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and that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name
01/31/2004: The crew from FoeBuD and Katherine Albrecht visit the Metro Future Store in Rheinberg.
"The German customers are the guinea pigs for the whole world." With this sentence Katherine Albrecht surprises the audience of the FoeBuD event in the Bunker Ulmenwall in Bielefeld, Germany, on Sunday, Jan. 1 2004. The Metro Future Store at Rheinberg near Duisburg was the example for a "successful testing project" for the global introduction of spychips (RFID - Radio Frequency IDentification tags) at a meeting in New York in January 2004. It was said there that "the Germans are interested in new technologies and very open for them, so they don't have any reservation towards RFIDs."
When Katherine Albrecht came to Germany on the invitation of FoeBuD and visited the Metro Future Store (which is in fact a supermarket that belongs to Metro's branch "Extra") on the day before her lecture she saw a totally different picture: "The German customers don't even know what is really happening there in the Future Store," is her résumé. "The signation of RFID tags in the Future store is not adequate - and there is never a word lost about the risk towards custmers' privacy."
Scandalous: At the end of the tour the Metro representatives show her and the members of FoeBuD the so-called "deactivator", a device that allegedly should kill the spychips. When Katherine tries the device, only a part of the information contained in the chip is deleted - the actual "dangerous" part, i.e. the unique individual number of this one spychip has not been erased.
"This is technically impossible", a Metro representative explains, "we can't overwrite this number, it has been issued and written on there by the manufacturer of the chip. But this number isn't linked to any of our data bases, anyway." A member of FoeBuD asks when linking of this number will take place, then - the Metro people don't answer. "Here we have a real problem. These chips aren't killed, they are simply made dormant. And you can wake them up again any time", is Katherine's conviction.
Alarming: Nowhere is there a hint that a spychip is integrated in the customer's loyalty cards of the Future Store. We found this out quite accidentally during the lecture Katherine gave at FoeBuD's monthly series "PUBLIC DOMAIN", when we held one of these cards to a reading device and there appeared an identification number..
Enquiring: On Monday morning, Katherine calls the spokesman of the Future Store on the phone and asks him at what points the customers are made aware of the existence of a spychip in their loyalty cards. In the handouts? Or directly on the shelf? Later that day Metro e-mails us some photographs where one can see small written signs on a DVD shelf with a hint towards RFIDs in the loyalty cards. (Right photo.)
Successful: During our visit on Saturday we had made a picture of a child in front of this very same shelf. And we are surprised: On our photo (left) these signs aren't there yet. (The two left badges within the red circle on the picture from Metro contain the hint to RFID in the cards. (Please click on the respective photos to get a larger image.) It seems that Metro has equipped its shelves following our enquiry on Monday and made a photo of them.
Text: Claudia Fischer, Rena Tangens, padeluun
Translation: Harald Manninga
Logo by Reinhard Schrutzki (www.schrutzki.net)