Britons angry over trash bin tracking

Bob Rosenberg bob.redmountain at
Sun Feb 25 03:24:37 PST 2007

Prof. Farber

For IP maybe.

Where is George Orwell when we need him?


Arizona Republic
Britons angry over trash bin tracking

Liz Ruskin
McClatchy Newspapers
Feb. 25, 2007 12:00 AM
LONDON - The British tolerate millions of surveillance cameras
watching their every public move. They agreed to let roadside cameras
record their vehicular movements and store the information for two
years. But when they discovered that their garbage is being bugged,
they howled that Big Brother had gone too far.

Local governments have attached microchips to some 500,000 "wheelie
bins," the trashcans that residents wheel to the curb for collection.
The aim, they say, is to help monitor collections and boost the
national recycling rate, now among the lowest in Europe.

The public has reacted with suspicion and fury.

"Germans Plant Bugs in Our Wheelie Bins," a Daily Mail headline
announced in August. Two of the bin manufacturers are German.
Newspaper letter writers have taken to calling it "Bin Brother."

A member of Parliament from London's Croydon neighborhood denounced
the chip as "the spy in your bin."

Small-scale revolts have erupted across the United Kingdom for
months, as different localities adopt the technology. Some towns
failed to mention the new feature, which is concealed under coin-
sized plugs under the rims of their garbage cans.

In the coastal city of Bournemouth, 72-year-old Cyril Baker ripped
the chip off his new bin the day he discovered it, then went on
national television to show how he did it. Thousands of his neighbors
followed his example. "It was a very emotional issue. The whole town
was in an uproar," he said.

The microchips - radio frequency identification transmitters known as
RFID tags - can't actually spy on the contents of a bin. They're more
like tiny digital nametags, but they hold lots of information and can
be scanned from yards away.

In parts of Germany and Belgium, garbage trucks equipped with scales
and scanners lift the tagged bins. The bins are weighed as they're
emptied, and residents are charged for each pound they send to the

Bournemouth administrators swear that they intend only to monitor
trash trends and return lost bins to their assigned homes.

Copyright ) 2007, All rights reserved.

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