What is RFID?
An overview from the Boycott
Gillette website (http://www.BoycottGillette.com)
RFID stands for Radio
Frequency IDentification, a technology that uses tiny
computer chips smaller than a grain of sand to track items at a distance.
RFID "spy chips" have been hidden in the packaging of Gillette razor products
and in other products you might buy at a local Wal-Mart, Target, or Tesco
- and they are already being used to spy on people.
Each tiny chip is hooked up to an antenna that picks up electromagnetic
energy beamed at it from a reader device. When it picks up the energy, the
chip sends back its unique identification number to the reader device,
allowing the item to be remotely indentified. Spy chips can beam back information
anywhere from a couple of inches to up to 20 or 30 feet away.
Some of the world's largest
product manufacturers have been plotting behind closed doors since 1999
develop and commercialize this technology. If they are not opposed, their
plan is use these remote-readable spy chips to replace the bar code.
This is NOT an "improved bar code" as the proponents of the technology
would like you to believe. RFID technology differs from bar codes in
three important ways:
1. With bar code
technology, every can of Coke has the same UPC or bar code number (a can
of Coke in Toronto has the same number as a can of Coke Topeka). With RFID,
each individual can of Coke would have a unique ID number which could be
linked to the person buying it when they scan a credit card or a frequent
shopper card (i.e., a "registration system").
2. The second way it's different from a bar code is that these chips
can be read from a distance, right through your clothes, wallet,
backpack or purse--without your knowledge or consent--by anybody with
the right reader device. In a way, it gives strangers x-ray vision powers
to spy on you, to identify both you and the things you're wearing and carrying.
3. Unlike the bar code, RFID could be bad for your health. RFID
supporters envision a world where RFID reader devices are everywhere -
in stores, in floors, in doorways, on airplanes -- even in the refrigerators
and medicine cabinets of our own homes. In such a world, we and our children
would be continually bombarded with electromagnetic energy. Researchers
do not know the long-term health effects of chronic exposure to the energy
emitted by these reader devices.
Many huge corporations, including Philip Morris, Proctor and Gamble, and
Wal-Mart, have begun experimenting with RFID spy chip technology. Gillette
is leading the pack, and recently placed an order for up to 500 million
RFID tags from a company called "Alien Technology" (we kid you not).
These big companies envision a day when every single product on the face
of the planet is tracked with RFID spy chips!
As consumers we have no way of knowing which packages contain these chips.
While some chips are visible inside a package (see our pictures of Gillette
spy chips), RFID chips can be well hidden. For example they
can be sewn into the seams of clothes, sandwiched between layers of cardboard,
molded into plastic or rubber, and integrated into consumer package design.
This technology is rapidly evolving and becoming more sophisticated.
Now RFID spy chips can even be printed, meaning the dot on a printed
letter "i" could be used to track you. In addition, the tell-tale copper
antennas commonly seen attached to RFID chips can now be printed with conductive
ink, making them nearly imperceptible. Companies are even experimenting
with making the product packages themselves serve as antennas.
As you can see, it could soon be virtually impossible for a consumer
to know whether a product or package contains an RFID spy chip. For this
reason, CASPIAN (the creator of this web site) is proposing federal labeling
legislation, the RFID Right to Know
Act of 2003, which would require complete disclosures on any consumer
products containing RFID devices.
We believe the public has an absolute right to know when they are interacting
with technology that could affect their health and privacy.
Join us. Let's fight this battle before big corporations track our every
additional information, see "RFID: Tracking
Everything Everywhere", an excerpt from an article by CASPIAN founder
Katherine Albrecht, Ed.M. that appeared in the Summer 2002 issue of the Denver
University Law Review
Boycott Gillette is
a project of CASPIAN, Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and
Numbering (www.nocards.org). CASPIAN
has been educating consumers about retail privacy issues since 1999.
This document is available online at: http://www.boycottgillette.com/legislation.html