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Friday, July 23, 2010

Welcome to Spy-Mart

So Wal-Mart is planning to put RFID (radio frequency ID) tags on all its items in their stores. The tags will also be going home with you. I get how the tags can help inventory control in stores, or how the ability to track things on shelves and monitor the browsing habits of people in the store is the next evolution in marketing. Where Google *owns* the space up to and including the storefront, the next front in battle over consumer dollars will take place past that Street View, and head right inside the store using just this kind of tech. But the idea of tracking freaks people out, and I think there’s going to be a backlash over this—or general apathy. I would hope the former because you saw it in the uproar from states over Bush’s REAL ID Act, (the law that all states have chosen to fight because it required RFID tech in a national ID card). In that case, personal data would have been made available to anyone, and in this case, it’s just the item number. Still, the solution here for Wal-Mart seems simply to be to just have cashiers remove the tags before the item leaves the store, and thus negate the concern. Tracking? Check. Customers leave without sense of Big Brother following them home? Check.

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