DRM for clothing

This Fortune article points to how “Internet of Things”–style surveillance is coming to clothing, so what you wear can be tracked just like your phone is. There is also a blockchain-like component to this tagging as well, as each article of clothing will be assigned with a unique number that presumably can guarantee a branded good’s provenance and prevent fraud. It’s essentially DRM for clothing.

But really, the apparel and data-hoarding industries don’t even know what they are going to use this technology to do yet. “Doing this” — integrating unique ID tags with RFID capability — “by default at the point of manufacture means the brands don’t need to weigh up the benefits before deciding how to integrate the functionality.” Just impose surveillance now, and figure out what you are actually looking for later! 

Sounds great, right? What consumer wouldn’t want that? Naturally, the article is full of risible quotes from industry people about “what consumers want” (apparently ”they want to have product suggestions from the retailer based on what they personally want,” which seems a bit tautological) and corporate self-regulation with respect to potential abuses of this technology. 

The CEO of Evrythng, the nightmare factory responsible for this “Facebook of Things,” told Fortune, “I think brands have an increasingly important responsibility to be transparent with the uses of the data that they’re providing.” 

Murphy added that no-one should be tracked without their consent. “Brands have to nurture trust with the consumer,” he said.

So the solution to the rampant invasions of privacy that this technology enables is “trust companies not to.” 

We should probably get used to accepting that our clothes will generate data much as our phones do, and we will have no control over how that data is collected, used, and resold. Chances are we won’t know those trackers are in the clothes in the first place. We won’t even have the opportunity to check yes on an incomprehensible 99,000-word terms-of-service agreement before we put them on.

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