Saturday, 15 November 2003
Extent of secrecy in Wal-Mart's RFID testing
Controversy over the use of radio frequency identification (RFID) chips in retailing has raged for some time. Although I have not covered RFID developments in this blog, I do follow them closely. Yesterday C|Net published a once-over of the newest RFID front, and I want to highlight one important point that the author glossed over too quickly. (Article: 'Smart shelf' test triggers fresh criticism)
Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, stopped a small RFID trial in Boston last year, after CASPIAN (Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion And Numbering) called public attention to it. Wal-Mart tried again last summer, in Tulsa, with a larger group of products. C|Net reports that company "sold, from March to July, Max Factor Lipfinity products embedded with the special tracking chips. A Wal-Mart representative, who told CNET News.com in July that the company had never sold products with chips in them, now says he only recently became aware of the Lipfinity test." In other words: Not only did Wal-Mart hide its activities from the public, it also hid them from its own spokespeople, causing them to deceive the press.