[NetBehaviour] Garbage Cans Pack Spy Chips.

marc marc.garrett at furtherfield.org
Sun Sep 3 12:38:26 CEST 2006

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).


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