RFID News is reprinting the CASPIAN weekly newsletter as it is not regularly available on the web and may be of interest to readers. The newsletter does not represent the views of RFID News editorial staff.
CASPIAN NEWSLETTER, 09/06/04: Major US Retailers going to RFID
Consumer privacy and RFID newsletter
Edited by Katherine Albrecht
(filling in this month for Sunni Maravillosa)
1- Major US retailers going to RFID
2- Metro to expand RFID program to 200+ stores
3- Illinois to double tolls for cash payers
4- Refusing to be tracked with a toll pass
5- Insurer offers discount to monitor your driving
6- Former So-Cal card-store shoppers happier elsewhere
7- Lamenting the loss of local stores
8- Cell phones and PDAs to peddle ads to shoppers?
9- Japanese loyalty card measures UV rays
10- Marketers covet your wedding, childbirth, retirement info
11- Casino to store terabytes of customer data
12- Flashback: FBI obtained records on Vegas-goers
13- FCC plans TV you can’t turn off
14- Activism tools you can use: Card-free shopping Part II
Kroger, CVS and other big retailers are set to issue RFID mandates of their own soon, according to a recent webcast co-sponsored by Matrics, an RFID supplier. Wal-Mart, Target and Albertsons have already issued mandates to their suppliers, resulting in millions of dollars of infrastructure investment in RFID tagging and item tracking. “By now, all of the top 25 retailers have RFID initiatives either in place or under consideration,” said one executive.
Source: EWeek; August 19, 2004 http://www.eweek.com/article2/0,1759,1637598,00.asp
Mega-retailer Metro (with 240,000 employees and stores in 28 countries) plans to expand its RFID program to involve 100 suppliers and 269 stores by the end of 2005. Gerd Wolfram, RFID project manager, said that item-level tagging is still 10-20 years off (despite using it in their Rheinberg store) although others say that it’s inevitable.
The article gives CASPIAN a nod, and explains that RFID will cost jobs:
“Metro, in particular, has felt the wrath of campaign group Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering (CASPIAN), which protested outside the Future Store when RFID tags were found in loyalty cards. [Note: It was actually FoeBud who organized the protest, but we did have a hand in it. – ed.]
However, some believe that it’s a case of when, not if, for item-level tagging. “Undoubtedly, item-level tagging will come,” said Simon Merriott, senior manager of RFID applications at consultants Kurt Salmon Associates.
Privacy aside, RFID might still be unable to dodge the bullets of controversy. [One] study…predicted that 4 million jobs will be affected by the technology in the United States alone….[Metro’s] Wolfram quoted figures of a labor reduction of 17 percent but said no jobs would be lost. “There won’t be a reduction of labor–it will be a shift of labor,” he said, with workers reassigned to different duties.”
Hmmm, why do I have a hard time believing this?
Source: CNET; September 2, 2004 http://zdnet.com.com/2100-1103_2-5344957.html
For info on Metro’s item-level tagging trial, see CASPIAN’s special 12-page Metro report (which includes photos of Katherine’s tour of the store) here: http://www.spychips.com/metro/albrecht-tour-3.html
To encourage use of the state’s I-Pass toll transponder (an active RFID device), Illinois Gov. Blagojevich has announced a plan to double toll fees for drivers who pay tolls in cash. Under the new plan, cash users will be charged 80 cents per toll – a 100% surcharge over the current toll rate of 40 cents. Those who allow the state to track their travels with I-Pass will continue to pay the lower rate.
The plan requires approval from the Illinois toll board. Concerned residents should contact the board to voice their opinions:
Source: Chicago Sun Times, August 26, 2004 (Cached at: http://tinyurl.com/58yk2)
Many motorists refuse to use toll transponders since the devices allow government toll operators to record their identity and the time and date of each time they pass through a toll booth. This information is regularly handed over to other government agencies without a warrant, and has been used against drivers in court cases and divorce litigation. Toll transponders beam out identifying information whether they’re near a toll booth or not, a feature that makes them tempting targets for government agents to identify and track cars on non-toll roads, as well.
See these links for more information:
The government of Ontario, Canada, recognizing the importance of anonymous travel in a free society, created a way for motorists to use toll passes without the risk of being identified and tracked. See their PDF linked below for details on the anonymous toll transponder system:
Auto insurance companies may join supermarkets in offering “discounts” to those who comply with a monitoring agenda. Progressive, an Ohio-based auto insurance company, is offering up to a 25% discount to drivers who allow the company to install a matchbox-sized device in their cars to monitor their driving habits. Though the company says the program is voluntary, if the idea is emulated by other insurers, it could someday be hard to avoid without paying a massive surcharge on your insurance.
Writes John Vanderlippe, our Associate Director: “Of course you don’t have to join our black box program Mr. Johnson. Ok, lets see… coverage for your 1982 Tercel, in rural Iowa where you drive 3,000 miles annually, is available for our low rate of $4,375 per year”
Source: Associated Press via MSNBC; September 2, 2004 http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/5898175
Albertsons has been struggling to regain the customers it lost during the Southern California grocery strike earlier this year. Looking for a short term boost in profits to compensate for dwindling customer numbers, the store introduced a card program (could they be any stupider?) then wondered why their customers never returned from card-free competitors Stater Brothers, Jensens, and Trader Joes. Shoppers found lower prices and less surveillance elsewhere – and have not bothered to return.
