RFID Chips Are Not For Spying?

Enthusiasts and apologists for the use of RFID tags in marketing say that what they do cannot be described as spying. Oh, yes it can. And it’s possible to wonder why some of the companies involved have worked so hard to pretend otherwise. Some examples of big corp that have this in mind.

Procter and Gamble

In 2001, Procter and Gamble’s “global privacy executive” said that the company had “never even conP&G_Company1803283hsxsuxsidered tracking customers with RFID.” Try to square that with the 2001 RFID And Supermarkets patent filing from Proctor and Gamble with the title “Systems and Methods for Tracking Consumers in a Store Environment.”


IBM filed a patent with the title “Identification and Tracking of Persons Using RFID-Tagged Items.”


In 2003, Phillips Electronics applied for a patent for placing RFID tags in shoes so that they could be tracked by RFID scanners buried in the floor.


And the VP for global business management of Gillette actually said that the company intended to use RFID “to track consumer use of its products at home.”

Precision Dynamics

Precision Dynamics claimed on its website that the leading cause of death through medical errors was patient or drug misidentification and that RFID would remove these causes. In support of their claim they quoted a paper written by two doctors from the Harvard Medical School of Public Health. In fact, the paper did not even mention patient or drug misidentification and, when questioned, the doctors said that misidentification in fact is responsible for less than 5% of patient deaths.

And then there’s the marketing piece by NCR that included this gem: “With RFIDs to record personal details of customers, pricing could be varied according to the characteristics of the person buying them.” What a delightful thought! The store knows a customer just got a promotion, so it increases the price. Marketers – aren’t they lovable? This is probably the time to mention that a book called Spychips included data indicating that, at American universities, researchers found marketing students’ scores on ethics and academic integrity were lower than any other university majors.

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