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RFID Tech Infiltrating a British Institution 123

An anonymous reader writes, "According to, Marks & Spencer — a department store as quintessentially British as tea & cake — is so pleased with its trial of RFID clothes-tagging that it's planning to roll it out nationwide. Considering that the UK's Information Commissioner recently made a lot of noise around the RFID track and trace tech, warning that Britain is 'sleepwalking into a surveillance society', Marks & Sparks seems to be setting itself up as a tweed-clad Public Enemy Number One."
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RFID Tech Infiltrating a British Institution

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  • Not so bad (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RealSurreal ( 620564 ) * on Tuesday November 14, 2006 @04:56PM (#16843694)
    Given that the RFID tags are on disposable paper tags I don't see the problem. If you're too dumb to take off the label before you wear your new clothes you deserve all you get.
  • what? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bunions ( 970377 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2006 @04:58PM (#16843746)
    They're just using RFID to prevent shoplifting. Buy the item, take the tag off - beats the hell out of those giant plastic things you see now. Can someone explain to me how this is bad? I mean, for people who aren't shoplifing.
  • by geoffspear ( 692508 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2006 @05:04PM (#16843870) Homepage
    It's a nickname.

    Where's your complaint about the inconsistency in the summary using both "UK" and "Britain"?
  • by EvanED ( 569694 ) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [denave]> on Tuesday November 14, 2006 @05:06PM (#16843904)
    From this article:
    Considering that the UK's Information Commissioner recently made a lot of noise around the RFID track and trace tech, warning that Britain is 'sleepwalking into a surveillance society'

    But just a couple hours ago, there was another article [] warning that
    ...the country's oversight agency now puts that figure at $24 billion, and two Members of Parliament say the project is "sleepwalking toward disaster"...

    Perhaps someone should look into this sleepwalking. I'm sure there's some kind of treatment.
  • Re:what? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bunions ( 970377 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2006 @05:12PM (#16844040)
    > If you had bothered to RTFA instead of jerking your knee, you'd have read that they're using it for inventory control.

    This is in fact true. Still, the point remains: how does this contribute to a surveillance society again?
  • by GreenEggsAndHam ( 317974 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2006 @05:14PM (#16844074)
    The only slippery slope I'm seeing is Slashdot's growing tendency for alarmist article summaries.
  • by Brett Buck ( 811747 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2006 @05:18PM (#16844134)
    What in the heck are you talking about? They're trying to keep people from stealing stuff, and the tag comes off when you get it home. How is this "sleepwalking into a survellience society"? Not every use of RFID technology is Big Brother come to fruition.

  • by Scothoser ( 523461 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2006 @05:20PM (#16844154) Homepage

    Many others have commented on this already, but this announcement shouldn't be a problem, and for two reasons: The tags come off, and they are only monitoring what is being sold, not what is coming in the shop.

    Because the tags are not embedded, it's not a lasting concern. Remove the tags, you are wearing any other garment. I fail to see the worry with this implementation.

    And, because the monitoring is simply for automated stock taking, there is no ulterior motive. Anyone that has worked in the Retail business has either experienced stock taking, or has had to make the hard decision of which product to stock for potential buyers. For Brick and Mortar stores, it is essential to keep the overhead to a minimum. This allows the shop to do so with technology.

    But the real question is, will this be the final step? How long will it be before someone does start embedding RFID tags into clothing? It would definitely make it easier to track clothing from the factory to the consumer. Clothing manufacturers may want to do that to find out which part of their global marketplace needs to be targeted the most. An innocent enough reason, and unless it's tied to a record of the purchase, it's still not tied to you.. yet. But then Social Security cards were initially just to track who was eligible for Social Security benefits, and not to track your credit history.

    So while this is a great idea for stock taking, it's a good idea to decide where the line should be drawn, and make sure that line is not crossed.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 14, 2006 @05:29PM (#16844308)
    They are anti-theft tags. We've had those for years, you just remove them when you buy the thing.

    The problem we have in Britain is with cameras, they are multiplying like a virus. One street in London
    I am watching currently has 82 cameras (I counted them), when it reaches 100 I'm writing an article for the
    newspaper. Some spots on the street are covered by up to 4 cameras. This is an ordinary public space.

