Under the politically correct, “going green” umbrella, the city of Atlanta has created a convenient mechanism for thieves and hackers to gain access to individuals’ private data. The city also has made it easier for companies to track citizens’ spending habits and gain access to other private, personalized information maintained by the city on each homeowner. One way this is being made possible in Atlanta is a pilot recycling program called “ReCART,” an acronym for “Rewards for Collecting All Recyclables Together.”
Marketed as a tool for “going green,” with this program, merchants and companies vie for consumer information and track spending habits. Not only that, but through the use of radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips, this new pilot program would have very personal information of the homeowner or resident just sitting on their front lawn — literally.
The city of Atlanta has contracted the services of RecycleBank to handle recycling under the city’s ReCART program. The concept is to encourage people to recycle by “paying” them to do so. Customers receive “rewards” redeemable at local merchants; with the size of the “reward” based on how many pounds of stuff are recycled per household.
As with other plans promising something of value in exchange for doing nothing or simply for doing what we would do – or be required to do – anyway, there’s a down side to this endeavor. The dark side to this “green” plan lies in the fact that the company, RecycleBank, is empowered to track consumer spending through how those who sign up spend their “rewards,” or their redeemable coupons at local merchants. These “reward” vouchers are easily traceable to the individual because they are linked to the RFID chip embedded in a recycling bin, which sits wherever it is placed – generally just outside one’s home.
The real “reward” for the company, of course, is the commercially-valuable information that it gains concerning the spending habits and detailed buying preferences of the individuals participating.
The RFID chips to be used in recycling bins to track how much a house recycles are not regulated and can be “read” by anyone possessing a scanner. This technology containing very personal information of an individual, will be sitting on the front lawn of some Atlanta residences for anyone to pass by and scan.
Individuals eager to show they are doing their part to “save the planet” through recycling, might want to delve a little deeper into the programs they choose with which to salve their “green guilt.” Sacrificing one’s privacy simply to prove to the world they are good stewards of the environment is not a particularly good bargain. Some pointed questions should also be directed at the city officials pushing such programs.