The surveillance society

A Michigan man has been charged with placing an explosive outside a federal building in Detroit in a case that has embarrassed the government because it was taken inside by a guard and left unattended for 20 days. It was a Husky Tool Bag with a metal chest inside.

But the real story may well be how they figured out it was him.

Check out this last paragraph from the Associated Press story:

The FBI said it focused on Mikulich after learning that Home Depot is the exclusive seller of the Husky tool bag. The store in Iron Mountain, near his home, sold a bag and a timer at the same time on Feb. 14, one of only nine similar sales at all U.S. locations since last fall.

It’s a fine example of the little bits of data you leave about yourself at the places you shop.

According to the FBI, Home Depot’s computer system tracked exactly what time a Husky tool bag was sold. Next time you’re in Home Depot, look up and notice all the cameras. It wasn’t hard to link the tool bag’s sale to the exact cash register and get a picture of the person buying it.

It’s even easier to be tracked, of course, if you spend the time to go online and fill out those “win-money-by-taking-our-survey” receipts, which links the exact purchase with a name and address.

Which shouldn’t be much of a problem, perhaps, if you haven’t left an explosive device somewhere.

But has anyone figured out why there were 8 other sales at the same time around the country involving — apparently — a tool bag and a timer?

(h/t: John Rabe)

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