March 01 2004
by Jo Best
The latest trial of RFID in high street shops _ at the German supermarket chain Metro_ has met with protests that have seen the retailer backtrack after consumers objected to the tracking tags turning up in their loyalty cards as well as consumer goods like Gillette razors.
Despite a promise by Metro that the stores will stop using RFID, civil liberties and privacy advocates protested outside the shop on Saturday.
An in-store kiosk was meant to disable the tags before shoppers left the supermarket, but it was found to be ineffective _ meaning shoppers and their purchases could theoretically be tracked outside a store as well as inside. Metro _ the fifth largest retailer in the world and the biggest in Germany - has also offered to replace the cards of any concerned shoppers with cards sporting bar codes instead.
Despite making no secret of its plans to the trade press, the Extra Future store in Rheinberg didn't reveal its plans to use the technology in 10,000 cards to its shoppers and the RFID tag was only discovered when one of the cards was taken apart by an activist.
While the store has decided to recall its loyalty cards, plans for an RFID-enabled inventory system across 250 stores and 100 suppliers will continue, said the retailer.
Metro isn't the first retailer to shelve plans for an RFID rollout after an unfavourable reaction from the public. American favourite Wal-Mart announced last year that it would be putting plans for RFID 'smart shelves' on ice, but like its German counterpart, would be using the tracking technology in the supply chain.
Silicon.com, 1. März 2004