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September 25, 2006
Germans Spying on British Trash
You can't make this stuff up:
Electronic spy 'bugs' have been secretly planted in hundreds of thousands of household wheelie bins.
The gadgets - mostly installed by companies based in Germany - transmit information about the contents of the bins to a central database which then keeps records on the waste disposal habits of each individual address.
Already some 500,000 bins in council districts across England have been fitted with the bugs - with nearly all areas expected to follow suit within the next couple of years.
Until now, the majority of bins have been altered without the knowledge of their owners. In many cases, councils which ordered the installation of the devices did not even debate the proposals publicly.
The official reason for the bugs is to 'improve efficiency' and settle disputes between neighbours over wheelie-bin ownership. But experts say the technology is actually intended to enable councils to impose fines on householders who exceed limits on the amount of non-recyclable waste they put out. New powers for councils to do this are expected to be introduced by the Government shortly.
Posted on September 25, 2006 at 1:35 PM
• 57 Comments
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Geez, before you know it people will be sneaking out at night to dump their trash in their neighbor's bin.
I wonder how long it takes them to replace a "damaged" rfid chip?
Also, how can they tell what the "contents of the bins" are? Surely all it can do is perhaps weigh the bin or something?
You know, if those things aren't set up to be non-reprogrammable, someone with a very basic RFID setup could drive through the neighborhood and ruin the entire system. Which isn't news to anyone here, so the question is - what's the most creative way to screw it up? My vote is to swap the trash can ids of major appliance stores with those of the homes of the city council members who voted for this...
I allways bring my glassy waste to the neighbour to the right, the plastic waste to the neighbour to the left, the paper waste to the house over the way.
And I never forget to take some waste with me, putting it into my waste bins, just to confuse the waste phishers.
Now I'm seeking for some waste exchangers oversee. Just send an email, if you're interested.
or just unscrew the part and change them by hand.
heh, makes me wish I was in the UK :)
"I think a more British way of doing things is to seek to persuade people rather than spy on them."
Four MILLION CCTV cameras!! Britian missed the "alternatives to spying on citizens" boat years ago.
i'll see you and raise you.
coming soon as standard equipment on new toilets, a device which will test for three things:
disease (bird flu and aids should be popular targets)
drugs (we need to know when someone in your house is smoking marijuana so we can gently incentivize him/her into rehab by imposing a tax surcharge)
nutrition (too much beer and bacon and your health insurance premiums go up)
i propose to call this device the "stool pigeon".
So, the whole system is about matching the weight of non-recyclable waste to the address, isn't it?
RFID chip planted into the bin lid is chosen as the tool. Why everybody is screaming about the bugs?
I can suggest a completely unintrusive alternative to collect this information. Nobody ever knows.
The dumpster truck is equipped with the scale to weight bins anyway. A handheld is there too. Add the GPS receiver and match the coordinates of weighting with a geodetic database of properties.
Cheap and effective.
Hard to cheat. (I would secretly exchange the lids with my neighbour if I produce a lot of non-recyclable waste)
No change visible to home owners
>Geez, before you know it people will be sneaking out at night to dump their trash in their neighbor's bin.
I gues you don't live in Silicon Valley. I don't anymore, but we used to put out the trash early mornig to limt the time neighbors had to dump their stuff in our bin.
@Dean H "Also, how can they tell what the "contents of the bins" are? Surely all it can do is perhaps weigh the bin or something?" -- You are correct. The dumpster weighs the wheelie bin when it picks it up to empty the contents. I guess at somepoint during this operation it scans the RFID.
It is surely a precursor to additional taxation - charging by the pound for waste collection (ignoring the fact that local taxation - "council tax" - already provides for this).
My home town (in UK) has al this stuff now, and it's not far from a Police state:
- bins have tags as above.
- bins with top not totally shut are not emptied.
- putting rubbish bags next to your bin WILL result in a £100+ fine.
