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Your Garbage Can Could Be Spying On You 228

Posted by Zonk
from the tin-foil-hats-activate dept.
macs4all writes "Garbage cans all over England are under surveillance tonight. And not by sleepy, fallible humans. This article in Live Science claims that at least 500,000 'wheelie bins' are now using RFID technology." Though that doesn't sound very dire, the article points out the ease with which your consumer spending habits could be tracked. "Although this is frankly a story that is difficult to take seriously, please note the following. You should remember that many of the articles you buy (and sooner or later throw away) are now also equipped with passive RFID tags that detail the item's brand name and product name. If it's possible to scan the tag on the trash can with an ID, it's possible to use similar equipment to quickly scan your can to uncover your purchasing habits."
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Your Garbage Can Could Be Spying On You

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  • One of the main 'justifications' that the local councils gave was that they were able to settle 'who owns which bin' disputes. When the bins are all at the kerb after pickup, assholes sometimes take their neighbours bin (bins all look the same since they are issued by the council), then they get into disputes and nobody can prove who owned what unless they had their house number painted on the front (also common). The council try to justify the RFID by saying it allows them to quickly see who the bin really
    • by Draveed (664730) on Saturday September 02, 2006 @05:37AM (#16028987)
      Why would you care about getting back the same garbage can? As long as they're all the same size, who cares? All they do is hold your garbage so no matter which one you get, they're all dirty.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by legoburner (702695)
        I wouldn't underestimate how petty people who hate their neighbours can be. Not much use applying rational logic to their actions.
        • by rucs_hack (784150)
          agreed, I have a neighbor who is so obsessed by this that, rain or shine, she will put out the bins of everyone in our street, and put them away again *the very second* the binmen are done with them.

          Unless she's taken offence at you for some imagined reason (usually something which has no foundation in reality), in which case she won't put them back for a while, a couple of weeks at least.

          It's sad really.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by artifex2004 (766107)
        Why would you care about getting back the same garbage can? As long as they're all the same size, who cares? All they do is hold your garbage so no matter which one you get, they're all dirty.


        Think: broken/missing lids, hinges, handles, wheels; the can having been run into/over by a car; or the can being stolen. (If your neighbor's can is stolen, and he takes yours, it's not like you can use his.)
      • The cans may not be the same: On My Block of Washington, DC - the government (Which spends $$ spraying for moskuitoes and theoritically fining people for having breeding-cups in their yards) hands out trash cans without drainage holes. This means when is rains a few inches the night that a full trash can goes out - the cans don't get emptied because the G-Men can't lift the cans.

        My "Identical" Cans have drainage holes drilled in the bottom. Yes I would like to get them back. Further - I drilled holes in
    • by Potor (658520)
      not being british, i ask: is council (here) synonomous with social housing, or simply with municipal services? if the former, it sounds like the poor are gonna get screwed more by this than anyone else, according to your take. so, what's new?
      • by legoburner (702695) on Saturday September 02, 2006 @05:54AM (#16029024) Homepage Journal
        The council is the local government (mayor, etc) and they take in a fixed amount of money (everyone pays the same, even rentals) as a housing tax. They pay for roads, garbage collection, schools, local police, etc. (along with Govt subsidies for the same). Council housing is housing that is either provided or subsidised for poor/disadvantaged people but there is a huge queue to get it. Single mothers seem to be the priority, as well as people who have been granted asylum. As such the level of disadvantage tends to result in no-go areas or high crime rates around council housing so the council housing estates are generally looked down upon (though this differs from area to area, some are actually quite nice and have good standards).
      • by jimicus (737525) on Saturday September 02, 2006 @06:01AM (#16029040)
        Both.

        Municipal services (such as domestic rubbish collection, street lights, road maintenance, planning permission) and social housing are all handled by departments within the council. Funding comes from a number of sources, but ultimately it's 90% tax in some form. (You do have to pay rent on council housing)

        The purpose of the tags is probably not to investigate buying habits. More likely, it will be combined with weighing equipment on the lorries which take the rubbish away to find out who's throwing out how much. Ostensibly this is to ensure that everyone is using the various recycling schemes properly, though I wouldn't be surprised if it culminates with being charged by weight for the amount of waste produced.

