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Marks & Spencer RFID Expansion Tackles Privacy Issue

U.K. retailer Marks & Spencer is expanding the current item-level RFID tagging trial taking place at nine of its stores to include 44 more locations.
Feb 24, 2005This article was originally published by RFID Update.

February 24, 2005—U.K. retailer Marks & Spencer is expanding the current item-level RFID tagging trial taking place at nine of its stores to include 44 more locations. Beginning early next year, men's suits, bras, and other merchandise sold in complex sizes will be tagged at a total of 53 Marks & Spencer stores. Under the current trial, the tags are embedded in disposable paper labels; after the expansion, the tags will be integrated with existing bar code tags, thereby consolidating all identification information within one label. Telecommunications giant BT will work alongside RFID solutions provider Intellident to deploy the expansion.

This news is not only good as an implicit statement of Mark & Spencer's satisfaction with the first RFID trial. It is also fantastic for the manner in which the retailer is addressing privacy concerns. First, every label will say "Intelligent Label for stock control use." Second, the information stored in the RFID tags will not be scanned at checkout, assuaging a common worry of RFID opponents that product details can be associated with the purchaser. Also, the label will be removable, so that the new owner need not worry about walking around "tagged." But perhaps the most impressive component of the Marks & Spencer RFID trial expansion is the forthcoming approach it will take with customers: leaflets explaining RFID technology and Marks & Spencer's use thereof will be available at all 53 stores.

Folks, take note. This is how it should be done. Marks & Spencer has taken into account and balanced its own interests with those of consumer privacy groups, and it has crafted a program that respects the customer while reaping the benefits of item-level RFID tagging.

More on Marks & Spencer's site
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