FRAMED: GPS Tracking System For Ca$h!! Non-Profit For Hire Egg Hunt!


Environmental NGO Basel Action Network released an Opinion piece in E-Scrap News that may have put too fine a point on their offer to shakedown competitors.
"Responsible recycling companies can be plagued with downstream vendors that cheat on their no-export commitments. For this reason, BAN encourages all electronics recyclers to contact BAN to privately contract for our tracking services. We are ready and willing to help all recyclers and enterprise companies to audit their downstream partners."

"Responsible"... You'll be "responsible" all right.  Because if you read the agreement disclaimer, you'll find you could be held responsible if the NGO gets sued for defamation.

Here's our April Fool's Day Prank - How to use an MIT-inspired GPS tracker to make ANYONE look bad.  And the fun part is, you can do it for Ca$h!

FRAMED:  What NGO Did With "e-Waste" Tracking

With this NGO's track record, you will easily get the results you want.  Including rigging the study, for cash. Contact BAN privately.  It's all "negotiable". What do you want the study to show?  What results do you want?

To show a "clean" downstream that is properly vetted, ask BAN to place the GPS tracker on 60% of the waste - CRT televisions.  You put the tracker on most of the waste, and you'll find NONE of it was exported.  There is no one buying CRT televisions from scrap recyclers for export, and the few that do buy from hotel takeouts.  Hire the NGO to place the trackers on large projection TVs, and the chances of export are zero.

Want to show the opposite?  If your aim is to "impugn by proxy", this NGO is your best hit man.

How about a device returned to WalMart or Best Buy for warranty repair? Buy a laptop, snip the wires, tape in your GPS device, and watch it move back to China, for warranty, where it was made.  Those same contract manufacturers also buy the store returns, and purchase off-lease, manufacturer defects, and parts machines.  They replace boards and capacitors, fix damaged screens, and rebuild whole affordable units, sometimes in the same factory that assembled the brand new device originally.  But the NGO will just say "overseas" and let your mind do the impugning.

Want to bring cameras?  Then wait - don't show THAT factory.  The NGO "obscured" factories like that in Hong Kong, and took PBS only to see the places they thought "looked bad" (at least, to the untrained eye).

Our "non-profit for hire" can even control what goes to whom.  A tracker placed on a laser printer can tell them who to inform (if you don't want printer scrap sent to a domestic shredder) so they can cancel the delivery (5 times), forcing it to go elsewhere. [This evidence is for court, sorry I can't link it, but yes, BAN tracked devices movement in REAL TIME and has the ability to cancel shipments to people "in on the study". Which I also have evidence of - that BAN funders knew of the study in advance]

For the right amount of cash, our NGO will ring a doorbell and walk the device down some stairs to place in the office of a friend of someone you want to target personally.

This NGO is the worldwide expert in GPS framing. No blind distribution, no concerns about uninformed, unwilling subjects, and certainly no worries about interested parties (that's exactly who they intend to sell their services to).

  • What to hide
  • Where to hide it
  • How to describe "it"
  • How to describe "them"
  • How to describe "why"
  • Names to drop (MIT)

To demonstrate just how effective this smear campaign can be, watch as we show how something as simple and safe and innocent to export, something in great need in emerging markets, can be made to look wicked (as long as you are willing to pay).

Let's compare two types of "glass" exports.  CRTs - the toxic bearing cathode ray tube junk which drives the highest "ewaste" costs - and Eyeglasses.  Those little eyeglass donor boxes at your local Lion's Club may make it to a thriving billion-dollar secondhand eyewear market (either online or exported old school).

In fact, demand for eyeglasses, worldwide, looks pretty similar to computer display devices sold 15 years ago (CRTs desktop monitors).

USA sales are $95b, while China's are $70b and growing.  And just as the 'digital divide' programs put the best face on the trade, eyeglasses donation for export are a multi-million dollar endeavor - ready for a watchdog to take it down.

Whenever there is a 95 billion dollar a year market for a type of glass lens (Eyeglasses), you can bet there is a second hand export market.

Last January, I had a chance to have my eyeglasses repaired at a small tech shop in Tamale, Ghana.  Tamale is the poorer area of Ghana, in the far north, where most Dagomba economic refugees in Agbogbloshie or Old Fadama (Accra slum) hail from.  I wondered, could I pay this NGO to track eyeglasses repair?  And could I use their study to find any result I want?

The whole repair process took Ibrahim (the tech) about 10 minutes.

So for April Fools Day, imagine a How To (Impugn) Guide. How to use GPS tracking to "Frame" the trade to make someone "look" bad.  I'm actually delighted with the copper frames produced by the eyeglass technician repairer to whom Karim Zacharia (TV repairman and voice on phone in video background) brought me.

1. What to Hide:  Choose a device that will pass for repairable.

Almost no one is exporting toxic leaded broken unrepairable CRT (cathode ray tube) to emerging markets.  Which is curious, if "avoided environmental costs" is the "driver". The old junk CRT tube televisions are the biggest problem in the e-waste industry. They are over 60 percent of the waste dropped off at USA electronics recyclers.  If the NGO sticks a GPS tracker in obvious junk, it is (to quote the NGO Executive Director in an email to me personally) a waste of a GPS tracker.

