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Liverpool Indymedia

Tesco and the Surveillance State

Passing Shopper | 05.06.2009 22:31 | Globalisation | Workers' Movements | Liverpool

The Role of Tesco in ID Card Function Creep.

In the past, Indymedia contributors have been scathing about people complaining about the way Tesco uses customers to clerk out shopping at "self service" tills. At the time it was mentioned that this was merely one part of Tesco having no regard for anything but profit.

"Self Service" aside: Tesco have now begun to take part in the promotion of ID cards and, once again, are interpreting the law (both criminal and civil) to serve the interests of Tesco, not the Electorate.

When ID cards were first mooted, it was categorically stated that only "officials" and those with "a right" would be able to ask to see an ID card. Tesco is not a state owned operation and has no legal right to ask to see ID for anything in the shopfront. Tesco have chosen a policy of asking for proof of age for anybody buying "restricted items" if they are under the age of 25. To be clear. It is an offence for a Shop to sell you a knife or alcohol or tobacco if you are under a particular age. There are a range of ages for restricted items - from 14 to 18. Tesco has a policy of asking for ID if you "look" under 25. This is a clear attempt to "avoid" liability for the sale of goods.

The Seller is at fault for the sale of alcohol to under 18s. That is the law. Tesco chooses to ask for ID for those under 25. This is clearly someone in Tesco seeking to avoid prosecution by age discrimination of the 19-24 year olds. Ignoring the fact that discrimination on age (where there is no exemption in law) is illegal.
Rather than refusing to sell to People under the age of 25 completely, Tesco ask for ID.

On the list of "acceptable" identity items is the National ID card. This is, quite obviously the first piece of function creep for ID Cards before they have even become "standard". Not only is Tesco not entitled to ask to see ID cards as they are not a Government Agency, but the Government, at the start of the ID card assured people that this particular scenario would never arise.

Clearly, Tesco is more important to Government than the Electorate.

Tesco have installed a number of "self service" machines. Customers clerk their own goods through and become unpaid labour for Tesco. Some people like the idea as "self service". In the past I have pointed out it goes beyond self service and is, in fact, Tesco getting free labour and placing workplace obligations onto customers. These machines have standard "Phillips Type 1" card readers installed. This is a basic Chip and Pin reader. Given that these can read ID cards, it seems plausible that Tesco will insist that you use the National ID card as proof of age to purchase age restricted items.

This ends the first piece of ID Card Function Creep. Now, instead of being for noble purposes of the highest order, ID cards are little more than a Supermarket Tracking method. Thus reducing the consumer to an even more passive prisoner of the database state, privatising personal identity even more and criminalising a proportion of the population that currently gets a fairly raw deal anyway.

Before the inevitable stream of "self service is good" comments, consider this: today alcohol is restricted, in future it could be other goods or services. Tesco is seeking to diversify and will, inevitably, sell the back end id checking service to anybody that "needs" to do it. Similarly, the ideological purity of shopping at Tescos might well be questionable - but lots of people do it. For some people, given the destruction of communities by Supermarkets, Tesco is the only option.

Finally, who gave Tesco the legal right to demand that you prove your identity to prevent them from committing an offence?

Passing Shopper


Hide the following 14 comments

self service tills are great for getting free stuff!

06.06.2009 08:21

Self service tills are great for getting free stuff! Just "accidentally" don't scan a few items properly. The machines are so complicated ("Unidentified item in the bagging area!") you can just claim ignorance if anyone pulls you up on it.


Tesco, Tesco its the bestco

06.06.2009 10:11

I think you are looking at A and seeing XYZ. Tesco sound like they are acting responsible. Asking proof of ID is just so that people who are too young can't buy restricted items there. Theres no hocus pocus in that.

Put it this way: If tesco didn't do anything about checking the age of youths who wanted to buy cigarettes / alcohol / knives...... I'm sure you would be THE FIRST to be writing an article about how tesco are acting irresponsibly and are putting profit before children.

And saying its age descriminatory to ask under 25s is being as pedantic as the NHS lawyers ordering that the "Don't drink if you are pregnant" campaign was to be pulled because it was descriminating against women. Yes it was descriminating, but who gives a s***. I've seen heavily pregnant women with a cigarette in one hand and a can of stella in the other outside the hospital. Some dumb lawyers being pedantic over a minor PC point have prevented an effort to educate these people that they are potentially harming their babies.

