It was recently brought to my attention that Wal-Mart is planning to start a pilot program of including Radio Frequency ID chips in merchandise. The chips will be attached to products sold in a store in Brockton, MA, a relatively low-income town where consumers are unlikely to be educated about the issues these devices pose.
While RFID chips promise to make inventory tracking systems more efficient, and could potentially work to consumers' benefit by helping to identify stolen property, locate lost items, and so on, they also present overzealous law enforcers with an opportunity to integrate location data into their "Total Information Awareness" systems. A consumer buys a jacket using a credit card; the transaction ties the purchaser to an RFID tag embedded in the collar; and from then on, every time he wears that jacket past ubiquitous checkpoints (in malls, public transit stations, and so on), his location is registered.
Perhaps this is an unlikely scenario. Nonetheless, selling RFID tagged products to unwitting consumers goes against the spirit of American beliefs about privacy. Before technology that can collect personal data is inflicted upon us, we should be given an opportunity to decline it, or to request a share of the value that can be derived from it.
A group called "Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion And Numbering" (http://nocards.org/) has written a model bill that would require clear labeling of RFID-tagged products. This bill is apparently in need of a sponsor. I hope you will lead the way in protecting American consumers' privacy from corporations and McCarthyists.