Tracking Trash for Greed

In “One Man’s Trash is Another Man’s Big Data” by WIRED contributor Theo Priestley, an MIT lab created an experiment known ad “Trash Track” to track over 3,000 pieces of rubbish with transmitters.

TrashTrack uses hundreds of small, smart, location aware tags: a first step towards the deployment of smart-dust – networks of tiny locatable and addressable microeletromechanical systems.These tags are attached to different types of trash so that these items can be followed through the city’s waste management system, revealing the final journey of our everyday objects in a series of real time visualizations.

The project was started in 2012, and the experiments have spread to encouraging individuals to track their own garbage and the “removal-chain” of the garbage life cycle.

It wasn’t long before big business found profit in tracking garbage.

In 2013, the article explains:

It came to light that a dozen of London’s recycling bins fitted with digital screens were tracking each smartphone and device that connected to them with WiFi. It allowed advertisers to deduce whether the same phone — although not necessarily the same person — is passing by. By recording the MAC address, it was then possible to track when a phone reconnects. The bins could track speed and location, potentially allowing personalized advertising that even adapts according to user behavior.

The City of London has since taken this matter up legally because the Data Protection Act forbids this kind of snooping.