Promises Full Patent Review, Tracking Notice, Chip-Free Option

From Katherine Albrecht – SpyChips.com

The top brass at American Express, chagrined at the discovery of its people tracking plans, met with CASPIAN (Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering) last week to discuss the issue. One outcome of the meeting was a promise by American Express to review its entire patent portfolio and ensure that any people-tracking plans be accompanied by language requiring consumer notice and consent.

The meeting was organized after CASPIAN called attention to one of the company’s more troublesome patent applications. That patent application, titled “Method and System for Facilitating a Shopping Experience,” describes a Minority Report style blueprint for monitoring consumers through RFID-enabled objects, like the American Express Blue Card.

According to the patent, RFID readers called “consumer trackers” would be placed in store shelving to pick up “consumer identification signals” emitted by RFID-embedded objects carried by shoppers. These would be used to identify people, track their movements, and observe their behavior.

The patent also suggested such people-tracking systems could “be located in a common area of a school, shopping center, bus station or other place of public accommodation.”

Allegations of American Express people-tracking blueprints first came to light at a conference sponsored by the Consumer Federation of America in Washington, D.C. last month. There, Dr. Katherine Albrecht, Founder and Director of CASPIAN, revealed the patent pending plans that she and her “Spychips” co-author Liz McIntyre uncovered in their ongoing RFID research.

Soon thereafter, American Express arranged for four of its vice presidents, including the vice presidents of Contactless Payments and Public Affairs, to meet with CASPIAN leaders in a phone conference.

“We are pleased that American Express responded to our concerns,” said Albrecht. “It’s clear the company is thinking about privacy issues and wants to address them constructively. However, we had hoped that American Express would renounce its people tracking plans altogether and be more sensitive to the fact that placing RFID tags in consumer items, like credit cards, puts consumers at risk for surreptitious tracking by others.”

In response to CASPIAN concerns, American Express also promised that it would make a chip-free version of its credit card available to concerned consumers who ask for it.

“Offering a chipless credit card is a positive step and should serve as an example to the rest of the industry,” said McIntyre. “Consumers don’t like RFID technology. Contrary to American Express ads, most people would rather leave home without it.”

The complete text of the American Express people tracking patent application is posted at: http://www.spychips.com/press-releases/american-express-tracking-patent.html

This press release is also available online at: http://www.spychips.com/press-releases/american-express-conference.htm

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/huff-wires/20070309/guatemala-bush-purification