You sound like one of those people that are not impartial but rather just want to poke at Tesco for the sake of it. The trouble is your credibility is in question because your logic sounds so biased.

Regarding self-service / free labour. A target group of customers like to serve themselves, Tesco has just listened to them. You need to move with the times and stop living in "the good ol' days". All petrol stations used to be attended service - but people much prefer to serve themselves. And what do you think a ATM/cashpoint does? Thats just self service and people find them really convenient. I really don't think you've thought this through.


Agree with some of the above.

06.06.2009 11:06

I'm confused as to why this is a highlighted post.

Whilst the National Datebase and ID card scheme is terrifying this is a bit much.

"who gave Tesco the legal right to demand that you prove your identity to prevent them from committing an offence?"
Well the government. Tesco and any other licensed premises have the right to refuse service to anyone they want. Sure the under 25 thing may have been introduced partly to cover large corporations but it also allows workers to feel safe. I have worked in the sale of restricted goods and guessing some ones age is incredibly hard. Unfortunately people don't like not being served and in the case of alcohol can become aggressive. I was trained to explain that anyone under 25 has to provide proof of age as company policy as a way to calm people down. And believe me it works. They feel less embarrassed to have been asked and as a result less defensive. The other point is that selling restricted goods to some one under age not only results in the company receiving a fine but the individual who served them to. Workers should feel safe they aren't going to have a fine slapped on them every time some one young tries to buy a restricted product. Age discrimination occurs in the law not allowing some ages to buy some products not in workers complying with that law.

Of course technological creep is how things we don't like get accepted. It becomes more convenient to adopt them than not to. So to this degree you are correct but I feel you are confusing the issues.

It is likely we will see many places where you are not required to show ID (Tesco aren't actually requiring you to provide an ID card as service is optional and other forms of ID are accepted) but doing so will be more convenient.


nonsense and more

06.06.2009 11:18

as do other supermarkets and retailers, asking for ID. Anyone can ask for ID of whatever kind - whether you're obliged to show it, or they have access to the records is the primary point.

And self-service checkouts - note that the place you are meant to place your items in their bags is a weighing machine (look and you'll see where) that's linked up to how much they are expecting the item you have just rung through (or not) to weigh

checkout chuckout

common sense

06.06.2009 22:36

There is no "conspiracy" with the tills - they are palinly there to reduce labour costs.

One staff-member oversees 4-6 self-service tills in a typical tesco. That's 5 people out of a job.


That's how function creep works.

06.06.2009 23:38

The government wanting to bring in a national identity card scheme pass a raft of new laws that expand the number of age restricted products and massively increase the pentalties for retailers who break them. Fireworks, knives a cigarettes being some prime examples.

This causes the retailers to demand proof of age before selling these products thus creating a public demand for a proof of age card. A need that the government then happily responds to by introducing biometric identity card backed up a by a national identity database. I'm not suprised Tescos are at the forefront of the scheme. They've acted hand in glove with the new labour government for years.


Good bit of writing

07.06.2009 09:52

You write well, cheers for giving the heads up on that.
As a member of NO2ID, I found it particularly interesting that Tesco, who now take 1/5 of all money spent in the UK, are at the forefront of the ID scheme.

In response to Max's - 'You need to move with the times and stop living in "the good ol' days".' - To what end mate? It's precisely this attitude of 'moving with the times' that self-perpetuates our nations passivity in the first place.

As (A) said, there's no conspiracy about it, it's common sense.
And the post above this one, is very true.

Think who are the main demographic that shop at the large, city center Tesco's? As ol' George would say, it is the 'proles', or in other words, the majority of the population.
Create the problem (company liability), have the reaction (knife crime increase, increase in youthful drinking and smoking) and provide the solution (ID Cards, perhaps to-be compulsory at Tesco in the future to 'prevent' this mess).

As for the self-service; Yes Max, it's more convenient but where has the interaction between humans gone? Agreed, the cashier conversations aren't always riveting, but now I am reduced to having an intimate conversation with some binary bleeps and glitches. Fantastic.
And if you're forced to shop in Tesco, well, fill those self-serviced bags as high as you can before you get pulled, and peg it!


thanks for the article, but NO thanks for MAX

07.06.2009 13:39

loved the article, thought it was great. well written, well facted. i'm going to refuse to show ID for looking under 25 (im actually 29), and use this article as my basis. f**k em, if the police come, i haven't broken the law!!
also to MAX, who seems to be commenting on an awful lot lately - i think you're similar to an agent provocatuer (however you spell it!)). perhaps you should clearly mark which side you're on before commenting...because it looks as if you're supporting a transnational corporation........thats all.

mail e-mail: cophaternumber1@live.com


07.06.2009 14:32

Yeah I've noticed Max commenting a lot lately - seems like a right-wing troll to me.