        Parents with young children (how exactly do you recycle a nappy/diaper?), those without transport (not all councils take all recyclable material; some won't even take glass) will probably be the most affected by this - and, as you say, most people who fall into both brackets are poorer and so will be screwed harder.
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          how exactly do you recycle a nappy/diaper
          Well before disposable ones became all the rage they were made of cloth and could be washed. As a baby in the seventies I suffered with Terry Towelling nappies, my kid brother ten years later got the disposable kind. Actually several of my old nappies are still hanging around my parent's place - my mum uses one as a cloth for cleaning the bathroom and my dad has a could in the garage.
        • by b0s0z0ku (752509)
          Parents with young children

          Cotton washable diapers.

          those without transport

          Councils in the UK expect you to deliver your recyclables to *them*? In most places in the US, another truck just comes around weekly and picks up recycling bins.

          -b.

        • by grassy_knoll (412409) on Saturday September 02, 2006 @10:29AM (#16029523) Homepage
          The purpose of the tags is probably not to investigate buying habits. More likely, it will be combined with weighing equipment on the lorries which take the rubbish away to find out who's throwing out how much. Ostensibly this is to ensure that everyone is using the various recycling schemes properly, though I wouldn't be surprised if it culminates with being charged by weight for the amount of waste produced.


          My local city government wanted to add RFID tags to our plastic trash bins, not to monitor the citizens but to monitor those who pick up the trash. Think of it like workflow management.

          As the bins were picked up, the idea was an RFID reader would "tick off" each bin as picked up, eventually marking an entire route as completed.. if the trash collectors picked everything up.

          Funny enough, the RFID tags kept comming off the bins. Something about damage in handling, warping of the plastic bins in extreams of weather... almost like some people didn't want the system to work.
    • by DrXym (126579)
      I don't see bin tracking being a big deal, however at the same time RFID is not going to solve all issues. As you say, people paint their house numbers on bins. The council could easily send everyone a sticker to afix to the top which did the same. A barcoded sticker could even serve to identify the bin, and to allow reading by the weigh machine.

      An RFID on its own will be no good. There will instances where some extended family of scumbags swap their bin with the little old lady next door so she gets the

    • What gets me is that these are council owned bins. Note council owned, meaning the council own them and can therefore fit RFID tags to them all they see fit.

      Not only this, but if you check the literature involved in refuse collection services you will note that it says you are liable to be charged anyway if you throw more than a reasonable amount of rubbish.

      I have no objection to the council checking how much rubbish I put through their service. I don't even object to them working out what type of rubbish i
  • by wilper (103281) on Saturday September 02, 2006 @05:35AM (#16028983) Homepage
    So now we have to microwave our garbage aswell?
    • by lordkuri (514498) on Saturday September 02, 2006 @05:40AM (#16028990)
      Oh, I see you've tried my ex-wife's cooking. Man she gets around!
    • If they could scan garbage for RFID tags and identify your purchases, then they can also LOOK THROUGH YOUR GARBAGE and identify your purchases. In fact, the former is a smaller privacy risk than the latter, because if they are mass-scanning, then you are more likely to be a statistic instead of being carefully examined as an individual. Not to mention that checking through your trash is likely to reveal bills and so on that are far greater a risk. Hell, for the same data, they can just mash together informa
    • by Descalzo (898339)
      You've never had a Hot Pocket?
  • by Facegarden (967477) on Saturday September 02, 2006 @05:46AM (#16029004)
    Without RFID tags on the bins, someone could still walk by with a scanner and scan your trash to see what you've been buying... The only difference is that having a tag on the bin makes keeping track of who's trash it is marginally easier, but it's not impossible without them... I'm afraid that we're going to see many articles like this in the future, as people slowly discover RFID tags in things that didn't used to have them... RFID readers on garbage trucks... they can see what I'm buying! Wait... they could already see what i have been buying with my credit card... Unless i purposefully try to obfuscate my purchases of certain items with cash, chances are my arbitrary use of cash versus credit gives everyone who has access to that data a good picture of what i buy... Yes, there are new scenarios rfid tags create, but it's all the same idea. The point is things are changing... Marketing has been getting more invasive ever since it started, but we live out lives just fine today. Tomorrow, if i get a target ad on goldfish crackers because someone finds out i ate some goldfish crackers via the wheelie bin, it's not going to change my life... And yes, it could be used by bad people, but my point again is everything is like that... So lets relax a bit... -Taylor
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by TubeSteak (669689)

      RFID readers on garbage trucks... they can see what I'm buying! Wait... they could already see what i have been buying with my credit card...