They have hired 4 "officers" to police the last point, as they consider putting rubbish (in a bag) next to your bin, in front of your house, to be "fly tipping".
Weird thing is that this town is/was very tech-savvy. The town of 12,000 has had a major datacentre (and therefore support staff) since the 1960s....
They *are* pretty good at civil disobedience when they get into the flow, however.....
This is just one of the many surveillance activities being conducted in the UK. See this page for a laundry list I started some time ago and that unfortunately needs regular updating to make it worse:
Does anyone know what other information will be held on these RFID Chips?
>Geez, before you know it people will be sneaking out at night to dump their trash in their neighbor's bin.
In Germany some people even put padlocks on their bins, because one has to pay for each bin that gets emptied.
We have one of these in our bin too.
You can't swap the lids around because the chip is under the lip of the top of the bin itself, not the lid. I've also read that you aren't allowed to damage and/or remove the chip because it is council property. I want to know, if I put aluminium foil around ours, would that block the signal?
In Germany they are using barcode tags for a similar purpose (billing per clearance, not per weight, yet) for about one decade. That is annoying because it is a bit more expensive than it was before to get rid of waste, but I would not consider demand-oriented billing as spying.
Those crying “We already pay council tax!��? should consider the alternative: raising that tax.
And blaming the German companies for supplying the tags is quite funny. All data is collected by British authorities. So how are “the Germans��? spying? Seems like PR of British companies that did not get the contract.
The United Kingdom seems to become surveillance heaven for the vendors in the trade. Amazing they still haven't National ID cards. I recon German politicians would gladly recommend companies that offer services for manufacturing ID cards with "extra options" like biometric properties and such...
the home office got confused and thought they were supposed to find out whether our Bins were Laden with rubbish.
cmon, someone had to say it.
"In Germany they" were "using barcode tags for a similar purpose"
Fixed that for you ^^ (are->were)
In the name of progress and technology people will continue to roll over until everything is tagged and an enema of RFID is delivered to us all and we will happily smile and giggle believing the lie.
Sorry, but I still don't see the privacy violation here. There is no way the "bug" could scan what is in the bin. It is also rather unlikely that anyone would take their bin to a shopping mall or an airport or somewhere else where the RFID thing could be scanned, other than their own house (and I wouldn't need a RFID tag in a dustbin to find out who is living there ...)
If there is anything in the dumpster truck that scans the garbage (instead of just weighting it) -- well, that system could instead "identify" the bin by scanning a barcode, or read its number, or take the position via GPS, or whatever. RFID will make the identification process more reliable, but that's all.
Regarding the "German companies": Sorry, but UK garbage isn't that valuable for us. Is this line anything but childish polemics to convince the more dim readers that "RFID in dust bins" == "evil"? Freedom fries, anyone?
"In Germany they" were "using barcode tags for a similar purpose"
Fixed that for you ^^ (are->were)
Except the sentence read "In Germany they are using barcode tags for a similar purpose... for about one decade."
The verb should be "have been", not "are" or "were". "Are" implies that the plan is to use tags for a decade from the start date, then stop. "Were" implies they have already stopped. "Have been" means the situation is continuing.
Agreed Gregor - the problem isn't so much privacy. However, it is STUPID.
"Gee, I'm going to have to pay for all the rubbish I put in my bin. How do I get round that?"
We'll have mounds of rubbish in the streets, but the emptiest bins ever. Fortunately, I have a plan - I'll dump my rubbish in my neighbours garden, and then phone the council and say that it's a health hazard, and could they come and take it away. Or, if I liked the guy next door, dump it in my garden, and phone the council saying that I'm my neighbour, and it's a health hazard.
> Those crying “We already pay council tax!��? should consider the alternative: raising that tax.
At least then we could save the costs of fitting bloody stupid RFID chips to wheelie bins!
How much is this brain-dead scheme costing us? More of our money poured into the pockets of one of Tony's corporate buddies with no benefits to show for it.