Not really subtle enough to be state imo


Have you ever worked in retail?

07.06.2009 17:57

"One staff-member oversees 4-6 self-service tills in a typical tesco. That's 5 people out of a job."

Yes, five crappy McJobs eliminated. Good thing too!

BTW am I suspected of being a State asset too? After all, I don't agree with the minutae of everything you say...

that said ID cards are wrong. You won't have to show them if you are ID'd buying booze though - a driving licence will suffice. The policy is a real bummer but anyone who'se seen the chavs after a skinful will appreciate why it is in place, supermarkets have to keep prices low and were coming under fire as selling cheap booze to underage kids. But then I suppose that proves that I'm a State asset too doesn't it?

Doctor doctor!


07.06.2009 23:24

An argument or point stands up on its own merit. It doesn't matter who wrote it. If your only counterpoints are based around "who wrote the comment", then I really don't see your point.

Theres a lot of people like you. They can't think of any counter arguments so resort to either labeling or name calling because they don't have the brain cells for anything else?

A couple of fair points:

>> In response to Max's - 'You need to move with the times and stop living in "the good ol' days".' - To what end mate? It's precisely this attitude of 'moving with the times' that self-perpetuates our nations passivity in the first place.

I suppose i mean adapting to new market conditions. People don't like necessarily like to queue behind Mrs. Miggins as sure fumbles through her purse for 5 minutes. They want to go in and out. I don't see much difference between this and the popularity of the drive-thru service at fastfood places. Its just giving people "what they want"

>> As for the self-service; Yes Max, it's more convenient but where has the interaction between humans gone? Agreed, the cashier conversations aren't always riveting, but now I am reduced to having an intimate conversation with some binary bleeps and glitches. Fantastic.

I see your point. But if everyone feels that way then they will stop going to Tesco's self-service supermarkets and will start going to Morrisons instead. That will make Tesco do a u-turn and get rid of the self-service systems.

These things are only in existance because they are popular. Thats why cashpoints are in existance, and the Sinclair C5 isn't


Poking fun at Tesco

07.06.2009 23:41


You think I am "looking at A and seeing XYZ. Tesco sound like they are acting responsible. Asking proof of ID is just so that people who are too young can't buy restricted items there. Theres no hocus pocus in that."

That is the only significant point you make. Pointing out that I have been pedantic about the nature of age discrimination is on par with saying being pedantic about theft excuses theft. The law is, by nature, pedantic. All the bluster about "political correctness" is nonsense. The only people who are politically "correct" are Authoritarians and Corporate Lawyers attempting to avoid the pedantry of the law.

I look at A and point out the possibility of XYZ.

Do you wish XYZ to happen? Then say so. Not prepared to say so? Then keep the criticism relevant. The law is pedantic. That is how it is. The law pedantically says that it is the licencee that commits an offence when alcohol is sold to underage customers. The shift that takes place is away from Tesco being responsible as they have a "demonstrable" policy of trying to only sell legally. This policy is achieved by shifting responsibility onto the customer in order to make Tesco have a piece of pedantry. In effect, all people under 25 are to be viewed as criminals and prove that they are not by presenting an ID Card.

Prove you are not a criminal, Max. All you have to do is prove who you are.

I am not impartial. I do not like the consequences of market distortions created by Tesco. That does not make my logic faulty. It makes my position clear. You can agree with me or disagree with me on the basis of logic. You can also say you only agree in part. Because I am clear in my position, anybody can do this. It is an element of participative democracy called "taking part in your own community". It also means that I presume in favour of the individual and of informed choice.

Theres the rub. Informed choice. A choice is better made where adequate, relevant information is available. Information Informs Choices.

I do move with the times. The good old days were a bit crapulent. The rampant TB, politically motivated pit closures, no internet access, the "no blacks no irish" notices everywhere and a thousand and one other things made life a lot less pleasant. A lot shorter, nastier and more brutish. The whole idea that self service is great. I just choose to examine the costs of self service. If a service happens to cost you more than you thought then it is worth examining why.

