Meet your new online stalker: the trash can

Credit: Renew London

Imagine you're walking the streets of London, wondering if you can recall just which back alley your favorite ancient pub is located on, and your phone begins to spew forth ads for local shops. But it's not just that the shops are in the same region— they're actually the very stores you're passing on the street right now. 'How is this possible,' you might ask yourself, mildly unnerved by how well you've been targeted. Look around you — chances are there's a trash can watching your every move. PANIC!

The trash cans (and recycling bins) in question are outfitted with something called a Renew ORB. These devices, not actually orb shaped, are programmed to snatch up info that your phone is broadcasting all the time as you pass by. This data is then instantly sold to advertising agencies, which turn around and target you with hyper-local ads. The kicker is, this isn't a service you can opt into, nor is it very simple to keep a renew ORB from sniffing out your info.

If you're wondering just how legal all this is, then you're not alone. It turns out that recording your precise location as well as your phone's Media Access Control (MAC) address constitutes the gathering of personal data. In the UK, that means asking permission — which the trash cans aren't doing. There's no word yet on whether the trash cans and their data-snooping tactics have long to live, but for the present: be wary of any trash can that looks too smart for its own good. Check out the video below for an extra dash of the stalker vibe.

Via GigaOM

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