Said one shopper of the switch from Albertsons to Stater Brothers: “To go from paying $200 and now we’re paying $150 for groceries – we’re getting the same stuff for less.” The article adds, “Multiply [this shopper’s] experience by tens of thousands, and you have a major problem still facing big-chain grocers Ralphs, Vons and Albertsons six months after the strike was settled.”
Not surprisingly, each of these grocers has a shopper surveillance card.
Source: The Desert Sun; September 4, 2004 http://www.thedesertsun.com/news/stories2004/business/20040904030540.shtml
Are low price and convenience worth pursuing at any cost? Not according to Stephen Jardine of the Scotsman, who writes: “I can remember shopping with my granny as a child in a grocer’s where the shelves were piled with exotic tins and packets, the counters heaved with butter and bacon and freshly baked bread, and the sweet smell of roasting coffee beans lingered in the air. Now, like everyone else, I shuffle around the vast aircraft hangar trying to remember if mustard is near the fish or the DVDs….”
Source: The Scotsman; September 2, 2004 http://news.scotsman.com/opinion.cfm?id=1030622004
Direct from the article:
“With PDAs and cell phones getting more advanced, one retail transaction vendor wants to turn those consumer gadgets into two-way, advertisement-friendly checkout devices….The retailer would benefit because of the increased loyalty and the potential to display customized advertising and promotions. Some consumers might regard those electronic promotion coupons as an incentive and a bonus, while others would regard them as an intrusion and a price to pay for convenience.
…A consumer would walk into a store and point his or her PDA to a kiosk. The palmtop would quickly identify the consumer and flash an alert that, for example, the customer’s favorite shoe vendor is having a 40 percent off sale for select customers and that the consumer’s particular shoe size and favorite color are in stock.
“You’d be literally carrying your token within your cell phone” or PDA. There is nothing new about doing a quick analysis of the contents of a consumer’s purchase and then rewarding that consumer with a free item or a discount coupon….
Source: Eweek; August 25, 2004 http://www.eweek.com/article2/0,1759,1639329,00.asp
Asian shoppers have become so jaded by the plastic in their wallets that loyalty card issuers have to dream up new gimmicks to keep them interested. Take the new Wacao lingerie store loyalty card, for instance. It comes with a sensor to measure ultraviolet sun exposure for women who are “sensitive about protecting their skin.” (Though a card carried in a woman’s purse would seem a poor choice for this application.) Rather than worry about wallet-penetrating UV rays, Wacao shoppers should instead be alarmed to learn that the card is the first to carry Taiwan’s National Credit Card Centre’s chip-based loyalty program, which facilitates the sharing of personal data with over 200 merchants across the country.
Source: Finextra; September 2, 2004 http://www.finextra.com/topstory.asp?id=12424
Axciom’s own words are more disturbing than anything we could say about them. Here’s a doozy straight from the company’s press office:
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – August 11, 2004 –Acxiom Corporation (Nasdaq: ACXM) today announced the release of Personicx LifeChangesSM, the only consumer segmentation system of its kind that allows marketers to target receptive customers as they move through life variations that affect their purchase behavior.
“Acxiom’s latest innovation will offer marketers the ability to anticipate customer behavior and provide the right product at the right time,” said Acxiom Company Leader Charles D. Morgan. “Personicx LifeChanges gives companies a competitive edge, in essence providing them with the power to market to consumers as they change from one life stage to the next. This has never been done before.”
Personicx is a household-level segmentation system that…tracks the migration of households from one Personicx life stage cluster to another by using Acxiom’s InfoBase List prospect file….Some specific events such as marriage, the purchase of a home, the birth of a child or preparation for retirement are likely to result in a cluster change.
“Movement from one life stage cluster to another can trigger a prime marketing opportunity,” said [an Acxiom executive]….By recognizing households whose life stage has changed companies can target consumers with a heightened readiness for new products and services associated with their new life stage status…”The sooner these consumers are approached, the quicker the response and the shorter the payback period,” [he] said.
Source: Acxiom press release; August 11, 2004 http://www.acxiom.com/default.aspx?ID=2563
The following is an article excerpt:
“Resort and casino operator MGM Mirage is using data integration technology to get to know its customers better. ‘To compete in the crowded casino resort market, we need a detailed understanding of our guests…’ says [MGM]. “MGM Mirage is implementing…’a terabyte-level data integration project’…to integrate, profile, cleanse and load more than 50 million customer records and over 400 million transactions into a new data warehouse in real time to yield insight into customer spending habits…[to] cater to the preferences and purchasing habits of individual guests. “The solution will help the resort integrate data from many sources…including demographics and specifics about what customers spend on food, gaming, entertainment, hotel and spa visits at all MGM Mirage properties.”
