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MNB noted yesterday that Advertising Age was reporting that when a second edition of a new book (“Spychips: How Major Corporations and Government Plan to Track Your Every Move with RFID”) by Katherine Albrecht comes out next year, she will link RFID technology to the “mark of the beast” written about in the Biblical Book of Revelations.

Our comment:

You know who really wears the mark of the beast?

People who like to exploit people’s irrational fears about devils and beasts to further their own agendas. This isn’t about right and wrong. This is about someone who sees a way to further her own power trip and to foment paranoia. Next thing you know, she’ll be standing before television cameras saying she has an envelope with the names of 200 card-carrying Satan worshippers in the CPG business, but of course won’t reveal the names, because that would expose her folly.

It’s not like we don’t share some of her concerns about privacy. We do. But we also think that there are tradeoffs for some of what technology brings, and that if you want to surf the web or use a credit card or drive on a toll highway or get on an airplane or use a cell phone, there may be concessions that have to be made. Concerned about privacy though we may be, we’re not ready to return to the days of horses and buggies.

Of course, neither is Albrecht. She’d prefer to return us to the days of the Salem Witch Trials.

Ironically, Information Week reports that Wal-Mart has published numbers saying that the use of RFID in its stores has resulted in a 16 percent reduction of out-of-stocks in stores where the technology is used, and that “RFID-enabled stores were 63 percent more effective in replenishing out-of-stock products than control stores not equipped with the technology.”

We know some consumers who think that out-of-stocks are the devil’s work. Maybe Albrecht should chew on that for a while.

Push for legitimate and ironclad legislation that will protect citizens and consumers from inappropriate prying eyes. Fair enough.

But save us from this “mark of the beast” crap.

And deliver us from the evil of self-important, manipulative fear-mongers.

One MNB user responded:

Albrecht may be a little over the top-but the issue with RFID and any other program that tracks consumer/customer information is the fact it can't be 100% safeguarded.

There will be that employee or executive that will have the opportunity to exploit, sell, or trade information. We know it occurs, and we often catch the culprits long after the mistake has been noticed. RFID will only be the birth of more information abuse as it enters your front door, it is only a matter of time. I don't entirely trust the reports that RFID is resulting in those types of numbers that Wal-Mart reports.

You still need a person to make appointments at docks and unload, and often Wal-Mart does a good portion of their backhauling-therefore maybe it is a matter of checking on the employee rather than the goods.

MNB user Jerry Sheldon wrote:

I don't know a thing about Ms Albrecht, but I expect that it doesn't hurt that her positioning in the New York Times top 10 has spurred on the desire for a second book. I don't plan on reading her books, nor do I think it is right to profit or play off of the fears of others for monetary gain. With that said, it should come as no surprise as to the American public's fascination with end time events. Look at the highly popular Left Behind series, which though written as fiction, are based on interpretations of the Bible.

The Bible clearly speaks of the mark of the beast (Rev. 13:16-17) as something that is coming. To my reckoning, God has an unblemished track record on prophecies so when I read that it is coming, I take Him at His word. RFID may or not be what is prophesized - I don't know. But, the potential is certainly there to have a technology that tracks and controls people, their movement and purchases. I know it can't do it now, but that is not to say what technological improvements are on the horizon.

We are already seeing tracking technology implanted into pets, and there are companies out there that are offering to have them implanted in children as a safety device in the event of a child abduction. The Baja Beach club in Spain is offering to implant RFID chips in VIP patrons. Think about the rise of identity theft - don't you think that there is a good possibility that implanted chips are going to be offered up as a way to ensure that you are really you. The FDA has approved a medical implant chip to provide easy access for medical records. A lot of people were clamoring for these following the recent chaos surrounding the impact from Hurricane Katrina. It really does begin innocently enough, you just better be prepared to draw the line when someone wants to attach an RFID chip to you.

We would not want to live in a world where we were forced to wear an RFID tag. We would not want to live in a world without choice.

But we also think that a world in which RFID tags might be used to help people, to provide them with better healthcare and security, might not be such a bad place to live. (As opposed to, say, RFID tags that get you into certain nightclubs.) Sure, there are lines to be drawn and redrawn and choices to be made. And all of this is worthy of rational, considered debate.

For the record, though, we don’t think God has a position on RFID tags. She has bigger and better things to worry about.

Another MNB user wrote that he didn’t agree with us on this one, especially when compared to previous positions we’ve taken.

Jon Stewart's America book depicts nude supreme court justices = GOOD (Wal-Mart BAD)

Willie Nelson's CD splashed with pot plant = GOOD (Wal-Mart BAD)

Katherine Albrecht's Spychips, paints a narrow view of Technology and P&G = BAD (P&G GOOD)

BoyHowdy . . . this free speech thing is complicated, "ain't - it."

Stewart and Nelson get their hands slapped by Wal-Mart, who decides not to buy their products without modifications and they get a pass from you in a couple of well written articles about the evils of censorship, but Albrecht writes a work that is out of the mainstream and you launch on her, calling her names and condemning anyone who would dare to agree with her.

The morality of RFID is not really a subject that concerns me, but when one person's speech seems to be "free-er" than another's, my BS meter spikes and I start wondering about agendas. I know what Wal-Mart's agenda is with Stewart and Nelson, but what motivates your attacks on this writer?

What motivates our attack on this writer is that we think she is full of it, that we believe she is preying on people’s fears rather than actually engaging in mature debate.

That said, we feel it is important to point out that at no point did we ever call for the censorship of Albrecht or her book. She has a perfect right to make whatever argument she wants.

Free speech ain’t all that complicated.

MNB user Brian F. Harris wrote:

Just a quick note to say how much I appreciated reading your comments on the new book by Katherine Albrecht…

Well said, brother! Right on.

Praise from Caesar.

MNB user Denise Remark-Lundell wrote:

Kevin, congratulations to you for your sensible commentary.

Thankfully, not everyone is a religious fanatic. Although, these days, we seem to be surrounded by them. They're so unreasonably fearful. If they took all the energy they spend on fearing whatever they fear, and put it to good use feeding the hungry, building homes for the homeless, and accepting those with different lifestyles & ideologies, WITHOUT AGENDA, we would be stronger both as a nation and within our communities.

We feel it is important to point out here that not everyone who is religious is a fanatic. There’s a big difference between being devoted to one’s religious beliefs and being fanatical about them – and the difference quite often has to do with how strongly you feel about wanting other people to think and feel the same way you do.

Whatever gets you through the night.
KC's View: