Monday, July 24, 2006

Shopping with Big Brother: Available Now

Sick of taking the time to write out a grocery list, but to forgeting it at home? Wouldn't it be helpful to have a friendly reminder so that when you bought pasta, it could remind you not forget to pick up the sauce. Not only, not forget the sauce, but introduce you to a new variation you wouldn't have tried before.

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.

Thanks to microchips in our clothes, computers, furniture we can be sure that we will be watched with the utmost scrutiny all in an effort to make money off you. Doesn't this sound like a great idea?

Scary times.....

But I guess these micro chips aren't very different from a company rep in a store giving you a sample, prompting you to buy the product (especially with the 20 cent off coupon!). It's definitely a 21st century approach to marketing.

Also I'm sure those 'rewards' cards track your shopping habits. And of course there is when you pay anything by credit card. Don't forget being tracked when you drive(licence plate), watching TV (how do they determine ratings) and of course there's the spyware in your computer. At least Microsoft asks you if they may record anonymous information about your usage for purposes to determine how they can :serve me better". Sadly this is a reality in our society.

Now if this could help deter thefts of big ticket items like lap tops, plasma TVs, car stereos etc... I'm sure people will be more open to it. For me it doesn't make a difference. I don't care if people are watching me. In fact, I rather not know about it (Hawthorne Effect). I have nothing to hide and will continue to live my life. If these types of items proliferate, I have faith in human ingenuity to sell anti-RFID/chip devices. I mean come on burning and downloading CDs, DVDs more normal than actually paying for a CD these days.

Source: Globe & Mail


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