      Who is "they"?
      Why do "they" have to have access to your credit card?

      Maybe "they" are a bunch of thieves driving around with an amped up & tweaked out RFID reader and "they" are looking for tags with a high dollar value attached to them. Actually, a garbage truck would make a good base of operations.

      My point really has nothing to do with RFIDed garbage bins, only th

    • by symbolic (11752)
      I'm afraid that we're going to see many articles like this in the future, as people slowly discover RFID tags in things that didn't used to have them

      Yes, and wasn't it not too long ago that companies like Wal-mart swore up and down that RFID was going to used *only* to track inventory? People shrugged, figured that it wouldn't be *too* bad if its use was limited to that. Now we're faced with the next logical outcome- something that was visible a mile away.

      I'm sure governments and marketers can think of all
  • by onion2k (203094) on Saturday September 02, 2006 @05:49AM (#16029015) Homepage
    This wouldn't work for me. I try to maintain a healthy lifestyle. That means buying lots of fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, etc. If there's any RFID tags in the things I buy then the chances are pretty high that I'll have eaten it.
  • by Antony-Kyre (807195) on Saturday September 02, 2006 @05:50AM (#16029018)
    Remember folks, microwave your unmentionables before throwing them out in the trash. While you're at it, buy a new microwave and save the old one for this type of purpose. I figure 30 seconds in the microwave will make sure the RFID chip cannot be read.
  • by walnutmon (988223) on Saturday September 02, 2006 @05:56AM (#16029028)
    This is a direct violation of my inalienable right as an inhabitant of this earth to have a right to life, and a right to privacy. I have never been so pissed off in my life. I can't even control my anger right now. Why can't these governments just let us live our lives the way that WE SEE FIT, without trying to monitor EVERYTHING WE DO! This is the last straw, I will RISE UP and fight this AT ALL COSTS. They will never take my FREEDOM.

    Oscar
    • by EnglishTim (9662)
      I think that may be a slight overreaction. Would you react the same way if they just write your name on your wheelie bin? I don't really see the difference.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by markdavis (642305)
        >Would you react the same way if they just write your name on your wheelie bin? I don't really see the difference.

        Oh, I see a BIG difference. If they have a scanner on the trucks that can read RFID, they can read not only the tag on the bin, but also all the tags on the trash IN the bin. And it can happen VERY quickly. Furthermore, the huge majority of people won't know they were doing it, or what dangers that implies.
        • by dorkygeek (898295)

          Well, they can already scan your garbage for tags now, this doesn't require a tag on the bin itself!. Sorry, but how stupid are you?

          Besides, all they would get from the garbage scanning is a bunch of serial numbers which means nothing to them. They can only be used to identify products in conjunction with the product database of the entity which applied the tags. And in order to find out which product database you have to consult, you had to actually look at the piece containing the tag, which renders the

          • by markdavis (642305)
            >Well, they can already scan your garbage for tags now, this doesn't require a tag on the bin itself!.
            >Sorry, but how stupid are you?

            Why must people like you resort to name calling? You do realize it makes you sound so juvenile.

            "They" would need some type of ID on the trash can to use to associate the bin with a person/residence. Some RFID tags do have product information and do not require a transaction database in order to determine what it is. Then the two pieces of data- owner and product, coul
            • by dorkygeek (898295)

              Why must people like you resort to name calling? You do realize it makes you sound so juvenile.

              Because the stupidity of some people really bugs me, so I have to tell them.

              "They" would need some type of ID on the trash can to use to associate the bin with a person/residence.

