Sunday, February 18, 2007

Big Bother is Watching YOU

As with the proposed National Identity Card system, it is not the principle of road usage pricing (carrying an ID card) that should concern people, but the 'Big Brother' implications of the database technologies underlying them.

In the case of ID cards a database will record every instance of use to confirm identity. It does not take much imagination to envisage a near future where access to almost any building (for example) becomes conditional upon a swipe of the card, with centralised logging of person/time/place and a friendly 'security guard' on hand to ensure that 'authorisation failures' are handled 'appropriately'.

Similarly - and potentially even more intrusive - with the road pricing technologies under discussion: Norwich Union already has a 'Pay as you Drive' insurance offering based on GPS technology. A National road pricing system would likely be similar, but with the complication that the GPS 'gizmo' in every car would need to be absolutely tamper-proof. This from 'The Register':
"Obviously, the device needs to be difficult to remove or subvert, and as the charging system will need to distinguish between a vehicle spending a week in an underground car park and one driving around London with a strategically positioned piece of metal foil, the device probably has to be as much about reporting the vehicle's status regularly as it is about being a charging mechanism. Having the box measure and report mileage would provide one possible mechanism for catching evaders, but if by law all vehicles in the country need to have the ability to report position and status, other uses for the system will emerge, and the national ID scheme for cars will be with us........ You can envisage these in-car boxes getting fiendishly complex and expensive as the system designers try to lock out abuse and the custodians of sundry Government databases try to get a slice"
We are moving rapidly into a world where The State and its Agents will have access to far more information about your movements than you could possibly remember yourself. On 'An express train to a Surveillance State' in fact.

Scary eh?

Update 1.

Pondering the matter further, another prospective - and related - use for the ubiquitous CCTV surveillance camera emerges - no doubt already covered by our surveillance supremos: Suppose each installation were fitted with an active RFID receiver such that, in addition to visual video footage, any passing RFID chips straying within range were also recorded and matched against an appropriate database. It would only require the proposed ID card to have a suitable RFID chip built in ( or, better yet, everyone to be personally 'chipped at birth' - by order!) and .....

Well, have a look at this (The latest RFID chips are 1/60 the size of those pictured below) - and think about it.

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