German RFID Scandal: Hidden devices, unkillable tags found in Metro Future Store
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 5, 2004
German RFID Scandal: Hidden devices, unkillable tags found in
Metro Future Store Germans say, "Nein! We wont be your versuchskaninchen"
"We won't be your versuchskaninchen." That's the message German
privacy advocates are sending to executives at the Metro Future
Store in Rheinberg, Germany after discovering RFID devices hidden
in the store's loyalty cards. They also found that RFID tags on
products sold at the store cannot be completely deactivated after
purchase, despite Metro's claims.
"Versuchskaninchen" is the German word for guinea pig, which
is how German consumers feel Metro and its partners have treated
them since opening the Future Store last year to test experimental
RFID applications on live shoppers.
The revelations came just one day after Katherine Albrecht,
founder and director of CASPIAN (Consumers Against Supermarket
Privacy Invasion and Numbering) toured the Future Store with a
delegation of privacy experts from German advocacy group FoeBud,
who sponsored her visit.
"We were shocked to find RFID tags in Metro's 'Payback' loyalty
card," said Albrecht, after FoeBuD tested the cards with an RFID
reader and discovered the tag. "The card application form, brochures,
and signage at the store made no mention of the embedded technology
and Metro executives spent several hours showing us the store
without telling us about it."
"In retrospect, it's no wonder store employees appeared nervous
when we asked to take a few of the cards with us," she added.
Vendors of RFID-enabled loyalty cards promote them as a way
for supermarkets to identify shoppers remotely as they enter the
store, using details of their identity and purchase history to
pitch products to them and to track their movements and activities
within the store. Prior to the Metro discovery, no major retailer
had publicly admitted to using such cards.
In addition to the cards, Albrecht discovered that Metro cannot
deactivate the unique identification number contained in RFID
tags in products it sells. The use of unique, item-level ID numbers
is one of the key privacy concerns surrounding the use of RFID
tags on consumer goods.
"Customers are misled into believing that the tags can be killed
at a special deactivation kiosk, but the kiosk only rewrites a
portion of the tag, while leaving the unique ID number intact,"
Outraged German citizens are calling on Metro to put an immediate
end to the trials.
"We are deeply disappointed at the Metro executives. They talked
of an open dialog while hiding important facts from us," said
Rena Tangens of FoeBuD. "We are calling for an immediate moratorium
on further RFID testing as it is clear that Metro is not handling
the technology responsibly."
Evidence of the RFID tag in Metro's "Payback" loyalty card,
along with evidence of the incomplete deactivation of product
tags, can be found on FoeBuD's website at http://www.foebud.org/rfid/.
For more information, see http://www.spychips.com and http://www.nocards.org.
Katherine Albrecht, CASPIAN Founder and Director: (877) 287-5854
Liz McIntyre, CASPIAN Communications: (877) 287-5854 or firstname.lastname@example.org