CASPIAN NEWSLETTER JANUARY 12, 2005
Consumer privacy and RFID newsletter
Edited by Sunni Maravillosa
1- Radio Frequency Energy Shown to Harm DNA
2- Credit Cards Surpass Checks
3- High-Tech Ink is a Privacy Fink
4- RFID Pill Bottles to Monitor Drug Use
5- Shop Lower on the Food Chain
6- Wal-Mart Computers Programmed to Cheat?
7- Is our Data Safe on Corporate Computers?
8- SmartBargains.com is Not so Smart on Privacy
CASPIAN ACTIVISTS UPDATE
1- CASPIAN in the news
2- CASPIAN members sound off
TOOLS YOU CAN USE:
1- See FoeBuD for German anti-RFID information and merchandise
RADIO FREQUENCY ENERGY SHOWN TO HARM DNA
Researchers in Europe have confirmed that the electromagnetic radiation
(known as EMF energy) emitted by cell phones and RFID readers causes
damage to human DNA. The four-year "REFLEX" study, funded by the
European Union, found that cells exposed to EMF showed "a significant
increase in single and double-strand DNA breaks."
"There was remaining damage for future generation of cells," said
project leader Franz Adlkofer, meaning the change was passed along.
Mutated cells are seen as a possible cause of cancer. "We don't want to
create a panic, but it is good to take precautions," he added, advising
people to use a land line rather than a cell phone when possible.
While people can choose not to use cell phones, it may be harder to
avoid RFID readers. As CASPIAN has repeated pointed out, the RFID
industry envisions such readers in floors, doorways, walls, shelving,
ceilings, and even in the medicine cabinets and refrigerators of our own
homes. Already, RFID readers used in the supply chain at Wal-Mart stores
in Dallas/Fort Worth bombard employees with ultra high frequency EMF
radiation, and retailers have hidden RFID readers in store shelves that
emit similar energy.
Source: Reuters, 12/20/04
CREDIT CARDS SURPASS CHECKS
The Los Angeles Daily News reported that, "For the first time,
Americans' use of credit cards, debit cards and other electronic bill
paying has eclipsed paper checks. The number of electronic payment
transactions last year totaled 44.5 billion -- exceeding the number of
checks paid, 36.7 billion -- according to Federal Reserve studies
Plastic, numbered cards dominate Americans' wallets, making it
increasingly easy to track the who, what, when and where of our
transactions. Need we remind you how important it is to use anonymous
Source: Los Angeles Daily News, 12/6/04
HIGH-TECH INK IS A PRIVACY FINK
We've reported on printers that spy on their owners through phone-home
spyware and hidden serial numbers. Now comes XINK -- a line of
conductive inks that could give RFID tracking abilities to paper. From
the company web site:
"XINK advanced conductive and resistive formulations allow
printing of complex electronic circuitry, including flexible
paper sensors (package security), sensor grids (smart
pharmaceutical packaging), keypads (electronic paper
diaries), and of course RFID antennas."
While "conventional" RFID antennas can be detected (if you know where to
look), ink-based RFID antennas could be printed under packaging ink to
make consumer product package tracking virtually invisible.
Source: UsingRFID.com, 12/9/04
XINK site: http://informationmediary.com/xink/
Flint Ink has long been touting such a product through its Precisia
RFID PILL BOTTLES TO MONITOR DRUG USE
The pharmaceutical industry and the FDA hope to someday monitor every
pill we take -- in our own homes. Sounds far-fetched, until you learn
they're actually developing the tools to make it happen:
"The Med-ic eCAP is an electronic compliance monitor which tracks
medication usage without active patient input. It consists of an RFID
"smart" tag, embedded into a RemindCapR bottle cap which records the
time at which the bottle is opened by the patient to remove the tablet
or capsule, logging the patient's medication use."
The industry also has plans to "track medication usage for any standard
blister packaging format...[through] sensor grid technology and a
proprietary process of printed conductive inks."
At present these packages are for use with volunteers who agree to be
observed and monitored, but soon government-sanctioned drug peddlers
will want to ensure that you take every last Prozac you've been
Source: Information Mediary Corporation (IMC) 
SHOP LOWER ON THE FOOD CHAIN
The heavy hitters of the American grocery scene are Wal-Mart (#1), the
retail force behind the RFID surveillance agenda; Kroger, Albertsons and
Safeway (#2, #3 and #4, respectively) with their detestable "loyalty"
cards; Ahold (#5) -- the corrupt, scandal-ridden "Enron of the
supermarket world" with a card of its own; and Costco and Sam's Club (#6
and #7), where all purchases are monitored and recorded by design.
But as you go down the food chain, some privacy-friendly grocers begin
to stand out. Employee-owned Publix (#8) has no card and boasts about
it. A&P (#11) has been eliminating the card programs at its stores due
to customer demand. We've mentioned Texas' card-free HEB before (#12),
and we've done studies to show how low the prices are at card-free
Dropping down further, we find Raley's (#20), a terrific chain in
California that has sworn off cards; Whole Foods Market (#21), where the
food is natural and the shopping surveillance-free; and Stater Brothers
(#24), one of our favorite Southern California stores that has kept its
Since we haven't said much about Whole Foods before, we thought we'd
shine a spotlight on them in this issue. This upscale, card-free,
natural foods grocer is making huge gains in the market by following a
pro-consumer, real-food ethic along the lines of Trader Joe's, whose
virtues have been extolled here before. Whole Foods doesn't have a
"loyalty" card program (though they once toyed with the idea and
discarded it). And when Sunni recently spoke with their CEO John Mackey,
he assured her that they have no intention of creating one in the
Katherine, the ultimate retail purist, shops at Whole Foods herself, and
appreciates being able to support the smaller food companies whose
products appear on Whole Foods' shelves. You won't find products from
Procter & Gamble, Kraft, or Coca Cola there. Instead, you'll find
little, independent companies like Rapunzel Organics, makers of GMO-free
corn starch. (For about as anti-corporate a staff photo as you could
ever want, check out http://www.rapunzel.com/company/company_staff.html
Save your privacy and put in a vote for retail diversity. Direct your
business to stores that respect your dignity and privacy and help send
them up the competitive ladder.
