By tagging individual products in the Future Store, both METRO and its partners are ignoring a position paper issued and endorsed by over 40 of the world's leading privacy and civil liberties organizations in November 2003.
In that paper, organizations from around the globe, including CASPIAN, the ACLU, EPIC, EFF, the Center for Democracy and Technology, Privacy International, FoeBuD, and others, spelled out the societal and privacy risks posed by item-level RFID tagging. We called for a moratorium on the use of RFID on consumer goods until its impact can be assessed and proper consumer protections can be put in place.
METRO has failed to acknowledge this worldwide call for a moratorium. When FoeBuD delegates brought the issue up during the tour, METRO representatives did not wish to comment.
The image above is reproduced from METRO's Future Store website.
METRO's Item-Level Tagging
Despite nearly a year of non-stop hype, on the tour I discovered that there are only four consumer products in the METRO Future Store tagged with RFID devices. These are:
Philadelphia Cream Cheese
& Gamble Pantene Shampoo
Mach 3 Razor Blades
Kraft Philadelphia Cream Cheese
As with the refrigerated cream cheese shelf, when I looked under the Pantene shelf, I could see nothing to indicate that it is a reader device. Again, if it weren't for the label on the shelf, a shopper would not know this shelf was RFID "live."
Of course, no item-level RFID tagging trial would be complete without the infamous Gillette "smart shelf." CASPIAN has called on consumers to boycott Gillette for testing out this RFID-based, photo-snapping monstrosity on unsupecting consumers in the U.S. and Great Britain. Since it couldn't gain a consumer toehold in either of those countries (or in Australia, for that matter), Gillette is now crossing its fingers and hoping that Germany will be more docile.
It is unknown whether or not shoppers get a free mugshot snapped when they pick up the Gillette razor blades at the Future Store.
Aside from METRO's printed shelf tag that tells customers about the RFID trial, there is no label on the individual packages to indicate that they are RFID tagged, and no visible indication from the shelf that it is a reader device.
The final products in the METRO Future Store with RFID tags are the DVD's, CD's and videos. Each has an RFID label affixed to the back. Metro representatives explained that a shopper could take the DVD to a special viewing station and hold it up to a reader to play a short media clip.
Katherine Albrecht of CASPIAN peels a label off of a METRO "Future Store" DVD to reveal the RFID tag it contains.
Continue the tour for other RFID applications at the Future Store -->