              You can do that without any tags as well: just look at the house in front of which the bin is placed. Note also that a tag does not give you much more information. A neighbour could as well have dropped his garbage in your bin and

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by jimmichie (993747)
      Look, Apple couldn't have released GarbageCan without some form of DRM - the big Garbage companies would never have allowed it.

      Oh wait.
    • They will never take my FREEDOM.

      Yes they will. And they'll take mine too. And while we might be able to delay it, we won't ultimately be able to stop it.
  • Trash Tracking (Score:4, Interesting)

    by JonnyCalcutta (524825) on Saturday September 02, 2006 @05:57AM (#16029031)
    This is just stupid. Any interference with peoples rubbish, especially if it leads to a 'rubbish tax' - say on putting recyclable items in a non-recycling bin or throwing away too much rubbish (there are whispers about these happening) - will just lead to more people dumping their rubbish illegaly. People already feel they pay way too much in Council Tax (local tax based on property value which amounts to over $3000 per annum and which funds the local councils - ie rubbish collection, local roads, schools, etc).

    People will simply fill the bins up to the non-chargeable limit and then throw the rest out at street corners on their way to work. I can see a good market developing for pedal bins that weigh your rubbish and tell you when you reach the limit. Or a new practical joke of putting bricks on your neighbours bin.

  • by Saib0t (204692) <`gro.dum-airepseh' `ta' `tobias'> on Saturday September 02, 2006 @05:57AM (#16029032)
    In Belgium, at least in the city of Chaudfontaine [chaudfontaine.be] (link in french), we've been having RFIDs on our trashbins for several years already (4? 5?).

    While the paranoïac among you see this as a potential invasion of privacy, I see this as an easy way for the city to have me pay taxes only on what I put in the bin.

    The process is simple. The trucks come over, put the container on a scale, scan the RFID automagically, empty the bin, voila. If it's empty, I don't pay.
    The net result for me is that I get to pay [chaudfontaine.be]:
    32 € per year
    +11 € for the container rent per year.
    +1.60 € for each time my bin is not empty
    +0.16 € /kg

    Which is way less than I used to pay before.

    Plus, I get to dispose of my glass stuff in containers accessible all around the city for free.
    I get to dispose of my plastic and metallic (soda cans, tins, etc.) in special bags for free.
    I get to dispose of 3 cubic meters (106 cubic feet) of other stuff (grass, leaves, dirt, sofa, planks, etc.) for free

    The RFID on my trashbins are thus an easy way for the city to make those who dispose of more stuff pay more, which is as it should be.
    I have yet to see the trash guys peek inside my stuff...

    Cool system IMO...

    • by cs02rm0 (654673) on Saturday September 02, 2006 @06:26AM (#16029078)
      That's fine, but it's not how it'd work in the UK. They'll come up with a trash tax which will probably add more than 100 GBP to our council tax which often exceeds 1000 GBP a year as it is. Meanwhile they only collect the rubbish every two weeks and refuse (no pun int...) to take it if you've overfilled the bin or not sorted the recycling how they want it. Of course, they don't actually recycle 90% of the stuff you'd expect... no newspapers, magazines, cardboard food packaging, plastic, etc...

      Rip off Britain's a bleeding con and it's no wonder 0.5 million of us are emigrating each year.
      • > Rip off Britain's a bleeding con and it's no wonder 0.5 million of us are emigrating each year.

        So that's why the population's historically low right now then?
        http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/5281360.stm [bbc.co.uk]

        (or maybe not)
        • by cs02rm0 (654673)
          >> Rip off Britain's a bleeding con and it's no wonder 0.5 million of us are emigrating each year.

          >So that's why the population's historically low right now then? >http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/5281360.stm

          >(or maybe not)

          We have a rising population because in spite of record emigration levels, we have record immigration levels which are significantly higher.
      • There is going to come a point when a private (in both senses of the word) bin collecting service is going to be commercially viable. People will say "it's like BUPA, I'm paying for it twice, but this way I'll at least be treated like a paying customer".

