BNET Blogger Spreads False Info About Wal-Mart and Privacy

Published: August 5, 2010

I hate it when bloggers get their facts wrong.

BNET, the CBS Interactive Network, has a post by blogger Damon Brown regarding Wal-Mart‘s use of RFID on apparel, and it is riddled with inaccuracies (see Wal-Mart RFID Clothing Tags Create a Slippery Privacy Slope).

Brown writes: “The RFID [sic] is supposed [sic] turned off by Wal-Mart at [sic] purchase, a la the ink containers that prohibit stealing.” No, Wal-Mart is not using RFID at the point of sale—because it is not interested in linking a serial number in the tag to the buyer—so it will not be turning off the tags.

He writes: “It is doubtful that Wal-Mart will create a bulletin in the store advising customers that clothing is being tracked.” Sorry, but Wal-Mart will, in fact, have signs up indicating where RFID is being used, and all tagged items will have the “EPC Inside” logo on it.

He writes: “The RFID [sic] could be used in conjunction with the new RFID-embedded driver’s licenses from Washington, New York and other states to determine when a customer has entered the store and what he or she is purchasing.” No, as mentioned above, Wal-Mart is not using RFID at the point of sale, so it has no way to link the tag in your license to the tag in the item you are buying.

He writes: “The tags [on garment labels or packaging] usually get tossed into the consumer’s garbage. Again, with this info in the wrong hands, a perpetrator could see a customers [sic], track his or her purchases (based on the collection of RFID tags) and easily find out where he or she lives.” Whoa! There is some leap of logic here I am totally missing.

I think he is saying that if I worked at Wal-Mart and knew what you bought, I could go around and scan everyone’s garbage until I found the tags from the items you purchased, and I would then know where you live. But there are several problems with that concept. One, the items are not being scanned at checkout, so they can’t be linked to a specific individual. And two, driving around scanning garbage just might be the least effective way there is to find out where someone lives. And anyway, once you knew where someone lives… then what?

I know RFID is new, and I know a lot of people just don’t get what it’s all about, but if you are ignorant, it really is better to keep you opinions to yourself.

Mark Roberti is the founder and editor of RFID Journal. If you would like to comment on this article, click on the link below. To read more of Mark’s opinions, visit the RFID Journal Blog or the Editor’s Note archive.