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Wal-Mart's New RFID Tracking Plan Runs Into Wall of Resistance from Privacy Advocates

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is putting electronic identification tags on men's clothing like jeans starting Aug. 1 as the world's largest retailer tries to gain more control of its inventory. But the move is raising eyebrows among privacy experts.

"This is a first piece of a very large and very frightening tracking system," said Katherine Albrecht, director of a group called Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering.

Albrecht worries that Wal-Mart and others would be able to track movements of customers who in some border states like Michigan and Washington are carrying new driver's licenses that contain RFID tags to make it easier for them to cross borders.

Albrecht fears that retailers could scan data from such licenses and their purchases and combine that data with other personal information. She also says that even though the smart tags can be removed from clothing, they can't be turned off and can be tracked even after you throw them in the garbage, for example.

Wal-Mart officials said they are aware of privacy concerns but insist they are taking a "thoughtful and methodical approach."

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Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is putting electronic identification tags on men's clothing like jeans starting Aug. 1 as the world's largest retailer tries to gain more control of its inventory. But the move is raising eyebrows among privacy experts.

"This is a first piece of a very large and very frightening tracking system," said Katherine Albrecht, director of a group called Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering.

Albrecht worries that Wal-Mart and others would be able to track movements of customers who in some border states like Michigan and Washington are carrying new driver's licenses that contain RFID tags to make it easier for them to cross borders.

Albrecht fears that retailers could scan data from such licenses and their purchases and combine that data with other personal information. She also says that even though the smart tags can be removed from clothing, they can't be turned off and can be tracked even after you throw them in the garbage, for example.

Wal-Mart officials said they are aware of privacy concerns but insist they are taking a "thoughtful and methodical approach."

Read Full Article