We are not your guinea pigs!
German retail multi Metro Group (owners of retail chains Kaufhof
Galeria, Saturn, Media Markt, real, Praktiker, extra and more) have for
almost a year been testing so-called "RFID tags" at the "Extra Future
Store" in Rheinberg, near Duisburg in Germany. RFID tags are small "spy
chips"; in the Metro trials they are placed under some products' price
tags (for Philadelphia cream cheese, Pantene shampoo and Gillette razor
blades) and in "Payback" customer cards.
What is new about RFID chips:
- every item offered or sold is given a globally unique ID,
- the chips can be read "over the air" using radio waves, without
physical contact and unnoticed by customers,
- and consumers, via their Payback cards, are given an ID as well which
can also be read unnoticed.
How it works: a transmitter sends out a radio signal, causing compatible
chips to send back the ID number they store. The ID is received and can
be processed. People that come into "reading range", such as customers
or staff, don't notice anything, neither the transmission nor the radio
waves to which they are exposed.
This new technology opens up completely new opportunities of monitoring
and spying on customers and consumers.
While until now the usual bar code had to be actively held against a
reading device to be scanned, now according to Metro's plans shopping
trolleys full of goods can just be pushed through a gate where all
prices are read out via radio waves. Loading the purchase onto a
conveyor belt at the checkout becomes obsolete.
What Metro is sneaking upon us as a practical advantage is actually
loaded with traps:
Because the spy chips are not destroyed at the shop exit, they continue
to be readable to any interested party, such as other supermarkets,
authorities, or anyone in possession of a reading device (available to
the general public). At this time it is technically impossible to
deactivate the chips. The so-called "deactivator" at the Metro store is
just a smokescreen: the globally unique ID is not deleted!
The long-term vision is to fit every physical object in the world with
an RFID and thus with a globally unique number. This enables previously
impossible ways of identification: "this sweater, this watch, this
credit card all have a number -- ah, Ms Someone has just entered my
The antennas used for reading are still visible in the Future Store, bu
soon they will hidden in walls, doorways, railings, at petrol pumps
anywhere. And we won't know anymore who is when or why spying on us
watching us, following each of our steps.
Metro Group with its Future Store have taken a crucial step into a "Big
Brother Society": without information, customers were given an RFID in
their customer cards.
With this an illegal collection of data, linking sales data with
particular person without that person's knowledge, has become possible
Here in Rheinberg, a field trial has gone out of control!
Because this "special" Payback card, "enhanced" by Metro with the RFI
chip, is already being used in other Payback partner stores.
It was by coincidence that data protection activists of FoeBuD in
Bielefeld found the RFID chip in a Future Store customer card. They
where appalled about this new dimension of customer surveillance. Last
year, FoeBuD with other organisations had already given the Big Brother
award (verlinken mit Laudatio-Seite!) to the Metro Future Store -
without having an idea about this new, dramatic development. The day
before this alarming discovery, Rena Tangens, padeluun and other FoeBuD
members together with their guest, Katherine Albrecht of CASPIAN
(Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion And Numbering) from
Boston (MA, USA), had been visiting the Future Store. They were
officially received by the project manager and the press spokesman.
During the extensive, almost three-hour tour, they were never made aware
of the critical use of the chip in customer cards. But exactly that was
the issue: the illegitimate linking of RFID chip data to individual
people, which had always been denied by Metro.
Challenged on this, Metro representatives have continued to try covering
up the fact. (For details, see http://www.foebud.org/rfid/index-gb.html).
We therefore demand:
- No uncontrolled RFID implementation!
- Stop RFID and customer card trials immediately!
- Set up and fund a forum of data, consumer, environment, and civil
rights protection protagonists, to ensure an introduction of RFID that
is compatible with democracy and acceptable to society! FoeBuD and
CASPIAN call on Metro Group to stop their trials of RFIDs and customer
cards. An ultimatum to dismantle the RFID reading technology by 16
February has been ignored by Metro.
We also call on Metro Group to finance a forum of data, consumer,
environment, and civil rights protection protagonists and organisations
to develop rules and legislation for an introduction of RFID technology
that is compatible with democracy and acceptable to society - before
further trials with this technology are conducted.
Demonstration on Saturday, 28 Feb 2004, 1 p.m.
from Rheinberg station to Metro Future Store
Arrival at around 2 p.m., end around 2.30
This demonstration is supported by
FoeBuD e.V. (www.foebud.org, www.spychip.de, www.stoprfid.de)
Attac-AG Wissensallmende (www.attac.de/wissensallmende)
Grüne Jugend (www.gruene-jugend.de)
Chaos Computer Club (www.ccc.de)
FITUG e.V. (www.fitug.org)
Initiative Stop 1984 (www.stop1984.de)
netzwerk neue medien e.v. (www.nnm-ev.de)
CASPIAN (www.nocards.org, www.spychip.org)
and other organisations and individuals
Press materials and images on http://www.foebud.org/rfid/index-gb.html
- X-ray of FoeBuD's Metro customer card
- Image of "deactivator", with non-erasable ID
- Images of a store shelf with RFID information added in reaction to
FoeBuD's discoveries (before and after)
More information: www.foebud.org/rfid
Translation: Sebastian Lisken
FoeBuD e.V. -- Marktstr. 18 -- 33602 Bielefeld
phone: 0521-175254, fax: 0521-61172, email: Mail to FoeBuD e.V.