        Ten years down the line, everyone will be paying a "bin bill", which won't be awfully much, and they'll collect weekly or on demand for an extra fee, and they'll not bug you about recycling (which is, in nearly every case except aluminium, an anti-green net
    • by Rogerborg (306625) on Saturday September 02, 2006 @06:27AM (#16029081) Homepage
      Well, Belgium is a dull, law abiding sort of place. Here in Blighty, the patriotic thing to do would be to dump your trash in your neighbour's bin and make them pay for it.
    • What you failed to mention is that Chaudfontaine has a population of 21,012 [wikipedia.org], so applying this kind of project isn't too hard. In case somebody comes and throws stuff in your bin you just need to call up the authorities and tell'em that Jean-Pierre from down the street threw his junk in your garbage can.
      • by Saib0t (204692)

        What you failed to mention is that Chaudfontaine has a population of 21,012, so applying this kind of project isn't too hard. In case somebody comes and throws stuff in your bin you just need to call up the authorities and tell'em that Jean-Pierre from down the street threw his junk in your garbage can.

        Well, 2 things prevent Jean-Pierre from dumping his trash in my can.
        First one is that my trashcan is, except during the pickup day, in my courtyard behind a door
        Second one is that the trashcans come w

    • by Gnavpot (708731)
      While the paranoÃac among you see this as a potential invasion of privacy, I see this as an easy way for the city to have me pay taxes only on what I put in the bin.


      Whoosh.

      This story is not about the dangers of the bin itself being scanned. It is about the dangers of the contents of the bin being scanned.

      • by Gnavpot (708731)
        Whoosh.

        This story is not about the dangers of the bin itself being scanned. It is about the dangers of the contents of the bin being scanned.


        Or to be more clear:
        The article is about scanning bins. The question raised in the resume is about scanning contents of bins.
    • by julesh (229690)
      Yeah, well, the reason the British are objecting to it is that, as the Daily Mail said when they broke the story a few days ago, the GERMANS ARE BUGGING OUR BINS!

      Well, they didn't put it *exactly* like that, but you could tell thats what they were trying to get across... ;)
  • The tags that are installed in your bin are there to identify a bin with a household and issue an instruction to the truck to weigh on lift. There's no worthwhile talk of it tracking discarded packets RFIDs and profiling you based on your garbage....
    • by markdavis (642305)
      You are a VERY trusting chap, aren't you? You can't possibly see how or why that same scanner could be used to quickly record every RFID in the bin. Isn't it "worthwhile" to be at least a little concerned about the possible abuses, as the number of items with RFID chips increases each year?
  • by technogogo (708973) on Saturday September 02, 2006 @06:30AM (#16029086)
    I think it was that dreadful UK tabloid, The Mail on Sunday, which created this "your bin is bugged" hysteria last week. They stirred up lots of fear and doubt by using terms like "bug" to describe something that is just a serial number. I bet if the new bins had a bar code, nobody would care less. Instead the media is making out that this RFID chip can somehow directly spy on what you are throwing away.
    In my town, local newspapers like the Daily Echo http://www.thisisbournemouth.co.uk/display.var.903 767.0.whats_bugging_you.php [thisisbournemouth.co.uk] have jumped on the Mails fear-mongering bandwagon and are doing that all too common trick... publish over-the-top scare stories one day, then run a 2nd story with feedback from 'horrified readers' the next. A sure sign of media hype.

    But what baffles me with this situation is the tabloid press in the UK say very little about the real privacy issues of the day.... the ID card scheme, this new national database of childrens details, DRM seeping into our products and purchases. But garbage containers that have a number - oh the horror! Jeez!

