Monday, June 29, 2009

Who's watching the watchers?

TheGlobeandMail
A silicon chip in your Viagra pack reports back to Pfizer on how much you took, and when. You fetch the last Coke from your chip-tagged fridge and your TV airs a Pepsi ad. Your phone company combs your trash for the chips you've cast off, selling the data it finds to marketers. And when you pick up pricey pasta at the supermarket, a screen on your shopping cart flashes an ad for a high-end sauce to go with it.

Science fiction? Not at all.

The plans to "spy-chip" your fridge belong to Procter & Gamble, which has a second patent pending to track consumers in-store. American telecommunications giant BellSouth has a patent pending on the garbage-picking. NCR is behind the shopping cart ads and also holds a patent on "automated monitoring of shoppers" at grocery stores. As for Viagra, like OxyContin, its manufacturers are already tagging bulk bottles at the pharmacy (packs of Diovan, an antihypertensive, are actually tagged individually). Radio Frequency Identification, or RFID, is surveillance technology at its finest -- cheap, invisible, infallible, ubiquitous -- and privacy advocates abhor it. Silently, without even a bar code beep, RFID reads and records people's behaviour and inventories their possessions.

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