I accept that businesses need to follow their goods through the supply chain, from ordering through shipping to arrival at their stores. However, until now there's been a cutoff point: when a customer buys the item, it's normally not been tracked out of the store into their homes, and while they're using it. There's been at least a pretense of privacy.
That may be changing with a new tracking technology.
Wiliot, based in Caesarea, Israel, is one of a growing number of companies building tools aimed at monitoring goods as they move through distribution channels. The company says its tags are small and cheap enough for use in the many crates and carriers agriculture shippers use to get their products to markets.
. . .
The size of the devices is aimed at solving a gray area in supply chains. Typically, goods are tracked through devices in shipping containers and truck trailers, but because of the expense the technology is less common in smaller shipments.
“Now, everyday things, very ordinary things, our clothing, vaccine vials, plastic crates, plastic pallets, cardboard boxes, bags of lettuce—all of that will be linked to the internet,” said Stephen Statler, Wiliot’s senior vice president of marketing.
The tags don’t require batteries, cost 10 cents apiece and are connected to the cloud by Bluetooth, Mr. Statler said.
. . .
The tracking at the crate level could also provide a safeguard against theft, Wiliot says, because of the visibility the tags provide ... “The ability to see in real time that every crate of fruit and vegetables are being kept at the right temperature throughout the transportation process and to know exactly how much time has elapsed since they were harvested in the field until it arrives at the branch is nothing short of revolutionary,” said Zvika Fishheimer, Shufersal’s executive vice president.
There's more at the link.
This will undoubtedly help companies in all the ways listed in the article. However, if the tags are so small (and will undoubtedly get smaller as technology improves), there's nothing to stop any company embedding them into products in such a way that consumers won't notice them, and therefore won't remove them after purchasing their goods. That means manufacturers (and anyone else prepared to pay for the information) can see where the goods go after purchase, how they're treated, the environmental conditions in which they're kept or used (e.g. the temperature at which you keep your home), and a host of other information. All that could be collected without your knowing anything about it. It might even extend to outsiders being able to inventory the contents of your pantry or closet. Consider how a company or bureaucrat might use such information:
- "Hey - this guy's got two dozen cans of corned beef. He must be a prepper! If an emergency arises, we can confiscate his food stash!"
- "Hello, ma'am. This is your private investigator speaking. On his last three business trips, your husband bought packets of condoms and took them back to his hotel. We tracked them. He didn't take them home with him."
- "Bob's got ten guns and several thousand rounds of ammunition. They don't show up on official records, so he must be buying them privately or in small amounts. When it's time to confiscate citizens' weapons, he'll be a good place to start."
- "Mary has a lot of medications in her bathroom. Putting them together, we've got a pretty good idea of her probable medical condition. She's not a good risk for life insurance, so let's decline her application."
Get the idea?
Pretty soon we're going to be living in a society where nothing whatsoever is private, and privacy restrictions are respected in the breach rather than the observance. I grew up in a world where personal privacy was respected, and I absolutely loathe the prospect of giving this sort of access to the details of my life to anyone . . . but I guess people like me are in a minority these days.