    Ok just one more thing... I know RFID tags are not liked by slashdot. I'm no fan of them either. Making bins identifiable is a step towards a new form of non-recycled refuge taxation. I don't think thats a bad thing if it causes people to recycle more. But these new taxes tend to be on top of existing taxes. So its not like we'd get a local tax offset first. This angle is generating concern as represented by the public feedback. But the mdeia spin on the capabilities of the technology amaze me. Though it if makes the ID card scheme falter, its a good thing.
    • by arkhan_jg (618674)
      I live near bournemouth (used to live there too, but shifted west a bit), and the thing that's annoyed people is the complete lack of information about the chips and the poor info about the new recycling scheme. Basically, they've been worried that the council is about to start spying on the amount of their rubbish disposal and charging an extra 'waste' tax based on how much they throw away. Given the the council tax is already supposed to pay for waste disposal, it's a bit cheeky to start charging extra, a
  • by Rogerborg (306625) on Saturday September 02, 2006 @06:32AM (#16029089) Homepage
    So take them off and pop them in the microwave, then replace them. Dire warnings aside, the workload on modern refuse collectors is so high that it's vanishingly unlikely that the system will be set up scan and refuse bins without an RFID before emptying them, and it's a fair bet that the beaurocracy won't be set up effectively to investigate who owns which anonymous bin. Do you see the chap on the bin lorry giving a damn? He just wants to get done as soon as possible.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by markdavis (642305)
      I think you are missing the point. We all know the obvious reasons they are doing it- and they are good reasons: preventing violations of trash rules, perhaps using it to charge people less that produce less waste, preventing people from stealing other's trashcans.

      The problem is what it COULD be used for, which has nothing to do with the chap emptying the can. Imagine what a covert agency could discover about you or your family by instantly knowing and tracking future RFID tags! Based on staticical proba
      • You are dead right. It's less of a case of abuse at this moment, but the potential for future abuse that is scary. It is also virtually certain that the potential will be exploited--sooner or later. The next step could be as simple as tracking everything and using that to determine what our political leanings are. "Looks like Mr. Soandso is a (left-, right-) wing nut who may vote against us. Send some boys over to "persuade" him to stay home on election day." ... or religious leanings (atheist, Buddhi
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Inda (580031)

      I have been following this as I live in the area where these bins are being used. This news story is from the same area:

      Bin spy bug vigilante

      AN ex-cop has removed spy bugs on wheelie bins and sent them back to the council.

      Former chief inspector Martin Meeks said he and his neighbours were incensed at the microchips, which measure the waste thrown away.

      The 62-year-old, of Winterbourne Monkton, Wilts, said: "If I had gone into someone's house as a police officer and planted a bug without approval, th

  • Buy cross-shredding devices (and dump the stuff in different bins while not being watched - maybe burn it first), up your crypto and be very, very wary.
    • by cdrguru (88047)
      In Arizona paper is recyclable. Shredded paper is not. Because of contamination concerns, if you shred it, it goes in a landfill.
  • by britneys 9th husband (741556) on Saturday September 02, 2006 @08:01AM (#16029241) Homepage Journal
    Got a right wing religious wacko neighbor? Throw away your condoms, XXX magazines, liquor bottles, etc in his trash. Muslim neighbor? Pork rinds. Slashdotter? Empty boxes from MS products.
  • by b0s0z0ku (752509) on Saturday September 02, 2006 @08:58AM (#16029339)
    ... regulate how things are packaged. It is *fucking inexcusable* that a 3/4" x 3" USB thumb drive comes in a 6" x 6" plastic bubble package) that's difficult to open without slicing your hand open, to add injury to insult). Enourage the use of cardboard packaging which is (a) biodegradable and (b) flammable without producing too much in the way of noxious fumes.

    -b.

    • by Bishop (4500)
      It would be cool if producers were taxed for all packageing based on weight and material. Non-recyclable and hard to recycle material would cost more. The taxes need to be applied to the producers directly to force change. Consumers won't care if a product costs an extra 5 cents because it is in a plastic bubble. Producers will. Taxing the consumer for the packageing won't work. Consumers often don't have a choice, and similar garbage taxes/fees encourage illegal late night dumping.
    • by tomhudson (43916)

      I hate those new packages. EVERYTHING is impossible to open without a knife.

      I know that marketers think it "adds perceived value", but you know something? There's more "perceived value" in my new cell phone (I bought it without even looking at the cardboard box first) than in some $10.00 item in a plastic bubble.

      • by Cutriss (262920)
        Even better - marketers know that if you have to significantly damage or destroy the packaging to retrieve an item, you'll be less likely to return it if you're unhappy with it, under the fear that the store will not accept it returned in such a state.
        • by tomhudson (43916)

          Well, the marketers are wrong in my case - if I damage something because of the extreme measures I have to take to open it first, the store's going to take it back or have one very angry person shouting at the top of their lungs about how BS their policy is.

