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Wal-Mart and Gallo go Big Brother with New Wine Tracker

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There’s a rumor circulating the internet courtesy of Dan Berger’s reputable wine newsletter Vintage Experiences that Wal-Mart and Gallo have collectively launched one of the first attempts to place a physical “cookie” on a consumer purchase. For anyone who has been living in a cave for the past five years, a cookie is a small temporary file that is put on a web surfer’s browser to help eCommerce websites track how you are finding their site, what you are buying there and what your buying habits are over time.

Wal-Mart and Gallo, evidently moved by the power a cookie has to track consumer buying patterns on the internet, have engineered a way to a make a corporal cookie. Gallo wines sold at Wal-Mart will now have Frequency Identification tags that are activated whenever a purchase is made with a credit card. Through this corporal cookie, both companies will be able to know who you are, what wine you purchased, where you live, where you bought the wine and how much you paid for it. The information will presumably be compiled in a database where it can be used to discern wine buying habits over time.

Naturally this is a soft spot for consumers who are finally coming to terms with the fact that privacy doesn’t exist on the internet, only the illusion of it does. Now they will have to spar with the idea that privacy is coming to an end altogether.

It is unlikely in this new age of face-recognition software and debit-card tracking that there will be enough momentum mustered to fight the end of privacy in America. However, it should be interesting to see a new generation of software that, instead of removing spy-ware and cookies from our computers, will help remove spy-ware and corporal cookie radio transmitters from our own bodies and recently purchased items.

In the meantime, rack another one up for damn good reasons not to buy from Wal-Mart or from Gallo.

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About Tynan Szvetecz

  • Make the connection…

  • David

    Let’s clarify…this never actually happened.

    There was a discussion in the works on this, but as is the simple technological fact with RFID, the bar code tag does not allow Wal-Mart or Gallo to track the purchase once it leaves the store (as it is deactivated when it is scanned). Let’s say the bottle wasn’t scanned for some reason, and you leave the register – it then trips the store’s security system as you exit the store. Even if the RFID device remained active after you got the wine to your house, someone would have to be within the proximity of the bottle of wine with the correct device to actually detect and read the tag – at which point they’re already in your house anyway. The chances of this ‘rouge’ privacy eliminating RFID tag having enough transmit power to relay a signal to anyone outside of a 10-foot radius of itself is – well, pretty much impossible. The chance of this tag accessing the internet in your house and telling them where it is – equally as impossible (and ludicrous). They don’t need RFID to connect you to that bottle of wine if you pay with debit, credit, or check, especially since they’re checking your ID already anyway.

    If you’re carrying a cell phone, you’re carrying one of the most reliable, most simple, and most exploited tracking devices in existence. Unless you walk around with it powered off all the time, then your phone emits a synchronization beacon every few minutes to sychronize itself with its communication network (how do you think a phone call gets to the intended phone?). The right person can monitor and collect that data and retrace your steps for months on end. They don’t need RFID, they can just track your purchases through your debit card and your movements through your phone. That battle, my friend, has already been lost. And who is “they” anyway? The government? The Russian mafia? Aliens? Wal-Mart?

    I’m not a nutjob who got my information off of some nutjob website; I’m a computer security engineer. I kinda get paid to know what I’m talking about.

    Slowly but surely, people are going to realize that the “they” group everyone is afraid of doesn’t really exist; it doesn’t have to. We’re doing a pretty good job of selling off our own freedoms all by ourselves.