It seems like people are doing the "spying" - if trash collectors are "spying" when they weigh the bins, or when they note recyclables when they invert the bins into their trucks. That doesn't require RFID. Indeed, here in the good old USA, I get a sticker on my trash can if it has been refused for something (typically, when they confuse a lawn waste bin for the regular trash bin). The collector rarely checks off the boxes on the sticker to make the communication easier, so my sense is that trash collectors and pens are like oil and water. So all the technology is doing is make it easier for the collector (with his aversion to pens) to record this information, right?
Question is, what's the need to record this, if the sticker, even a blank one, and the concomitant refusal to collect are probably sufficient to encourage proper behavior among the trash-producers? I suppose it would be good to have a record of repeat offenders, though I'm not convinced. A a more granular disciplinary policy (three recycling offenses = letter from the solid waste department; one hazardous waste dump = refusal to pick up plus fine) could be useful. Whether the marginal gain over a "violators get their trash left out" is worth the expense, I don't know. With $100/ton disposal costs for solid waste (and I imagine they're higher in England), it just might.
All the "tags" transmit is the "Id" of the bin; any other information will be collected by the dustcart and then stored against the ID of the bin.
At present I do not know of anywhere tin he UK that makes use of these tags, there are some places talking about putting a set of scales on the dustcarts to record how match rubbish is in each bin.
I don't see how this RFID-Tag can monitor whats in the bin. This system is already used in Germany for making payment more equally, so you pay each time, when the bin is emptied.
By the way: I don't see, how "the Germans" spy on the trash.
Once RFID tags are more common in commercial packaging, the same RFID reader which determines the "home address" of the bin can be used to identify the contents thereof.
Tobias: The UK passed the Identity Cards Act 2006 earlier this year. Typically for a government IT project, it has yet to be implemented due to feature creep and cost. The latest news is that they're trying to cut corners by using the existing Government databases (which were deemed too inaccurate during initial consultations), and that they're going to water down the Data Protection Act to allow Government agencies to share information with "selected commercial partners".
The British National Identity Register is truly scary, and would AFAIK be illegal in Germany because there are stricter protections for personal information there. You can find out more at the website of the largest national campaign opposing identity cards, http://www.no2id.net/
we do weigh the bins and stats are already collected. there is a proposal already being discussed to charge extra for 'persistent offenders'
The purpose (for now) of these tags is obviously to be able to weight the content of a bin and then bill the owner of that bin accordingly. That makes sense. Even using RFID makes sense, since contact-chips on a waste bin... come on.
In Switzerland (and some parts of Germany) we have an interesting low-tech alternative: You buy special waste bags. They look special, and cost 2 francs for a 35 liter bag. More expensive than the bag (since the price includes the waste disposal fees), but not expensive enough to counterfeit. Only trash in these bags is collected. That works like punch, and is certainly cheaper than outfitting bins (and trucks) with electronic gadgets.
But... those companies have to prosper... who would buy all those custom-made high-tech solutions if people found out simple things typically work, too?
Sneaking out to dump in neighbours bin, destroying tags etc I mean, getting ppl to to be more mindful about the amount of trash they create is bound to be good for the environment isn't it? Why come up with malicious ideas to "screw" this and "screw" that, although the system can be subject to abuse at the moment?
My personal opinion is that this scheme is a dredful waste of money. Taxpayers money... MY money!
How in the name of sanity is installing an RFID in my wheelie bin going to provide "enhanced efficiency" for me? More likely it has and will result in the employment of a huge army of dredfully inefficient administrative staff who will then collate, analyse and produce reams of meaningless statistics.
@ Dom - I think you should fight the concept that placing a rubbish bag next to your bin somehow constitutes fly tipping. Surely there is an element of intent in the "offence" of fly tipping?
Who thought of all this? And more to the point, who authorised this to happen???
> 'Vital' to encourage recycling
Surely a cost-benefit analysis should be done. Excuse me, but they would be better off working with the packaging industry to reduce rubbish and use more recyclable materials.
