Smart trash cans collect more than your discarded garbage

By on August 9, 2013, 3:45 PM
smartphone, advertising, tracking, wifi, mac address, smart trash can, renew, renew pod, renew orb

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.




User Comments: 18

Got something to say? Post a comment
JC713 JC713 said:

Wow. This is the definition of REALLY CREEPY!

Wendig0 Wendig0, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Didn't Google get slapped pretty hard for doing something similar with their street view car? What makes it ok for this company?

Guest said:

To all you privacy freaks out there, why are you screaming bloody murder when you walk down the street? depending on your street, dozens, if not hundreds of people see you and in more crystal clear deatil than any wifi packet. I can see you with my eyes, I can see what you are wearing, I can see your hairdo, I can see which direction you are going, I can see which direction you came from, I can see what kind of mood you are in to roughly, I can see who you are with... why is no one worried about other pedestrian walking/sitting/watching? they are INVADING your privacy too!!!

get over your fears people....

cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

To all you privacy freaks out there, why are you screaming bloody murder when you walk down the street?
Well for one thing that is in the street and not what should be the privacy of your own home. I for one am not screaming about the loss of privacy. I'm screaming about how it can be misused, while there are no regulation in place allowing us to protect ourselves. There are no regulations in place because they don't even want us to know about all their methods of delivery. People need privacy to get away from it all, I'm sorry you can't see that.

Skidmarksdeluxe Skidmarksdeluxe said:

I'm surprised these 'smart trashcans' haven't been stolen or vandalized yet. A lot of 3rd world countries like mine some people don't even know what a regular trashcan looks or how to even how to use it. Try installing something like this in our major cities and they'll be stolen and sold even before the installation is complete.

1 person liked this | NTAPRO NTAPRO said:

Lol, I hear a lot of people say that they don't want to mess with anything that's smarter than them

cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Lol, I hear a lot of people say that they don't want to mess with anything that's smarter than them

hahaha

Which is really sad, when the item is a trash can.

hahaha

p51d007 said:

I use wi-fi & gps DAILY on my device, but, when NOT being used, I keep my wi-fi & gps turned OFF. Mostly for the saving on battery, but for garbage like this.

Tygerstrike said:

The very same information is collected at the cellphone towers. So its ok there but not when another company takes it street level. Thats what ppl are b!tching about. The fact that not only can someone get a ton of information about you off of your phone, but that they are profiting from information that really isnt thiers to profit from. Oh you can "opt-out"......right, sure you can. Im 100% sure the opt-out is just another form collecting information. I NEVER have on my wifi unless I am at home. I even keep the phone off until I need it.

Guest said:

I thought this article was about the new Mac Pro.

cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Oh you can "opt-out"......right, sure you can. Im 100% sure the opt-out is just another form collecting information.
Not only that! The way they describe the process, the smart can still has to identify the individual. Identification is established before any kind of process of elimination is done. Therefor "Opt-out" is an incorrect term to use. You are Opting to be removed, which is not the same as opting not to participate.

mayara mayara said:

What's new? the trash, because data is being stolen in satelite, long ago, and yet do not prevent anything but profit

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

Lol, I hear a lot of people say that they don't want to mess with anything that's smarter than them
'So is this why they designed the new Apple pro computers in the shape of a trash can?

I thought this article was about the new Mac Pro.
Give it time, I'm working on that....

psycros psycros said:

So, these trashcans can identify you by your phone's MAC address. That address is unique to every phone and your carrier knows which devices are attached to each account. If your carrier is working with the trashcan's owners you WILL be individually identified.

tipstir tipstir, TS Ambassador, said:

Those won't work here the sun/humid/heat will destroy them. We just don't have a lot of trash bins anyway. Just too clean. UK they're privacy laws are different than the US anyway.

Tygerstrike said:

@Tip

I agree!! Put those cans anywhere on the Vegas Strip not only will they fry in the sun, but everyone and thier kid brother will be tossing as much "wet waste" as they can to screw it up!! If this EVER made it to the states it would be installed and then stripped in under 12hrs.

slh28 slh28, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Those bins are pretty cool in that they tell you the latest news, etc. but I knew there was something dodgy about them. Why would they have invested so much if they were just bins?

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

You know how you know these things are a really, really creepy privacy invading concept? Because even Google, the creepiest stalker in the internet realm, isn't involved with them.

Load all comments...

Add New Comment

TechSpot Members
Login or sign up for free,
it takes about 30 seconds.
You may also...
Get complete access to the TechSpot community. Join thousands of technology enthusiasts that contribute and share knowledge in our forum. Get a private inbox, upload your own photo gallery and more.