Walmart Smart Tags and Privacy

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Walmart has announced that it will begin the testing of Smart Tags to track and replenish shelf inventory of men’s clothing items.  The goal is to provide better customer service by insuring that the shelves have the right merchandise, in the sizes the consumer needs, when they want to purchase them.  It is not an effort to track your skivvies after you take them home!      

                  These Smart Tags are merely an implementation of passive “Radio Frequency Identification” technology that has been in existence since its primitive start 1973.  Kathryn Albrecht and the Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering are at it again claiming that this technology is “This is a first piece of a very large and very frightening tracking system…”  The difference between Passive and Active Smart Tags is that the latter is battery powered and has a larger read range.  A passive tag has to be “read” by a reader at a distance of 1-3 ft.  An active tag has a greater read distance of up to 6 ft+.  Unless you allow someone to install a reader in your closet, there is no invasion of anyone’s privacy.                Think of a Smart Tag as an evolution of the bar codes (UPC codes) you see on all retail products and other items that are electronically tracked.  Rather than having to have a laser gun to shoot the bar code to “read it”, you merely get the Smart Tag close to the reader.  They are being used now in hospitals, implanted in pets, and every inventory application you can think of.  While this technology is good for short range tracking, it is not conducive to long range, big brother, spying on consumers.  The scare tactics by groups such as Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering is unfounded technically.  You should be more afraid of traffic cameras, your cell phone’s GPS, and a whole host of other technologies that follow you around all day that you are not aware of.   

RD Pierini


 PS:  One of our companies has been working with RFID technology since the early 1990s have installed over 1 million tags on garbage cans.  (The drug dealers thought they were surveillance devices so they actually had a secondary benefit!)