Privacy groups protest RFID tagging of razors

The tracking of Gillette razor blades is being trialled at a Tesco store in Cambridge, to the horror of privacy groups

Gillette has dismissed complaints by privacy groups that the company plans to use smart tags in its products to track and photograph shoppers.

The company is one of the first to trial the controversial radio frequency identification (RFID) tags in its Mach 3 razor blade packets. Supermarket chain Tesco has been testing the tagged products in a Cambridge store.

But privacy groups started protesting outside the Tesco store when it emerged the supermarket was automatically taking photographs of shoppers when they picked the blades up off the shelf and when they left the shop with any tagged product.

US-based group Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering (Caspian) is also urging a worldwide boycott against Gillette over the tagging concerns.

Caspian founder and director Katherine Albrecht said: "We want to send a clear message to Gillette and other companies that consumers will not tolerate being spied on through the products they buy."

But Gillette has hit back at the "misleading" claims, saying it only wants to use the RFID tags to improve the efficiency of its supply chain. The chips, when inserted into products, emit radio signals that allow them to be tracked.

Gillette spokesman Paul Fox told "Our intention is very much pallet-and-case application within our supply chain. We have never nor do we have any intention to track, photograph or videotape consumers."

Tesco's Cambridge trial finished at the end of July and it is now running a pilot with RFID tags in DVDs at its Sandhurst store.

A Tesco spokesman said the photographing of consumers was just part of a range of uses the supermarket chain is looking at for the tags.

"We are just looking at the benefits. It is blue-sky stuff. The camera use was a side project to look at the security benefit."