> This has not been designed to embarrass people. We do not publish individual results, but we will use them to help us help those householders who would probably be able to recycle more.'
What's the formula? Surely you don't believe your constituents are utter morons, do you? If you do, you will be left with morons as the sensible folk will have moved on.
> 'We can detect recycling participation rates. So if a particular street or district is doing particularly badly, we will go and have a chat with them.'
Hi, i drive a shredding unit truck and the price tag of those trucks jumped by 15000$ for backing cameras and scale for the bins and you know what? The more they "improve" the technologies on the truck, the more often it break down, and the more it costs to repair... Guess who's doing the money here... I'll only tell you something, i wouldn't go to war with that crap... Fifteen years ago when i was in milicia the vehicules then would run without electricity in case of nuclear bombing, the motors were all mecanicals, now you know how it works in capitalism... Get a corroded wire and you're stoped there...
I couldn't afford a toolshed in Silicon Valley.
I lived in Schwabach for 6 years but never ran across a problem with trash. I do remember a time when I lived in an apartment building there and a neighbor was plugging his power tools into my washing machine's electrical outlet in the basement.
RFID obviously makes the whole process much more efficient. Do you not see how many MORE people it would take to go out and individually account for before and after weights of garbage cans in front of each house? A vast army of people with scales and clipboards, combined with another army of data entry drones would not be an improvement.
Oh sure, you could argue that billing could be based on estimated use and skip all of the weighing, data collection, statistics generation and so on. However, that's the kind of nonsense that non-bureaocrats spew all of the time. Without this information to be analyzed, the people who do all of these nonessential functions would be out of jobs. Do you really think these people are employable in the private sector? =)
While this should be dripping with sarcasm, I'm sure there are politicians who will tell you with a straight face that this process is helping save the planet by encouraging people to reduce waste and creating jobs.
charged for wieght?!? It would make more sense to charge for (compacted) volume, since that is the true measure of landfill capacity.
Of course, some clever anarchist is going to fill their bins (and neighbors' bins) with relatively lightweight items that don't compact well, perhaps even expanding after leaving the bin. Why waste all that volume in your bin, eh? :-)
There are already laws on the books making it illegal for you to tamper with other people's trash. They were supposedly intended to make sure your recyclables weren't stolen and turned in by individuals seeking cash, but it's possible they could apply to dumping your trash into neighbor's bins.
My city just passed out serialized garbage cans (recycle bins on the way soon) with an ordinance that says I have the privalege of paying if the thing is damaged. Now I have to wonder if it has an RFID chip in it or if there is a new weight or content based tax on the way. Anyone have a microwave oven big enough for a trash can?
Personally, I think we'd be saving much more landfill space if we just eliminated the bureaucrats, the electronics, the fancy new garbage trucks, and the paper trail required to deal with all of these measures.
what problem are they solving?
Landfill space, I don't think so, there is lots of space for landfills (there really is look at the penn and teller debunking of recycling).
Cost of waste disposal? Really not, it is cheap, like around $100 per tonne!
Making a service we already pay for a source of Revenue?
aah that makes sense,...
The motive behind this is landfill space - I understand that the EU put out a directive a while ago to reduce landfill and each English local authority is looking at different ways to meet their targets.
@dlg - the Swiss system of expensive special trash bags throws up some wierd anomalies. E.g. my brother works most weeks in Switzerland; he doesn't leave the office during the day so can't buy the bags. So he commutes home (to UK or France) with his dirty laundry and the week's trash !
We have pay-by-size of trash in some parts of Switzerland for a long time.
Works pretty well. People are recycling a lot more.
People who try to cheat, by for example, dropping their trash in a landfill usually get caught because a forensic team will go trough the trash to find the culprit. And no, the forensci team doesn't have a lot of work.