Source: FMI, Top US Supermarket and Grocery Chains
Whole Foods Market web site (with store locator):
WAL-MART COMPUTERS PROGRAMMED TO CHEAT?
That's the allegation of a Massachusetts lawsuit. The suit contends that
payroll computers were programmed to shave time off workers' records.
Wal-Mart "hid documents and finally got nailed," said Robert Bonsignore,
the attorney handling the case.
Wal-Mart is not the only food retailer accused of payroll shenanigans.
Albertsons, Kroger and Safeway just paid $22.4 million to settle a class
action lawsuit brought against them by more than two thousand janitors
who claim they were underpaid by the chains' Southern California
If these allegations are true, they speak volumes to the trustworthiness
of the big retailers involved. Can we consumers trust companies that
systematically cheat their employees?
Source Wal-Mart story: Boston Herald, 12/9/04
Source for Janitor story: Morning NewsBeat, 12/8/04
IS OUR DATA SAFE ON CORPORATE COMPUTERS?
Corporations say it over and over, "Trust us with your information.
We'll keep it private and safe." But a new study suggests company
computers are plagued with spyware:
"Corporate systems are riddled with spyware, according to a
study by an anti-spyware firm [Webroot]. .... [An] average
five per cent of the PCs scanned had system monitors and 5.5
per cent had Trojan horse programs, the two most nefarious
and potentially malicious forms of spyware."
Even if companies do have the best of intentions, your data could be at
risk. Like CASPIAN has said all along, if you don't want your
information shared, don't give it out.
Source: The Register, 12/2/04
SMARTBARGAINS.COM IS NOT SO SMART ON PRIVACY
If you've shopped at SmartBargains.com, a popular discount shopping
website, your transaction data is up for sale.
SmartBargains shoppers might have been reassured by the company's
important part of our business, and we are not in the business of
selling it to others." However, CASPIAN Associate Director John
Vanderlippe has found otherwise.
According to DM news, Millard Group Inc. is offering SmartBargains
shopper information for sale. This information includes the
"SmartBargains.com file of 159,100 last-3-month Internet buyers." The
file is selectable by geography, recency, gender, dollar, and more,
according to the report.
We wonder how many other websites might be similarly misleading
customers through vaguely written privacy policies.
Sources: DM News, 12/7/04
CASPIAN IN THE NEWS
In addition to mentions in the New York Times and Popular Mechanics,
CASPIAN has been cited in other publications, including:
WAL-MART RFID TIMETABLE
High-tech tracking devices raise concerns on privacy
By Donna DeMarco, Washington Times - Washington,DC,USA
What the FDA Won't Tell You about the VeriChip
CBN News, The 700 Club
For the article:
To watch the video:
(Scroll to December 10)
'Video Miners' Use Hidden Cameras in Stores
By Joseph Pereira, Wall Street Journal December 21, 2004; Page B1
Or see it mirrored here:
RFID IN PASSPORTS
Some fear it's a passport to identity theft
By Hiawatha Bray, Boston Globe
December 13, 2004
BAD RETURN POLICIES
(free subscription - or see www.bugmenot.com for login info)
CASPIAN MEMBER NEWS
CASPIAN member James Mata, in California, maintains ZombieWire, a web
site full of interesting news, cool art, and other information
concerning RFID tags and privacy. Check it out!
CASPIAN staff member Sunni Maravillosa contributed a chapter to the book
"National ID Systems: Essays in Opposition," currently available at
Laissez Faire books (neither Sunni nor CASPIAN makes money from sales
generated through the link below):
In part because the National ID push is heating up in the U.S., Sunni
has posted a slightly different version of the chapter than what was
published. It's available at her web site:
CASPIAN MEMBERS SOUND OFF
"RFID = sensor = bug = spy chip = ?????
"...Ubiquitous RFID networks, or something similar, is the 'last mile'
needed to complete a closed loop tracking system...." - Anonymous
"I think we are entering a very dangerous time in our history when
corporations and the government can spy on us through the use of RFID
technologies without our knowledge." - Brook, in CA
"I am shocked and fearful of the future. I want my privacy. I am not a
number, a piece of cattle. For the past few years I have been
questioning the social culture, the media propaganda. I always thought I
was just paranoid. But thanks to sites like this, I realize I am not
alone." - Anonymous, in UK
"To embed your RFID in the container for logistical purposes is one
thing ... but to be photographing consumers is another...
"So I now use Schick
"And when they do the scumbag B.S. that you do .... I will go to a
safety razor, and when they do it ... I will move to a straight
razor,...and when they do it I will use an OYSTER SHELL!" - Letter sent
to Gillette (BCC'd to CASPIAN)
"...it's pretty obvious that this proposed "mileage tax" [as mentioned
in a previous newsletter] is ... about finding an excuse to put an
expensive tracking device on the car of every citizen in California. And
I swear I'll leave the state, or give up driving, or SOMETHING if they
do that. I will not be tracked." - Kim, in CA
ACTIVISM TOOLS YOU CAN USE
German friends FoeBuD have anti-RFID merchandise -- some silly, some
serious -- for sale. Have a browse (CASPIAN makes no money off of FoeBuD
CASPIAN: Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering
Opposing supermarket "loyalty" cards and other retail surveillance
schemes since 1999
You're welcome to duplicate and distribute this message to others who
may find it of interest.