up with the Australian journalist who wrote the story, Kirsty Needham, by phone. She said that her notes were very clear and that she believed her story to be accurate based on her initial conversations with Mr. Whiffen.

Whether or not any Gillette packages contained RFID chips at the time of the story is in dispute. We'd love to have Gillette help settle the matter, but we haven't heard from them.

Nevertheless, it is clear from an October 2003 article in CIO Magazine, Retooling Retail, that Coles Myer is very interested in RFID technology. According to the article, they are "actively examining the possibilities of technologies like RFID." 

Coles Myer CIO Peter Mahler is quoted in the article as saying, "My vision is that each of the suppliers - you know, Gillette, Procter & Gamble - they will have visibility of their product on our store shelves. What that is going to do is allow us to provide real-time inventory, and that will help our suppliers absolutely."

Look out, Australia. It looks like Coles Myer wants to play tag.

Liz McIntyre


Monday, December 22, 2003

RFID Tags Confirmed in Australian Mach3 Razor Packages
Angry Aussies may be next to protest spy chips

Gillette is at it again -- this time in the Land Down Under. Australia's largest retailer, Coles Myer, has confirmed that it is selling Gillette Mach3 razor packages laced with radio frequency identification (RFID) spy chips, according to a story in Saturday's Sydney Morning Herald.

"Gillette couldn't get away with using this invasive technology in the United States or Great Britain," said Katherine Albrecht, Founder and Director of Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering (CASPIAN). "Now they're testing the waters in Australia to see if consumers there will tolerate it. We are confident, however, that the privacy-loving Australian people will set Gillette straight by joining other nations in a boycott of Gillette products."

Gillette's RFID tagging of individual razor packages ignores a call for a moratorium on item-level RFID tagging spelled out in the "Position Statement on the Use of RFID in Consumer Products" issued last month by over 40 of the world's leading privacy and civil liberties organizations. Among organizations endorsing the call for a moratorium are Electronic Frontiers Australia and the Australia-based anti-spam group Junkbusters.

CASPIAN launched its boycott of Gillette in August 2003 after the U.K. Guardian newspaper revealed that an RFID-rigged Gillette "smart shelf" at a Tesco store was secretly monitoring customers. Shelf sensors triggered a hidden camera to take close-up photographs of consumers when they picked up Mach3 razor packages. This system presumed that all Gillette customers were shoplifters until they could prove themselves innocent by having a second secret mug shot taken as they paid for the razors at checkout.

When photo snapping shelves in Britain and at a U.S. Wal-Mart store were revealed, angry consumers fired back with a flurry of protest letters and phone calls. Brits also protested outside of Tesco stores. Both Tesco and Wal-Mart quickly removed the "smart shelves," and Gillette promised to shift its RFID focus to back rooms and warehouses only. Gillette's current activity in Australia contradicts statements it made at the time that it had no plans to tag individual packages with RFID for at least ten years.

Full documentation of Gillette's RFID spy shelf debacle, called "the world's stupidest anti-shoplifting campaign" by one Australian media outlet, can be viewed on CASPIAN's Gillette web site: There consumers can see a video explaining how the shelf works, read related news stories, and identify the family of Gillette products that consumers are being encouraged to boycott.

CASPIAN encourages concerned consumers to contact Gillette and Coles Myer to voice their opposition to the item-level tagging of consumer items. Telephone, email and postal contact information is also available at the website.



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