Where’s George?

In the age of Electronic Money transferring it has become increasingly difficult to track our money offline. 15 years ago a group of hobbyists came up with the website Wheresgeorge.com to make sense of where our dollar bills are going. The idea works like this: Dollar bills are stamped with the URL of the website (Where’sGeorge.com) and then disseminated with the intention of having the next owner of the dollar bill upload the serial number of said dollar bill. By doing so you can construct a  graph of the dollar bill’s travel which indicates when and where the dollar bill was received after it has been dispersed, in turn creating a directed graph of the bill’s travel. So when a dollar’s serial number is uploaded more than once the data base registers  a “hit” indicating that the same dollar has migrated from one user/location to another. A directed edge could thus be drawn from the dollar’s original owner/location to the dollar’s new owner/ location. Unsurprisingly the activity has gathered a following and as a result a rich amount of data exists which can help us to understand how currency circulation unfolds at both a macro and micro level. “Georgeing” as it has come to be known represents a possibility in data extraction, not only for tracking currency, but for other practical matters like studying the spread of disease through human mobility. Obviously, this requires a certain level of invasion of  privacy as to construct a graph of this sort you would have to obtain the geographical location of every human at every instant to isolate infected nodes, but, doesn’t this seem like a small price to pay in return for the ability to track the spread of the disease and construct prevention methods accordingly? or to have monetary policy operate more efficiently through currency tracking?



One thought on “Where’s George?”

  1. Really interesting information. Honestly, I’ve seen the stamp but never known what it was for. Now I’ll be sure to register! Bringing up the possibility of infringing on privacy was interesting as well. For now though, the procedure is voluntary, and thus not an infringement.

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