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LONDON -- U.S.-based grassroots consumer group CASPIAN (Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering) has launched a campaign urging a worldwide boycott of U.K. retailer Tesco PLC, to protest the chain's trial of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology.
CASPIAN and other privacy groups have labeled RFID chips "spy chips" because they fear the tags, attached to products, can be used to track the behavior of customers.
CASPIAN director Katherine Albrecht told the BBC News that Tesco's expansion of its item-level RFID tagging trials "would involve potentially hundreds of thousands more shoppers…It essentially means that more people will be taking home items containing [RFID] spy chips."
In response, Tesco issued a statement saying that the company did not have plans to track products after purchase. Tesco PLC runs more than 2,300 supermarkets, hypermarkets, and convenience stores in the U.K., Ireland, Central Europe, and Asia.
Wal-Mart and Metro, which are also currently involved in RFID initiatives, aren't yet tagging individual items. Instead, they are putting RFID tags only on large cases and shipping pallets until the cost of item-level tagging comes down.
"We believe Tesco's decision to pursue item-level RFID tagging is irresponsible," Albrecht told the BBC News. "We're calling on consumers to boycott the chain until the practice is stopped. If people must shop at Tesco, we are asking them to reduce their purchases."
Albrecht said her group plans to maintain the boycott campaign against Tesco until the chain enacts a moratorium on item-level RFID tagging of consumer goods as outlined in a position statement endorsed by CASPIAN and over 40 other privacy and civil liberties organizations.
CASPIAN's past campaigns have targeted Gillette, Albertsons, and Kroger's QFC chain.