September 28, 2006

Authors Predict Public Backlash as RFID Plans Reach Consumers En Masse

As the Penguin/Plume paperback version of the award-winning book "Spychips" hits bookstores this week, the authors are anticipating an intensified consumer backlash against companies like Procter & Gamble and Wal-Mart. "You can't read the offensive corporate schemes revealed in this book and not be infuriated with them," say authors Katherine Albrecht and Liz McIntyre.

The eye-opening work about the downsides of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) has already shaken the industry and prompted legislative initiatives worldwide. Now that a newly updated version is being distributed by a division of Penguin, the second-largest English-language trade book publisher in the world, it will circulate to an even larger audience.

RFID is a controversial technology that uses tiny microchips to track everyday objects, animals, and even people from a distance. These RFID microchips have earned the nickname "spychips" because each contains a unique identification number, like a Social Security number for things, that can be read silently and invisibly by radio waves.

"We've caught major companies red-handed proposing uses for the technology that most people would find frightening and abhorrent," say the authors. "We combed over 30,000 documents in putting this book together, and the evidence is airtight. They can't deny the patent applications on file at the United States Patent and Trademark Office, and they can't retract their own words."

Revelations in the book include IBM's "PERSON TRACKING UNIT" that can remotely scan the contents of women's purses and track unwitting members of the public through RFID-tagged objects they are wearing and carrying. IBM suggests that marketers and government agents could use the device to scan people in places like retail stores, libraries, theaters, elevators, and even public restrooms. Other companies like Procter & Gamble, Phillips, NCR, and Bank of America are also implicated in "Spychips" through public documents that detail their own people tracking plans.

The book's social impact has been likened to that of Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring," which alerted a generation to the dangers of unbridled pesticide use. "Spychips" has earned critical acclaim and garnered a passionate following in privacy and civil liberties circles. Now its backing by Penguin/Plume and its availability in a low-cost paperback edition will take it to the next level of public awareness.

SPYCHIPS: How Major Corporations and Government Plan to Track Your Every Purchase and Watch Your Every Move - by Katherine Albrecht and Liz McIntyre
On-Sale: September 26th, 2006
Price: $15.00 | ISBN: 0-452-28766-9
A Plume Original Trade Paperback
Visit Plume on the web at


"Spychips" is the winner of the 2006 Lysander Spooner Award for Advancing the Literature of Liberty and has received wide critical acclaim. Authored by recent Harvard graduate Dr. Katherine Albrecht and former bank examiner Liz McIntyre, the book is meticulously researched. "Spychips" draws 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."

"A chilling story about an emerging future in which spychips run amok as Big Brother and Big Shopkeeper invade our privacy in unprecedented ways."
- Chicago Tribune

"Paints a 1984-ish picture of how corporations would like to use RFID tags to keep tabs on you."
- The Associated Press


Penguin Group (USA) Inc. is the U.S. affiliate of the internationally renowned Penguin Group, the second-largest English-language trade book publisher in the world. Penguin Group (USA) publishes under a wide range of prominent imprints and trademarks, including Plume, one of the pre-eminent trade paperback imprints.


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