Our NGO took great care to place tracking devices into used electronics that are likely to be worth repair (which they object to) - at least, when they placed devices at locations serviced by companies that don't pay the NGO an annual fee.  This ensures a likely "gotcha"!

No one will buy shredded eyeglasses.  But anyone unfamiliar with the trade might imagine the prescriptions will be mismatched or that the "primitive third world" might mismanage them.  So the trick is to send a broken FRAME (what's easily repairable), but to use the word "prescription" to imply a misdeed is likely.

2. Where to Hide It.  Random Placement is for losers!

If you want to be very sure that a device you are tracking goes to someone specific (and not to one of the companies that pays you an annual fee, for goodness sakes), our NGO takes great care to find the end market you want to "expose" and take steps to know what goes there.  In Somerville, MA, the ENGO even sent undergraduate MIT students to ring a doorbell at a private company office, avoiding public drop off points, when that office identified it uses a company we were going after.  They placed a $349 (ebay closed auction) device with wires cut inside to make the item wouldn't be domestically recycled "by accident".

3.  How to Describe "It"

If your goal is to impugn (frame) the practice of moving of an object from a wealthy person to a poor person, you need to make the object itself sound either dirty or beyond imaginable to repair, even while making the object visibly look like it fits the repairable purchase order.  It can't be obvious that it can't be repaired.  But sabotage it very well, or the buyers may repair it nevertheless.

Easy enough to do with the eyeglasses.  First, call them "eyeglass waste" in an "eyeglass waste tracking study".  But don't crush them, they have to look good enough to donate.

Find one of the organizations that represents they distribute prescription eyeglasses in poor countries, and drop off a tagged device that meets their donation description.   Claim there's a flaw, no one can check it after its exported.  Oops, except they can, see CRT reused in Faisalabad, Pakistan, tracked by MIT - BAN GPS "ewaste tracking study".  Devices literally observed to be repaired were labeled "illegal waste" despite the fact they were neither illegal nor waste.  MIT's name was used in that study, but MIT refused when we begged them to qualify that point (stating only that they vouched for the tracking technology, not the methodology).

4. How to Describe "Them".  Choose "representative" end points.

Remember, it's not just a "place" that needs to look bad. You need scary looking people.  The BAN NGO is the world expert in making expert technicians look  like "primitives". Just use the NGO's simple racial profiling logistics.  The CRT repair shop in Faisalabad will never do, nor will Hong Kong's high tech Eco-Park, or a monitor reused in a restaurant in the New Territories.

Find the most primitive-looking people you can find in the country exported to, and make THEM the image of the trade.  One of the most used photographs in Africa is a 1977 Magnavox on a kid's head in Agbogbloshie (see "perception - reality" boy below).

Did the device you want to track get sent to one of the world's hottest repair and reuse markets?  Don't worry, even places like Hong Kong and Singapore have what the NGO calls "dirty little secrets", low tech scrap places, just like American junkyards.

The trick is to photograph "minorities" in these places doing something "by hand".  Often, the image of a black person is enough to scare an upstream donor.  They might be more "liable" if their used eyeglasses are repaired by a "primitive" African.

Don't show the Eyeglass Repair activity. Show the TV repairman shop nearby.

Don't just say "a technician repairs eyeglasses".  Say "Primitive third world laborer torches eyeglass waste by hand".

5. How to Describe "Why".  Impugn Motives

Don't let people think that your target has just sold something to someone else. That's normal business.

The "value" of the Proxy Watchdog is their ability to "frame" the assumption.  Their non-profit status (a charity no less) makes their description of your competitor's trade more trustworthy than the buyer (who buys what they want) or the seller (who is usually portrayed as the sole party in the export decision).

Profit and Exploitation.  The eyeglasses were exported for a bad purpose, bad intent, and bad outcome.  "Sham eyeglass exporter exploits primitive Africans," perhaps.

6.  Drop Names.  Drop stats. Make stuff up. LOok SciEnTific!

In 2002, Basel Action Network demonstrated that a river water sample taken - with no upstream control group - could impugn an entire industry. Directly upstream from the so-called "ewaste dumping site" of Guiyu is one of the world's largest textile dying and tannery industries (and possibly some metal smelting further upstream). But a simple chart showing a water sample taken near the photos of Chinese workers was enough for 15 years of citations.

Here's a scientificky chart that might have something to do with eyeglasses chemistry.  I haven't read the article, so don't know for sure.  But charts correlate with credibility for some reason. LoOk!


Let me stress, the methodology above is being sold by a "non-profit", who is asking for money, to impugn (frame) Tech Sector workers overseas.  It is despicable.

All of the repair technicians I met with in Africa had different personal stories, different specialties, different training.  Their shops were different, their strategies often differed.

I feel like I could write a whole book, with several chapters on Ghana TV repair alone.  The eyeglasses technician, Ibrahim, had a different story as well.

What they have in common is that they are all above average.  They earn more than day laborers, they read more.  They can measure, they can calculate values.

The use of a GPS tracking device to trace sabotaged equipment (which isn't even competently sabotaged in many cases) was a mistake.  MIT, to its credit, seems to have recognized the mistake, and while I wish they would do a scholarly follow up, at least they dropped it.

BAN has done the opposite.  They are offering to weaponize the research.  And the people they are damaging are innocent people.  I wish more people would take this NGO to task.  I am not bullet proof, but I hope I've shown the worst they can do is survivable.

No comments: