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Wal-Mart's Privacy Invasion—Not!
CNBC.com | July 23, 2010 | 11:45 AM EDT

Horrors! Wal-mart, that world-whipping Darth Vader of retailers, is ushering in the next great chip revolution, and the Cassandras of the privacy movement already are arming to fight against it. (How’s that for mixing movie and mythology metaphors?)

Their biggest fear: Wal-mart wants to track your panties purchases.

A prescient story on Page One of the Wall Street Journal this morning sets the stage for the next great privacy fight. Wal-Mart is rolling out item-level RFID tags—radio-frequency identification chips attached to individual product packages which emit wireless signals to let retailers track delivery schedules, volumes, inventory replacement, in-store theft and a plethora of other real-time data points.

One day RFID tags will permeate the U.S. and global economies, cutting costs for manufacturers and retailers and letting them better respond to consumer tastes. A whole new stock-sector boom could loom as well, in companies that cash in on this inevitable tech trend.

That is, unless the Privacy Police gets in the way.

One worry is the chip enables de facto surveillance—of your shopping bag as you stroll through a store, of the garbage can outside your home after you remove a new shirt’s tags and throw them away, heck, of your BootyPop derriere if the RFID tag stays in place.

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