Whenever a notable article about RFID pops into our feed reader, a battle commences with our inner geek in one corner, and our inner luddite on the other (guess which one wins most often.) On the one hand, the concept of implanting tiny electronic chips into things is inherently appealing to us; on the other, we're extremely aware of the potential for abuse, especially considering that one of RFID's predecessors was developed by the Soviets for the purpose of espionage. The latest news from the RFID scene is that European shoe company Reno GmbH is to embed RFID tags into the soles of a large proportion of all the shoes that it sells across 1,700 outlets in Europe. Instead of just slapping the tags onto a label (which is easily removable), Reno GmbH has struck a deal with Checkpoint Systems Inc. to integrate the chips within the soles: the justification for this approach (as opposed to using stick-on tags) is that it should curb thefts of products on display, as well as those being tried on by customers / thieves. Now, we're not privy to the figures regarding thefts from shoe shops, but we can't imagine that this crime is common enough to offset the cost that implanting RFID chips into rubber shoes will rack up. Besides, doesn't this plan undermine any kind of trust that may have been present between the potential customer and the shoe shop? Then there's the absurd justification that the tags would prevent the theft of shoes on display: who steals a single shoe? In then end, we're left to accept the inevitability that more products will get tags, and those tags will reveal more information about our increasingly open (some say intruded) lives. Fortunately, this rather unjustified example is only one of the first steps.

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Internal RFID tagging for all RENO GmbH shoes