The city of Zurich has a garbage police. They randomly search houshold waste disposal bags for illeagle waste. If they find some and at the same time find documentary evidence of who owned the bag (letter addressed to that person is enough), the offender get fined for illegal disposal.
"Except the sentence read "In Germany they are using barcode tags for a similar purpose... for about one decade."
The verb should be "have been", not "are" or "were". "Are" implies that the plan is to use tags for a decade from the start date, then stop. "Were" implies they have already stopped. "Have been" means the situation is continuing."
Except that the person who fixed it with "were" was referring to nazi germany and the tattoos but didn't elaborate on this fine point.
Track us like goats, shove those chips in us, we are nothing, we will believe the lie.
"After all, what would the world be like without Captain Hook?"
Jeez, this does all seem a bit silly.
I live in the US (Massachusetts) and the system in our town is pretty simple, low tech and effective:
a) no charge to dispose of any [reasonable] amount of recyclables.
b) flat fee covers a reasonable amount of non-recyclables.
c) stickers available for a fee to have additional bags or bulky items collected.
Other towns around here have sticker-per-bag policies (no flat fee), and people I know feel those work pretty well, too.
I'm all for technology, but using it just because it's there doesn't make sense.
Well, Bruce, the Germans are always good for drama, or are they? In the U.S., my god-daughter was invited to write an essay on an editorial on The Seriousness of the Terrorist Threat to Our Schools, and challenged to find an alternate opinion editorial. What we discovered on line was that, while other priorities, such as budget or even anti-terrorist strategy might be debated, and particulars raised, the theme Terrorist Threat to [Public Institution] was so taboo, no countervailing opinions per se were easily found. Today's headline news confirms that. From today's L.A. Times:
Germans Jeering Opera's Bow to Islamic Extremists
By Jeffrey Fleishman, Times Staff Writer
September 27, 2006
BERLIN — Mozart has survived grandiose conductors and abstract interpretations, but the librettos for his operas never cast Islamic radicals threatening a skittish theater company.
On a day of messy drama and furious debate over free speech, German Opera in Berlin reaffirmed Tuesday its decision not to revive a production of Mozart's "Idomeneo" out of fear of inciting Islamic extremists over a scene showing the severed head of the prophet Muhammad.
- - -
"There have been no concrete terrorist threats against the opera," said Michael Nerkle, a Berlin police spokesman. "We received an anonymous call that certain scenes might be offensive to Muslims. In light of what happened against the Muhammad cartoons, it was appropriate to inform the opera house," he said, referring to the outbreaks of violence that followed publication of the caricatures.
In a terse news conference, German Opera Manager Kirsten Harms said she canceled the show after security officials informed her there would be "incalculable risks" if the production reopened in November.
"If I would ignore this everyone would say, 'She has ignored a clear warning,' " said Harms, adding that director Hans Neuenfels has refused to restage the show. "It is always easy to say, 'This is the decision of a coward.' But as head of this opera house, I had to decide like that."
Kay Kuntze, director of the Berlin Chamber Opera, said, "If we give up the central point of our culture — the freedom of art — we end up giving up our entire culture."
first they came to chip my pets, I wasn't a dog or cat
then they came to chip the prisoners, I was a free man
next they tagged my garbage cans, but I wasn't oscar the grouch
haha... surreal story
I am surprised nobody mentioned the obvious.
Either the current or a future revision of the RFIDs in the bins will scan the RFIDs in the waste, and transmit that data to some database of the authorities. Officially to bill or penalize for waste of different categories.
But remember that screening the waste has always been a standard procedure in investigations of any kind. The upcoming surveillance and police states and the industry will have lots of uses for that data:
- Sell it to your employer, bank, insurance company (especially health insurance) and any other organisation on the planet. Look for packages of food, prescription drugs, condoms, pregnancy tests, video games (bad for the eyes) and the kind and price level of all goods in general.
