The federal government and private industry are swiftly moving ahead with projects that virtually guarantee an end to personal privacy as we know it. It looks like Wal-Mart may soon need to add, “Smile – you’re on camera” to its cheery greetings.
The nation’s biggest retailer teamed with Procter & Gamble recently to embed tiny electronic chips in products Then they filmed Wal-Mart customers who picked them up. Were customers advised of this? Why would they do that?
“In the study, uncovered by the Chicago Sun-Times, shelves in a Wal-Mart in Broken Arrow, Okla., were equipped with hidden electronics to track the Max Factor Lipfinity lipstick containers stacked on them. The shelves and Webcam images were viewed 750 miles away by Procter & Gamble researchers in Cincinnati who could tell when lipsticks were removed from the shelves and could even watch consumers in action.
“The study involved a new technology, known as Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), that enables retailers to use radio signals to electronically track products in warehouses and on store shelves, a technology critics fear ultimately could be used to track people once they leave the store.
“Manufacturers and retailers are looking at ultimately putting the tiny chips into everything from soda cans and cereal boxes to shoes, clothing and car tires.”
The Oklahoma test went on for four months.
It’s their world. We just live in it.
(If you want to keep track of government efforts, Noah Schactman’s excellent defensetech.org is a good starting place. Wired magazine also keeps an eye on both government and private efforts in this area.)