Garbage Cans Pack Spy Chips

Garbage cans all over England are under surveillance tonight. And not by sleepy, fallible humans. At least 500,000 "wheelie bins" now use technology worthy of James Bond's fabled electronics genius "M" (or at least a competent villain from SPECTRE).

Electronic devices (passive RFID tags) about the size of a one-pence piece are screwed into a hole in the lip of the bin. As the bin is hoisted up for emptying, an RFID reader on the refuse truck interrogates the chip, which divulges a serial number identifying the property owner. The weight of the bin is recorded by the truck's sensors and is registered in a database entry along with the serial number.

The database entries for the day are downloaded at the dump (now, that's a data dump!) and stored in a vast central databank of property owner behavior. I can smell a new "garbage tax" on people with overly-heavy cans—how about you?

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.

Contactless credit cards using tiny RFID chips are now being widely tested for use as credit cards and other applications. You can cut up the number portion of a credit card to discourage thieves when you toss it in the trash. But what if you don't cut the tiny chip in the credit card? All of the old information in the card is available (encrypted, but still available).

This might be a good time to insist on zombie RFID tags on consumer products; they can be turned off when you take them from the store. See Zombie RFID Tags Arise To Face Privacy Advocates for more information.

If only they can combine the talking trash cans of Berlin with these spy cans - they'll just blab everything to the garbageman (or dustman, as the case may be).

Now that you're feeling slightly paranoid about your garbage can, take a look at these surveillance technologies and issues:

Read more about wheelie bin spies.

(This Science Fiction in the News story used with permission from Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction.)