Sunday, May 18, 2014

They Know Where You Are

Please put on your tin foil hats before reading this post
At the Columbus Commons after the bike to work ride on Friday, Mayor Coleman announced a seemingly benign plan.  But I'm on to them.

The Mayor is somewhere in this picture.
The program is called "Bug Your Bike."  The ideas is that the City will give you a free RFID chip that will be permanently affixed to your bike and by which the City can track your bike if it is ever stolen or turns up as abandoned property or in the evidence room.  See, the chip can be used to locate your bike at all times. 

All of this was explained to me by an eager-looking man with a clipboard and a stack of registration forms.  "We can sign you up right now!" he explained.  In response, I chuckled and told the guy that he didn't have enough forms on hand for my armada* of bikes and, even if he did, I'd eventually need to go to work at some point during the day, so I wouldn't have enough time.  He looked back at me a little confused, but seemed grateful that I was going away.

* What's bigger, an armada or a flotilla?

On a side note, never trust a man with a clipboard.  (No offense to the eager City employee intended).  I have said it a million times - if you want to get in somewhere you're not supposed to be, wear a polo, khakis, a lanyard with some sort of ID badge, and carry a clipboard.  No one will question your right to be there.  And you can freely question anyone in your line of sight about whatever you like.

"Excuse me sir, I need to ask a couple questions about your bowel movements."  "well, since you've got a clipboard, go ahead - shoot."

Either this is the start of a porno or he's really happy to have a clipboard
 Of course this is an effective ruse.  That's why the cable companies equip their minimum-wage employees with polos and clipboards when they send them door-to-door to try and get people to switch cable companies. 

But, I digress.  Back to the bike bugging.  "What a great idea!" you may be thinking.  But don't fall for it!  Don't give the City the ability to "tag" you and track your location in real time!  They know where you are!  Do you really want someone in City hall snickering when you make the 3 am run for condoms and toothpaste?

This is, at best, an a clever ruse to allow the City to track cyclists so that, on the given day, they can gather us up all at once and put us on a boat to Portland. 

Scarier still, it is run by the City's License Section. If you can think of an entity more sinister, I'd like to hear it.

They also license "Massage and Bath Establishments," Alarm System Dealers," and "Parades."  Just saying, you are often judged by the company you keep.

But maybe you don't mind people tracking your movements.  Indeed, there are probably many of you out there who have downloaded special apps made specifically for that purpose.  Like Strava, for instance.  (Although the truly hardcore racers won't use Strava because the competition can follow their training regime.)

And Strava wants to sell that information anyway.  See, Strava has a "data envy" complex - it wants to be like the "Big Data" companies, but can't.  But it's trying: Strava is selling data to Portland to help with city planning.  It's a small step from going for that Thursday night ride to the government having your Thursday night whereabouts recorded.  Get out the tin foil.

Every website you visit can see where you live too.  When you ask a server to deliver a website to you, they need the "address" to send the data - your IP address.  This address can be used to determine the exact location of your computer on the earth.  

Ever wonder why you get ads to meet "hot singles in Columbus"?

Why does the internet think I'm old?  Shit, I might be old.
And don't get me started on big data.  Did you know most of the major big data companies have agreements with the NSA to share your email, text messages, and the like?  Seriously, the program is called "PRISM".  They're even tracking your phone calls. Take a minute and look it up.  I'll wait.  

 Creeped out yet?  Or maybe you're not creeped out.  Apparently, Americans are okay with this.

Image from
Why, do you have something to hide?  Do you want the terrorists to win? 

In light of all of this, RFID looks more like "Drunk Uncle" than "Big Brother."  And after all, for most people, the tracking data would look something like a red dot in their garage.   Still, my commuter is not with the trouble of filling out a form.  And if it is stolen, I get to buy a new bike! 

Go be brave.  Just remember to put on your tin foil hats first.  

1 comment:

  1. I think this sounds like an interesting program. I'm not too paranoid, but I am lazy, so I doubt I will do it. Is it just for Columbus residents or commuters who travel through the city too?