Source: KM World; June 1, 2004
The detailed data collected by casinos is a tempting target for government snoops looking to circumvent the 4th Amendment, as this story reveals:
“As hundreds of thousands of New Year’s Eve revelers flocked to Las Vegas last year, most had no idea that the FBI knew their names, the flights they took and the hotels where they were staying. In an effort to combat terrorism, the FBI requested that hotels and airlines turn over all passenger and guest lists between Dec. 22, 2003, and Jan. 1. The hotels and airlines complied, electronically transmitting personal information on about 270,000 visitors…”
Source: Austin American-Statesman (Texas); March 22, 2004 SECTION: News; Pg. A1
The FCC is working with the Department of Homeland Security on plans to turn our TVs and radios on automatically, so “residents could receive warnings even when the device is turned off — at night when they are asleep, for instance.” FCC officials might want to dig out their high school copies of 1984:
“Winston turned a switch and the voice sank somewhat, though the words were still distinguishable. The instrument (the telescreen, it was called) could be dimmed, but there was no way of shutting it off completely….”
Source: NewsMax; August 25, 2004 http://www.newsmax.com/archives/articles/2004/8/24/210743.shtml
SHOPPING WITHOUT A CARD: PART II Ethnic markets
The second in a series on card-free shopping by Katherine Albrecht
In the last newsletter, I pointed out that as consumers in a free market, we have a responsibility to withhold our shopping dollars from companies that engage in practices we abhor. This may mean boycotting supermarkets that impose “loyalty”-card-based data collection programs on their shoppers or boycotting the developers and adopters of RFID. For most of us, it means both. But I realize it can be hard to stick to your resolve if you can’t find alternatives to the surveillance-heavy national supermarket chains.
In that column, I suggested that if you can no longer find a large card-free chain in your area, it’s worth spending a few extra dollars each week to support a higher-priced, family-owned, local grocer. As far as I’m concerned, anything would be better than bowing to the coercive pressure of the data thieves, and fortunately, we still have alternatives – provided we patronize them enough to keep them in business.
I hope that column got you thinking outside the box about your shopping choices and whetted your appetite for alternatives. This week, I want to make your mouth water by talking about Asian, Hispanic, Indian, Middle Eastern, Greek, and other ethnic grocers located in every major city in this country. They typically have low prices and a great assortment of meat and produce. They come in all sizes – from small storefronts tucked away in strip malls to huge mega-marts with streaming banners and their own parking lots. Most are family owned, and, from everything I can gather, they’re in the business of selling food, not spying on their customers.
So what kind of food will you find in an ethnic market? The choices are so varied it’s hard to know where to begin! Let’s see…Middle Eastern markets have the best honey, dates, nuts, and dairy items anywhere, along with sesame tahini, stuffed grape leaves, and other delectables. Asian markets have fantastic produce and fish, and sell unique cuts of meat. Their soft drinks are extraordinary (ever tasted cantaloupe soda?) and their kitchenware departments sell handy gadgets you’d never find anywhere else.
Indian markets sell peas, lentils, and rice at great prices, along with boxes of pre-mixed spices with recipes on the back to help even beginners make foolproof authentic dishes. They also carry delicious breads, fruits, and condiments, and sell a sandalwood soap that alone is worth the trip. Greek markets specialize in fresh olives and feta, oregano, lamb, pita bread, and, of course, homemade baklava and spanakopita. Stop into a Mexican market to find tortillas hot from the grill, fresh, flavorful cheeses, inexpensive meats, plentiful beans, and more chilies than you can shake a stick at.
Hungry yet? Good. You are unlikely to find those items at a sterilized, plasticized, corporate grocery chain. Even if you could, it wouldn’t be the same. Plus you’d pay a whole lot more.
In addition to saving you money and avoiding the database, shopping at an ethnic grocer means you can snazz up your meals with all those exotic ingredients. If you do find a store you like, consider buying a cookbook specific to that cuisine to help you take advantage of the bounty. (Make sure the cookbook uses the units you are accustomed to, e.g., American/British measures vs. the metric system.) I’ve also gotten recipe tips and advice on how to cook particularly exotic items by asking my fellow shoppers or even the cashier.
The main downside to these markets – the fact that they are unlikely to carry hydrogenated-fat-laden, overprocessed, name-brand “American food” and instead specialize in food you actually have to cook yourself – is, to my mind, one of their greatest assets. Corporate processed food giants Kraft, Nestle, Sarah Lee, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and Kellogg’s are all heavily invested in RFID technology (See: http://www.spychips.com/rfid_sponsors.html for a list of companies that helped fund the creation of RFID for use in consumer products). Kraft and Nestle are already tagging individual products at the Metro Future Store in Germany. They hope to use RFID tracking tags to influence consumers’ in-store behavior (see: http://www.spychips.com/metro/partners.html for details about their motivations).
In case you needed convincing, this week’s news items underscore the need to find shopping alternatives and to keep small, privacy-friendly stores in business.
CASPIAN: Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering Opposing supermarket “loyalty” cards and other retail surveillance schemes since 1999
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