    I hope we become more like the French and people start going out with shotguns, rocks and paint to
    vandalise and destroy these creepy nuicance devices which are proven not to reduce crime but lure
    people into false security so that next time you get mugged or raped you merely get to have everyone see
    it on YouTube.

    Also they are a vast waste of taxpayers public money which is goung to line the pockets of these
    so called "security companies". The money would be much better spent putting more police out on
    the streets.
  • Re:Not so bad (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MartinG ( 52587 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2006 @06:05PM (#16844866) Homepage Journal
    So it's okay for some random thieves standing in the doorway of the shop to scan my bags on my way out and know that I've just spend 900 quid on clothes, is it?

    Come on, have some imagination. This is wide open to abuse.
  • by niks42 ( 768188 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2006 @06:08PM (#16844914)
    RFID tags on my clothing wouldn't bother me. Tracking my mobile phone wouldn't bother me. Store cards that track my purchases wouldn't really bother me. Cameras that can recognise my face, my vehicle index .. well they kind of bother me. How about my car insurance company wanting to track my vehicle movements so they can gauge my risk?

    (I would at some times welcome a way of having an ID card - have you tried opening a bank account lately, with having to prove you are who you say you are, and you live where you say you live ? Waiting two weeks while they run $DEITY knows what checks on you ?)

    Having to go through a criminal records check to get a job as an IT architect in London .. that doesn't bother me that much. However, when all this data starts to join up - now I start to get scared. Maybe I have been watching too many movies, but the prospect of data being joined together is far more scary - the whole being much, much greater than the sum of the parts. The technology exists - all it would take is a bit more 'anti-terror' legislation and a good ETL and ta-da!

    Add to that a little identity theft, the possibility of others' criminal activity corrupting your data; your digital footprint being messed up with cross-references and data duplicates that shouldn't be there; laws that assume guilt instead of proving it; laws that can put you away for two years for forgetting a password; and bugger me, it is time to leave the country.

  • Re:Not so bad (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Macthorpe ( 960048 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2006 @06:15PM (#16845024) Journal
    This is obviously easier than them looking at you carrying bags full of clothes and deducing you've spent a lot of money on clothes, right?

    I would say you need a far more active imagination to determine exactly how this is 'wide open to abuse', but to be honest you're paranoid enough for all of us already.
  • Re:Not so bad (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 14, 2006 @06:34PM (#16845272)
    Way too much tracking is going on and if the Sheeple don't get it then I guess the dumbing down of the commoners is working as planned.

    Imagine a day when a health insurance company refuses to cover you because your credit card or debit card record shows you buy alcohol containing beverages.

    Imagine a day that a rape victim's clothing habbits can be pulled up from marketing databases to show she "dresses provocatively".

    Imagine the day someone can piece together that there is a statistically significant chance you are suffering from cancer, depression, or AIDS because of the various purchases you have made over the last year.

  • The uses are clear (Score:3, Insightful)

    by 91degrees ( 207121 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2006 @06:37PM (#16845326) Journal
    These are handy for stock control.

    The potential for abuse is a lot more abstract and hypothetical. They could work out that people are buying certain items together, but most superstores are already collecting that sort of information. These are largely anonymous so there's a complete lack of personal information. Exactly what they're spying on is a bit vague.

    However, we do have some pretty competent privacy legislation in this country. If RFID tags do become a problem I'd imagine the legislation will be expanded.
  • Re:Not so bad (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ( 782137 ) <joe&joe-baldwin,net> on Tuesday November 14, 2006 @07:20PM (#16845860) Homepage Journal
    No. They can't.

    Retailers don't store credit/debit card numbers longer than necessary (i.e until the funds clear and are audited), and even then they aren't even linked in the backend with specific purchased products, just a total.
  • by matthew.thompson ( 44814 ) <`matt' `at' `'> on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @04:30AM (#16849496) Journal
    No - It is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

    The Falkland Islands is a territory of but not part of the United Kingdom.

%DCL-MEM-BAD, bad memory VMS-F-PDGERS, pudding between the ears