I recently stumbled across a video of the Payatas trash village outside Manila, Philippines. If you haven't heard Payatas, it has a population of over 80,000 that lives on and around the monstrous trash heap. It recycles and resells much of what it finds there.
I thought of Payatas when I watched a video by NYT tech writer David Pogue about geotagging photos. He talked about a memory card for your camera called Eye-Fi, which uses so-called fake GPS from Skyhook Wireless. For years the folks at Skyhook have been sending out drivers to cruise around metropolitan neighborhoods in America to detect network address of some of the 70 million Wi-Fi base stations. Then they associate each Wi-Fi spot with its physical recorded location. So instead of your digital camera needing a GPS, you can have a memory card that can detect and save nearby Wi-Fi signals and include them in the photo's data. A pretty creative use of existing technologies.
It is possibly a stretch and maybe a bit insensitive to compare these two things. But it's not hard if you imagine the opposite of the Payatas trash heap as an invisible yet vast mass of wireless data ripe for profitmaking. The folks over at Skyhook did and managed to find a way to resell the same data but, quite literally, through a different lens.
(By the way, the reason your iPhone is so good at finding your location is because it uses Skyhook technology too).
I wonder what other kinds of scavenging could create value from others' digital waste.