Friday, August 24
Spy Chips May Get Schooled
On Tuesday (21 August), the London Guardian reported a UK school uniform manufacturer was considering embedding tracking technology in clothing of that nation's public school students.
With wealthier parents who have children enrolled in safer private schools apparently underrepresented in an opportunist (read "invalid sampling") online survey, Trutex found sufficient parental and student concern with school violence and student safety to suggest the firm would review the problem.
The Lancashire company, which sells 1m blouses, 1.1m shirts, 250,000 pairs of trousers, 200,000 blazers, 60,000 skirts and 110,000 pieces of knitwear each year, commissioned an online survey for 809 parents and 444 children aged between nine and 16. It said 44% of the adults were worried about the safety of pre-teen children and 59% would be interested in satellite tracking systems being incorporated in schoolwear. While nearly four in 10 pupils aged 12 and under were prepared to go along with the idea, teenagers were more wary of "spying".Katherine Albretch (right), a newly minted Harvard Ph.D., is the coauthor of Spy Chips: How Corporations and Government Plan to Track Your Every Purchase and Watch Your Every Move, a 2005 book suggesting this spy technology fulfills Christian prophecy auguring "the mark of the beast."She further claims "the plan" of the then "$10 billion-a-year customer surveillance industry" would end the Fourth Amendment and personal privacy by eventually "chipping" every product produced with minute radio frequency identification (RFID) tracking tags.
Clare Rix, the marketing director, said: "As well as being a safety net for parents, there could be real benefits for schools who could keep a closer track on the whereabouts of their pupils, potentially reducing truancy levels.'....
"The problem with RFID has to do with the fact that the RFID tags can be so easily hidden into products—things people buy and carry—and the reader devices [a separate but related RFID technology] can be so easily hidden into aspects of the environment. This makes it extremely easy for someone who wants to observe and watch people in these surreptitious ways to do so. We’ve identified three different arenas that the RFID threat could come from: marketers, the government, and criminals," Albretch told Mother Jones magazine in December 2005.
While "privacy" already may no longer exist as most Americans now understand it, few national media outlets (most noticeably television) deem the topic worthy of coverage.
"The book makes a very persuasive case that some of America's biggest companies want to embed tracking technology into virtually everything we own, and then study our usage pattens 24 hours a day. It's a truly creepy book and well worth reading," noted the Boston Globe in a review.
"A chilling story about an emerging future in which spychips run amok as Big Brother and Big Shopkeeper invade our privacy in unprecedented ways," opined the Chicago Tribune.
Albretch maintains retail giant Wal-Mart is the principal commercial promoter of RFIDs through pressuring their vendors to incorporate the devices into their products so, as Wal-Mart tells the story, can better track its warehouse inventory. Though the company vowed to never use RFIDs at the "customer level," in 2003 Albretch learned Wal-Mart and Proctor and Gamble was monitoring female customers at a Broken Arrow, Oklahoma store--and then lied to cover up the duplicity.
"It proves what we've been saying all along," says Katherine Albrecht.... "Wal-Mart, Procter & Gamble and others have experimented on shoppers with controversial spy chip technology and tried to cover it up. Consumers and members of the press should be upset to learn that they've been lied to."But no such legislation ever was enacted, at either the state or federal level.
The [Chicago] Sun Times also reported that a live video camera trained on the shelf allowed Procter & Gamble employees, sometimes hundreds of miles away, to observe the Lipfinity display and consumers interacting with it.
"This trial is a perfect illustration of how easy it is to set up a secret RFID infrastructure and use it to spy on people," says Albrecht. "The RFID industry has been paying lip service to privacy concerns, calling for notice, choice and control. But companies like P&G, Wal-Mart and Gillette have already violated all three tenets when they thought nobody was looking. This is exactly why we oppose item-level RFID tagging and have called for mandatory labeling legislation."....
In February, Milkhouse Mouse reported on the burgeoning cottage industry of "anti-snoop" counter-spy technology for neutralizing radio tracking devices, citing specifically the "RFID zapper."
Related: See The RFID Journal: The World's RFID Authority
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