Re: Barcode Email

From: Walter Roberson (
Date: 07/26/05

Date: Tue, 26 Jul 2005 17:05:11 +0000 (UTC)

In article <1s33hf6jxl5jy.qruu69fs7g93$>,
Ari Silversteinn <abcarisilverstein@yahoo.comxyz> wrote:
:The point is that there is a market for low level "encryption" that is
:easily understood by the general public who sees barcodes every day of
:their lives. They really don't understand how a barcode is made or read,
:necessarily, but they trust them.

Vendors still haven't been able to stomp out the "truth" that
"All barcodes contain 666, The Number Of The Beast".

What would it mean for the general public to *not* trust barcodes?

The UPCs on boxes and other prepared goods are clearly identical for
most products that consumers encounter. Some deli counters and so on
put individualized barcodes on custom-cut/served goods; it often
only takes a few seconds to see the price written into the code.

I would thus suggest that consumer trust in commonplace barcodes is
at least partly reliant on the barcode identifying the class of
object rather than the individual object -- feelings about barcodes
might be different if, for example, the tracking were down to the
level of "this customer prefers to pick up objects from the front left
row" (something that could be done with RFID.)

The consumer trust in barcodes is not based upon the reliability of
the reading technology -- in my experience, at least 1 time in 3, there's
a package that won't scan. Consumers *will* remember that, and if the
scan failure rate on the proposed system isn't miniscule, the system
won't become popular.

The consumer trust in barcodes is not based upon anonymity of -what-
is purchased: every item gets listed on the receipt and it would be
assumed by most people that the store would keep copies of the receipts.
And items such as fruit that doesn't usually have barcodes has
cash-register codes and gets entered on the receipt anyhow.

The trust is also not based upon anonymity of who buys what: anyone
who pays by credit-card would tend to wonder whether their itemized
purchases are being recorded against their ID, and discount cards
such as those from Safeway (grocery store) don't hide the fact
that the cards will be used to track individual purchases -- it's
in the Terms and Conditions. The companies don't usually publicize
the tracking in big block letters, but they do say, "Well, if you
don't like being tracked, you don't have to sign up." The tracking
is open knowledge (though perhaps not "common knowledge"), and
consumer advocates don't seem to have much success in convincing people
that they don't want to be tracked ("But using the card saves me money!")
[Sure, but going to the next supermarket down the street would usually
save even more money... Brand loyalty can be pretty powerful.]

In locations (e.g., US States) that use bar codes on Drivers License
and other such ID, is there general trust that the information is
securely encoded? Not having lived in any such area, I don't know
what the attitudes are; my reading suggests that there is *not*
a general trust that the information is secure. I gather that the
trust is rather that the information is machine-readable and that
it is "all right there" for anyone who has the right equipment...
with it being expected that not so many people have the necessary

I -hypothesize- that the general reaction to Ari's proposal would
be that people would perceive that "anyone with the right equipment
could read this". I don't wish to speculate at the moment as to
whether that would prove a significant market detriment or not.

  The rule of thumb for speed is:
  1. If it doesn't work then speed doesn't matter.  -- Christian Bau