Do I want self service where I am tracked and my biometrically encoded information is passed over to a private concern, unaccountable to anybody except a narrow group of shareholders? My answer is no, your answer might be yes. Whatever my reasons, my answer is mine to give and it depends on information.

The issue is not self service and never will be. The issue is that Tesco have no right to ask for the Biometric ID card to prove identity. Nobody except a Government Agency does. That is the nature of the legislation.

Anon suggest that the self service tills are great for scamming. Which is undoubtably true. Tesco can even estimate the amount of scammed goods by doing stock counts and comparing them to the inventory system. They call it "shrinkage" in the supermarket trade. If Tesco happen to identify a particular shop has high shrinkage - they might choose to argue that ID cards must be popped into the self service machine in order to verify the identity of shoppers for purposes of their Civil Recovery scheme. The rights and wrong of shrinkage are a different question altogether. The fact that Tesco has the technological capacity to do this
is a serious consideration.

You can choose to allow private businesses to run your life and dictate your lifestyle if you wish. That is your choice. It is not mine. If a business wishes me to behave in a particular way then they can pay me for it. That is capitalism.

To seriously suggesting that anybody should passively accept being criminalised by a private company an affront to most political positions. It really does not matter if you are left or right wing, proposing that people ignore the technological possibilities of supermarkets enforcing particular kinds of behaviour is naive and dangerous. Providing information about the possiblities of technology misuse obliges the users to expalin themselves.

The number of CCTV cameras around the country is a testament to what happens when people do not question intrusions into their private lives. It just happens. I might choose to tolerate the Government intruding into my private life because it is ostensibly accountable to me. Tesco is accountable to its shareholders, not me. Toleration of Tesco (or any other supermarket) facilitating function creep of ID cards means it will just happen.

A Passing Shopper

Two points

08.06.2009 10:11

There are many valid criticisms to be made about Tesco, particularly about the way they treat farmers and other suppliers (see the book Tescopoly, among others). It's also important to be alert for creeping incursion of civil liberties - and it's a good point that the way the limit age for ID checks is getting higher could be contributing to that.

Would make two points, though:

1) The age-blind demand for ID isn't just a UK issue. It's been happening in the US for a long time - I've seen people in their 50s and 60s asked for their ID. But that isn't connected to a drive there for a national ID card, something I imagine individual states would strongly resist.

2) The previous poster said: "The issue is that Tesco have no right to ask for the Biometric ID card to prove identity". But they're not demanding that customers specifically have the new ID card - they could have a drivers' license, passport, or one of the dozens of cards with a PASS hologram on it. Now that some people are carrying the new cards, their stores would get in trouble with customers if they *didn't* accept them. Same goes for any pub ("What do you mean you're not serving me? I've got a national ID card - that's better proof than a drivers license..."). Though it might be an idea for NO2ID to start a campaign getting local pubs to refuse to recognise the card as ID, feeding off their anger with the Government...


The small print

08.06.2009 12:46

One of the legitimate criticisms of Tesco is that it is making customers and suppliers conform to how Tesco wishes to operate its business. This is not unique to Tesco - Wal-Mart insist that their entire supply chain use RFID.

In consequence RFID are becoming ubiquitous in the US. Wal-Mart first made suppliers preferred then dropped suppliers who could not supply RFID. The original post seems to have two main concerns.

First, there should be no function creep. Look what happened with CCTV.

Second, Tesco is obliging customers to supply services to Tesco for free. Tesco would not supply free services, so, why should customers.

The service of clerking goods. The service of accepting a range of obligations. These might all be trivial and acceptable. What about the service of providing a standard of identity. What the original post seems to be driving at is that providing these services erodes various political and civil rights.

As with the RFID in Wal-Mart, Tesco only need to drop customers who fail to conform to the required service standard in order to coerce customers into providing preferred services in prefered modes of delivery. It might not even need to be a formal decision.

As an example, Tescos tills blacked out in May. No tills apart from the "self service" tills were available. The disruption that it caused to people gives an inkling of the fundamental shift that will happen once Tesco have completed the transition to fully automated tills. Not if but when. Consider the consequence of all goods suddenly, through programmer error, being marked as age restricted in a supermarket where only self service tills are available.

Objecting to the ID Card, wherever it is used outside of "Government Officials" is the correct strategy. If any privately owned business obtains the "right" to see an ID card then all business will assume that right. It is not a matter of "nothing to hide nothing to fear" but of the more fundamental "no right was granted no obligation was created".

A Reader


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