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RFID WHERE? You’d better look at your shoes, socks and underwear!

Protesters will gather today in Manhattan to greet attendees of the third annual “RFID in Fashion” conference, an event organized to promote the use of RFID in clothing and footwear. Dr. Katherine Albrecht, the Harvard-educated privacy campaigner featured in the film “Freedom to Fascism” and co-author of the bestselling book “Spychips,” will be on-hand to speak to attendees arriving for the opening keynote this afternoon at NYC’s Fashion Institute of Technology.

The conference features two days of speeches and events to advance apparel-industry uses for controversial Radio Frequency Identification or RFID technology. Past attendees include New Balance Athletic Shoes, Reebok, Levi Strauss, American Apparel, Liz Claiborne, and Jockey, along with retail outlets The Limited, Timberland, and Dillard’s.

Albrecht planned today’s protest after discovering the conference would promote the use of RFID in individual clothing items. Known as “item-level tagging,” the practice of placing RFID tags on consumer
items (rather than on crates or pallets in a warehouse) has been widely condemned by privacy and security experts.

Experts caution that such tags pose huge privacy and safety risks to the public. Used to track inventory in warehouses, RFID tags can easily be used to track people as well – a fact that can be exploited by marketers, government agencies, and criminals. IBM, for example, has patented RFID “person tracking units” for placement in walls and floors to allow marketers and government agents to secretly monitor people’s movements. They suggest using the devices in public spaces like shopping malls, theaters, elevators, and restrooms once RFID is implemented at the item level.

“Consumers shouldn’t have to worry about tracking devices being sewn into the seams of their clothing or pressed into the soles of their shoes,” said Albrecht. “We are putting apparel and RFID companies on notice that consumers will protest any item-level use of RFID on apparel.”

In 2003, Albrecht’s consumer group CASPIAN led a successful boycott against Italian clothing manufacturer Benetton. The resulting worldwide opposition forced the company to cancel plans to sew millions of RFID tags into women’s garments.

“Consumer awareness and opposition to RFID has grown exponentially since 2003,” Albrecht said. “Any U.S. company foolish enough to use RFID on apparel will face stiff repercussions.”

The RFID in Fashion 2008 conference website can be found at:
http://www.rfidjournalevents.com/fashion/

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  1. 7 Comment(s)

  2. By Rob@motorcycle gear on Mar 26, 2009 | Reply

    Gee it's a scary thought if it came to RFID in clothing, I don't think anybody I know would be comfortable knowing all their movements can be tracked. I for one hope this technology never makes it to the public.

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