Westward Independent

Track and Trade World For The Global Inventory Program: Your Garbage Is Next?

by Adrienne Richards
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Have you noticed the growing intrusion of tracking and tracing in your daily life?

Loyalty cards monitor purchases, debit cards track dining habits, Smart Meter technology, and now, even your garbage might be under surveillance. The recent initiative by North Cowichan to affix stickers on recycling bins, notifying residents of contaminants, seems to mark the beginning of this unsettling trend. Despite the higher costs, Prairie Robotics’ AI system could extensively monitor households, raising concerns about privacy. The dual-use nature of AI prompts questions about a potential shift from education to fines and penalties. North Cowichan’s contemplation of RFID and camera technology for waste tracking also stirs worries about a dystopian level of privacy intrusion.

In response to inquiries about the consideration of RFID and camera technology, North Cowichan stated:
“Thank you for your inquiry. North Cowichan is planning to go out for a proposal for the new carts in the next month or two. We are considering the RFID tags and will be requesting proponents provide a cost for this item. As you indicated, they are a great tool to help regulate contamination. With the tags, there is also cameras and software required for the trucks to complete the tracking process. The costs and benefits of the RFID tags and brand of the cart will be evaluated soon, and a final decision will happen later this year. Please let me know if you have any other questions.”

Following insights from a group in Kamloops, who heard a resounding “NO” during the public engagement process, causing their council to vote against the funding, we hope that North Cowichan will also look to the public before considering implementing the expensive, and intrusive technology.

More Issues with the AI monitoring on cans include the possibility of expanding the list of banned items over time. Additionally, there is the potential for AI to send detailed reports to marketing companies or even governmental bodies, raising questions about the transparency and potential misuse of such information. As part of the ‘Climate Action’ initiative, the system’s capacity to track people’s consumption could lead to broader privacy concerns, emphasizing the need for a careful evaluation of the technology’s implications.

Despite a lifetime of recycling habits, the push to reduce ‘contaminated’ recycling to 3%, will this trend eventually force a move towards zero percent, mirroring global and local initiatives like Zero Carbon and Zero Waste? But is the consumer the one to point the AI finger at fully? There are concerns around contamination at the site of pick up, and even where this waste meets its end of life. Documentaries like CBC Marketplace’s “Tracking Your Plastic: Exposing Recycling Myths” on YouTube, exposed companies like GFL. who are part of similar initiatives elsewhere but have faced allegations of dumping plastic waste despite public sorting efforts.

Grants from the higher levels of government come with many strings attached, some of these include reporting emission levels. How would a city or town do that besides through gas purchases and BC Hydro data? We have explored this concept before when delving into the attachments that are available for the new LED streetlights, but this tracking industry is worth trillions, and all the big names from Google to Microsoft are partnered with many groups such as The Open Earth Foundation. Open Earth Foundation offers cities software called City Catalyst, which presents itself as the one-stop-shop for a complete AI monitoring system, from garbage to wastewater, they “have your back” as it were. Is this a slow tip-toe to tyranny that we are seeing or an innocent desire to monitor all human activity by billionaires for the greater good?

Alternative approaches, such as random contamination checks, or monitoring specific neighbourhoods, can be considered in lieu of more track-and-trace technological overreach.
If this seems worrisome to you, you can write to North Cowichan Council at council@northcowichan.ca to express your concerns, and call for public input on this possible digital overreach.

– A. Richards & kamloopscsc.org

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