          I did this once a few years ago over some misleading advertising (they tried to claim that the item in the ad wasn't the same one, but the stock # on the photo said otherwise). 10 minutes at the cash register, loud enough so that people on the next flo

          • by b0s0z0ku (752509)
            if I damage something because of the extreme measures I have to take to open it first, the store's going to take it back or have one very angry person shouting at the top of their lungs about how BS their policy is.

            Better yet, put on some fake blood just before you enter the store, wear a baseball cap from your AIDS advocacy group of choice, and start yelling about how the widget didn't work and you sliced your hand putting it back into the package.

            -b.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by NeutronCowboy (896098)
      Most of those impossible packages are there to deter theft of small, high value items. Think of how easy it would be to swipe a 4 GB thumb drive if it would come in a perfectly sized cardboard package that opens easily. Granted, it's still stupid that mail-order businesses have to use the same crap.
      • by b0s0z0ku (752509)
        . Think of how easy it would be to swipe a 4 GB thumb drive if it would come in a perfectly sized cardboard package that opens easily.

        If they're worried about theft, keep the small objects behind the counter. Most small electronics shops already do that, especially with OEM stuff that comes un-packaged.

        -b.

  • unless the scanners on the trucks are scanning tags on the contents of the bin.

    a tag itself on a bin is no big deal provided it's only holding a number that cannot be traced to a particular person or house by itself (without the corresponding customer database from the rubbish hauler). that'd just be an electronic version of a serial number that's stenciled on bins here (in the areas that rubbish haulers provide bins to their customers).
  • by cruachan (113813) on Saturday September 02, 2006 @01:27PM (#16030067)
    I'm involved with writing the code for this a project using this technology for a recycling subcontractor somewhere in rural England/Wales. The RFID simply allows us to tag a recycling box to a household then collect data on the weight of recyclate returned in each box. Housholds are issued with two boxes - paper/textiles/card and glass/cans so that's the finest level of detail being collected.

    The use of the data is that it will allow the recycling organisation to work out which areas are recycling a lot of material and which are not, and the intention is to make that information available back to the public on a 'community' level. What a community is hasn't been precisely defined, but it's going to be larger, probably considerably larger, than postcode purposly so individuals can't be identified. The local authority will make use of the information by identifying areas where it needs to do more to encourage recycling, and possibly to reward communities that are actively recycling.

    I honestly don't think there's any significant civil liberty issues here. In effect it's no different than a gas company monitoring the volume of gas each customer uses or a water company doing similar, it's just not been done before because up until now the technology to monitor garbage out (as opposed to the volume of a commodity going in) hasn't been available.

    The Government's proposals for ID cards do cause me considerable concern so I'm not at all complacent about the matter, but presumably if we think that encouraging people to recycle is a good thing then collecting data to understand the patterns of people recycling is a helpful approach?

  • In Wiltshire the papers have been covering how some of the residents are removing the tags from their bins and throwing them away because they're afraid that the electronic devices may contain "spy cameras" and other ways in snoop on their activity. Many of these people are more afraid of technology itself, however, rather than the privacy issues. The residents of small Wiltshire towns tend to be a "bit backward" (which is being generous and not mentioning anything to do with inbreeding ;) ). The council
  • Ok, so the bad guys know my buying habits...

    Now what? Why the hell do I give a crap whether they know my buying habits or not? How could they possibly use this knowledge to harm me?
  • Anyone could always look through your trash and discover interesting things about you. This just makes it easier. Why is it suddenly more dangerous? What can someone do now that they couldn't do anyway?

    This isn't a rhetorical question. I suspect that it is more dangerous, but I'd like to know why.
  • Wouldn't a simple leaflet widely distributed, telling people where to drill a hole in the garbage containers solve some of these problems?

    I can't imagine the RFID element can be very deep in the plastic of the bin. It certainly can't be behind metal or it wouldn't reflect a RF signal to ID itself. So drill a hole through the RFIC chip and say 'goodbye' to it nicely.

    If there are one or several makes and models of trashbins in an area, a leaflet with illustrations clearly indicating 'drill here' could be ea

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