A high-tech trash can from a UK startup by the name of Renew is up to more than just collecting your garbage. These Renew Pods, deployed around certain parts of London ahead of last year’s Olympic Games, were initially designed to serve up video advertisements thanks to large displays on either side.
A dozen units have since been retrofitted with what the company is calling Renew ORB, a device that uses Wi-Fi technology to quietly sniff out and collect information from nearby smartphones. Considering there are at least 100 of these recycling bins scattered across the city, there’s a wealth of data being mined without consent.
Specifically, the refreshed cans are able to capture the proximity of a smartphone to the ORB, how fast it is traveling (how fast you are walking) and how long it is within range. Additionally, Renew can even determine the manufacturer of your mobile device from its MAC address.
Why exactly would a company want to collection information like this from unsuspecting passersby? A statement on Renew’s website said the idea is to measure variables in market share between mobile handheld providers within the City’s Square Mile — the highest concentration of professionals in Europe.
In other words, they’re collecting your information for advertising purposes. Quartz suggests the data will be sold to advertisers in an effort to help them better target their campaigns – campaigns that would be run via video on the Renew Pods.
We’re told that users can “opt out” of being tracked by disabling Wi-Fi or filling out a form online. Those are both a bit of a hassle, especially when you consider that 80 percent of people in London leave Wi-Fi enabled on their mobile devices.