life imitating minority report

Things That Are Spying on You: Recycling Bins

Down with recycling!

It’s clear by now that the NSA has access to pretty much everything you say, write, and do. But if there’s one entity that has more of a stake in Getting Up in Your Bidness than the the U.S. government, it’s the advertising industry, which can sell you things more efficiently the more it knows about you. That phenomenon is already prevalent online, obviously, where you miraculously get confronted with ads for foot cream ten seconds after Googling “what is this weird rash on my foot?” But Renew, a company in England, has taken the concept to a whole new level.

On the streets of London, right now, there are a dozen recycling bins that track the movements of passersby based on a unique I.D. on their smartphones. The bins, which display video ads, can “identify if the person walking by is the same one from yesterday, even her specific route down the street and how fast she is walking,” Quartz reports. But the bins are just one component of what could one day become a vast advertising network tailored precisely to you, with a specificity beyond even what was imagined in Minority Report:

The company still needs to sell retailers on the concept. Memari said he was working on a proposal for a bar that would install five tracking devices: one by the entrance, one on the roof, one near the cash register, and one in each of the bathrooms. That would allow the bar to know each person’s gender (from the bathroom trackers), how long they stay (“dwell time” is the official metric), and what they were there for (a drink outside or a meal inside). And targeted advertising for the pub could follow those people around London on Renew’s omniscient recycling bins.

What’s going to be really awkward is when you walk by a pharmacy and an ad shouts, “Hey, Steve, didn’t you need to buy some foot cream for that rash of yours? Dont forget about the FOOT CREAM.”