Tires are supposed to leave tracks – not track us.
Someone should tell the tire companies. Who aren’t telling us about the tracking devices they’re embedding in the tires they’re selling to us – and which can be used to keep track of our comings and goings without our even knowing about it, much less having consented to it.
The devices are called Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags – chips, really. They are extremely small buggers – about the size of a grain of rice or even smaller than that – and have been in general use since at least the early 2000s for what is blandly styled Automatic Identification and Data Capture. Which means that wherever the chipped item, animal – or person – is or has been or is going can be kept track of automatically and in perpetuity.
The chips are activated by scanners – and so don’t need an internal power source, such as a battery – which would eventually die. The chip can therefore remain active – or rather, capable of activation (and tracking) for years, possibly decades.
Ostensibly, they are used for inventory tracking.
That’s not the objectionable part. A tire manufacturer has every right to keep track of its tires while they are in the warehouse, or on their way from the warehouse to the retailer – and while they are on the retailer’s shelves. Because at this point, the tires are still the property of the tire company, or the retailer.
But once you buy the tires, they become your property – at which point the manufacturer of the tire (and the retailer who sold you the tire) loses all rights to the tire, including the right to track the tire, or use the tire to track you.
At the moment of purchase – of transfer of ownership – the RFID chip in the tires ought to be rendered automatically inert, so they can no longer be used to keep track of your tires. Or your comings and goings. Unless you specifically agree otherwise.
But the tire companies – and this includes almost all of the major players (more here) such as Michelin, Continental, Cooper, Bridgestone and Pirelli – are not even letting their customers know the tires they just bought are chipped, much less offering to zap the chips before the car leaves the shop.
This isn’t inventory control.
It is control.
Which is why they don’t tell you about the chips – much less offer to zap them into inertness. There is so much data to be captured, you see.
The data being collected – and sold – is currently worth an estimated $8-9 billion, on track to double by 2026. It is of great value to various interested parties to know your driving habits.
The insurance mafia, for instance.
Chipped tires could work (and perhaps already do work) as a way to keep the mafia informed of the miles you drive, as well as when, where and how those miles are accumulated – the better to profile you. Presumably, the chipped tires could also transmit data about speed as well. All sorts of things.
But it’s not just the insurance mafia (more about them here).
Knowing your habits, where you go – and when – as well as how long you stay and where you stay – also makes targeting you with ads and offers tailored to your habits and inclinations that much more effective, that much more profitable. Think Minority Report, the dystopian (but accurately predictive) 2002 Tom Cruise movie, based on the novel by sci-fi author Phillip K. Dick. Wherever you go, the ads follow you – are tailored to you.
And we’re not being cut in for so much as free cup of coffee the next time we buy a set of tires.
And that’s the rub – or at least, one of them.
RFID technology – like any technology – isn’t evil in se. It is how it’s used that makes it evil. Those who use it against us without our knowledge and consent are evil in the same general way that a person who uses a gun to rob people is evil. In the same way that person who cheats or embezzles money is evil.
If the tire companies who embed RFID chips in the tires they make for purposes of inventory control let us know the tires we’re about to buy have these chips and that they would be happy to disable them for us – or, if we don’t object, leave them active in order to let us know about discounts (or even safety-related recalls) – then no problem. Just as there would be no problem if you agreed to let a company install cameras in your car – or your home – to collect data.
But we haven’t agreed. Hell, we haven’t even been told.
The things we buy – and it’s not just tires – are being chipped in order to inventory us.
You know, like property . . . like livestock.
It bears thinking about.
And doing something about it:
First, check your tires’ sidewall. If it has an RFID chip, there may be a stamp on the sidewall so indicating. Now you know. Also, ask. Demand to know whether the tires you’re buying are chipped. You have as much right to this information about your tires as you have a right to know the treadwear and speed rating of your tires.
Then, demand the RFID chips be disabled – as a condition of sale. This is also your right. The tire seller has every right to refuse, of course. But he cannot force you to buy the chipped tires.
It’s likely that – eventually – RFID ire-chipping will be made mandatory. For saaaaaaaaafety, of course. So that we can be quickly located and made aware of recalls; that will be the excuse used.
If that happens, we’ll still have options. RFID chips can be terminated. Here’s a how-to.
And now you know that, too!
. . .
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