- The latter is especially useful for targeted marketing, credit rating, collection agents, and the IRS. Are you worthy to test drive the new Lexus or order a Pizza? How much interest will you pay? Do you spend more than is plausible for your tax declaration? Are your (old) clothes good enough for the job you would have been offered?
- See if you feed pets for which you pay no taxes. Do (did) you have a cat or fish tank and don't pay dog taxes (which will now apply to all pets because the state can finally detect them)?
- See if you have radio, tv, or an internet connection and pay no tax for state approved media like the homepage of "folk music tv".
- See if you are (somehow) likely to be a terrorist, child pornographer, terrorist, criminal, terrorist, political opponent (oh, I already mentioned those, didn't I?), critical thinker, consumption denier or other enemy of the state or dictator. So don't forget to fry the RFIDs in political books and journals. No wait, fry everything because it's all biased in one way or the other. Even bulk mail.
- Especially interesting is what you do NOT dispose of. Like the latest leaflet from the labour party.
- Estimate if you practise some religion, or accommodate unregistered persons. The Nazis would have killed (didn't they?) for an easy way to find out who hides jews in their house! Beware of nazi gangs, the Ku Klux Klan, scientology, catholics, and muslim hate preachers.
Of course, one will catch you too if your family, relatives, friends or other guests put their waste in your bin. Or your neighbours. Or someone who doesn't like you. Or wants your wife. Or your daughter. Or your job. Or...
"Sorry, but I still don't see the privacy violation here. There is no way the "bug" could scan what is in the bin."
Not yet, Gregor. Not yet. 'ministry for truth and homeland security' basically said what I wanted to say, but used some strong wording and far-fetched purposes. I will try to refrain and explain what it means to the common man.
Once products you buy such as your food are RFIDed, those RFIDs will be read as well. It goes like this:
* The reader will pick up e.g. xxxx90xx1xxx2 (though diff naming scheme as its 96 bits). 90 denotes trashbins, 1 denotes your county, 2 denotes citizen number of that country.
* The reader would remember all _other_ RFIDed waste containing RFID such as items you bought (and/or trashed away). These will be connected to your RFID trashbin number.
* Great for profiling. Data could be sold. Extra money in the pockets for the corporations picking up the trash. Great for marketing tactics. Besides that, secret services, police and county, by default, get access to such databases as well.
Currrently, almost no products contain RFID and most consumers don't want this for privacy reasons or even health reasons.
On the shopping side, the issue also exists. Privacy advocates specializing in RFID, such as Katherine Albrecht, have long ago warned on this. So its no surprise to me.
Combined with the shopping RFID implementations, one could learn how long a 'consumer' keeps a product and what by whom is bought and thrown away where. Social networking topology made easy!
If they didn't pin down who you are when you bought something, they will easily be able to do this when you throw it away and connect that with what you bought. If both are used, then there is a form of authentication.
* Boycot corporations developing or implementing RFID whereever possible (lists are available using your favourite Goo.. I mean search engine);
* Disable RFID chips (magnetron, EMP);
* Spread the word on how it sucks. Learn how to inform non-technical people you know, and do so.
* In this RFID case, swapping trash around with neighbors confuses its purpose.
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I patent the idea of co-opting the RIAA and MPAA(sic) into the civil rights business!!
DE-CHIP YOUR BIN LIKE I DID; SIMPLY HIT THE RIGHT HAND CORNER ABOVE THE CIRCLE IMPRINT WITH A HAMMER A COUPLE OF TIMES. YOU GET A PRETTY COOL CIRCULAR DISC, WHICH I GUESS IS THE CHIP.
I've just discovered a chip in my bin. I don't want it there. It's a matter of principle. Does anyone know if attaching a magnet would confuse it? If not the only alternative is to knock it out.
"I've just discovered a chip in my bin. I don't want it there. It's a matter of principle. Does anyone know if attaching a magnet would confuse it? If not the only alternative is to knock it out."
Smash it with a hammer. Trash cans get knocked around a lot in their normal course of operation, so you have a plausible cover story.
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