It was recently reported that some communities in Maryland – including my own – are distributing recycling bins with tracking chips. This allows these communities to track how many people are putting out recycling bins each week. But officials insist that no one tracks individual’s total amount of recycling or what they recycle:
County officials say the new technology keeps track of how frequently residents set out their recycling bins for pickup, but isn’t used to measure amounts or types of materials households are recycling…
Information gathered using the tracking device is linked to each individual homeowner’s address. However, [Dawn] Adams [Frederick County's recycling program manager] said the data was used only to gauge neighborhood participation in the county’s recycling program.
“We can see if participation is lower in certain areas, so then we can target those areas more for outreach,” she said.
I see no reason to doubt the honesty of Ms. Adams, but forgive my skepticism if I don’t believe that this technology won’t someday be used for more onerous purposes, such as fining those who don’t recycle up to the county’s imposed standards. I don’t say this because I believe that my local government officials are particularly power-hungry or over-aggressive, I say this because I believe that they are human, and such, are afflicted with the consequences of Original Sin.
It is well-known that most political conservatives don’t trust Big Government, and that most political liberals don’t trust Big Business. I don’t trust either, because I know that both are run by sinful men and women with a lot of power. The temptation for abuse is awfully strong, and it is a temptation that history has shown most people can’t resist. And usually the path to the fall looks a lot like the above situation: an organization decides to implement something that is ripe for abuse while proclaiming “we won’t abuse it, we will just use it for good!” But shortly that new power is slowly expanded until it is truly abused (although it is still claimed to be used for “good”).
In most acts of contrition, we pray to “avoid the near occasion of sin”. I think it would be prudent if government and business organizations would also take that desire to heart, so that they don’t give themselves the tools of their own fall.