Wal-Mart Will Track Your Undies

Privacy advocates slam garment chips

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted Jul 23, 2010 3:13 AM CDT | Updated Jul 23, 2010 5:57 AM CDT

(Newser) – Wal-Mart's plans to insert a tracking chip inside individual pairs of jeans and underwear has privacy advocates worried. The retail giant says the RFID chips will make inventory control much more efficient, but privacy groups warn that the chips—which can be removed, but not turned off—could be misused by criminals or unscrupulous marketers, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The tracking chips, which were previously used only on pallets of products, will be attached to individual garments next month. If the trial program is a success, Wal-Mart plans to use the chips on other products. Retail analysts expect other chains will follow suit, and say that beyond improving inventory control and reducing employee theft, using the chips could someday lead to unmanned checkout booths.

Wal-Mart sales associates arrange clothing at a new Wal-Mart store in Evergreen Park, Illinois.
Wal-Mart sales associates arrange clothing at a new Wal-Mart store in Evergreen Park, Illinois.   (Getty Images)
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There are two things you really don't want to tag, clothing and identity documents, and ironically that's where we are seeing adoption. - Katherine Albrecht, founder
of Consumers Against
Supermarket Privacy Invasion

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