London Recycling Bins Take a Page out of NSA Spy Book

The startup Renew has taken targeted advertising to a whole new level. Its Internet-connected recycling bins look for cell phones they recognize, then alter their video displays accordingly.
August 11, 2013, 11am PDT | Anna Bergren Miller | @abergrenmiller
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On July 6, the 100 bins installed in London found a record 106,629 unique individuals based on cell phone MAC addresses. The technology uses your phone’s Wi-Fi connection, which means that you can opt out by turning off Wi-Fi (or by filling out an online form).

The idea is to track consumers' habits and tailor advertising to either reinforce or break existing routines. It’s the same concept behind computer cookies, though in the European Union the former are regulated, while Wi-Fi tracking isn’t, at least not yet.

As of now, the recycling bins are outside, on the city’s streets. But, writes Siraj Datoo, Renew hopes to bring the devices inside, where retailers could track everything from how long a customer stays to his or her gender, based on bathroom use.

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Published on Thursday, August 8, 2013 in Quartz
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