Big Brother surveillance means no one is safeTue Mar 27, 2007 17:09Big Brother surveillance means no one is safe
"... The report also gives warning that biometric passports and identity cards would give fresh opportunities to fraudsters and terrorists to read remotely the data chips that they contain.... It says that it could be possible to rig a bomb to go off in the presence of a certain person or someone of a particular nationality..... The Commons Home Affairs Select Committee is expected to announce an inquiry into the growing use of surveillance."
London Times, 27 March 2007
Big Brother surveillance means no one is safe, experts warn
Advances in surveillance technology could seriously damage individual privacy unless drastic measures are taken to protect personal data, scientists have said.
Richard Thomas, the Information Commissioner, gave warning last year that Britain was “sleepwalking” into a surveillance society. Yesterday the country’s leading engineers developed the theme, fleshing out a dystopian vision that not even George Orwell could have predicted.
They said that travel passes, supermarket loyalty cards and mobile phones could be used to track individuals’ every move.
They also predicted that CCTV footage could become available for public consumption and that terrorists could hijack the biometric chips in passports and rig them up as a trigger for explosives.
The report by the Royal Academy of Engineering, Dilemmas of Privacy and Surveillance — Challenges of Technological Change, argues that the scientists developing surveillance technology should also think about measures to protect privacy.
“Just as security features have been incorporated into car design, privacy-protecting features should be incorporated into the design of products and services that rely on divulging personal information,” the report says.
“There is a choice between a Big Brother world where individual privacy is almost extinct and a world where the data are kept by individual organisations or services and kept secret and secure.”
The report says that shoppers should be allowed to buy goods and services without revealing their identities to the companies that provide them. It argues that travel and supermarket loyalty cards and mobile phones are mines of personal information that should be closely scrutinised to make sure that data is not abused.
Professor Nigel Gilbert, chairman of the report group, said: “In most cases, supermarket loyalty cards will have your name on. Why? What is needed in a loyalty card is for the supermarket to know what has been bought so you can get your discounts.
“Does it need to identify you? No, it just needs authentication that you’ve bought the goods. It is the same for Oyster cards on the Tube, some of which you have to register for. These are all apparently small things but people are being required to give away more identification information than is required.”
Ian Forbes, the report’s co-author, said that because footage from CCTV cameras could be digitised and potentially stored for ever, that necessitated greater scrutiny of the controlling networks. Britain has about five million CCTV cameras, one for every 12 people.
The report says: “Given this potential, it cannot be guaranteed that surveillance images will remain private, or will not be altered, misused or manipulated.”
The report also gives warning that biometric passports and identity cards would give fresh opportunities to fraudsters and terrorists to read remotely the data chips that they contain.
It says that it could be possible to rig a bomb to go off in the presence of a certain person or someone of a particular nationality.
The report proposes that the Information Commissioner should be given extended powers, and that stiffer penalties, including prison sentences, should be introduced for those who misuse personal data.
The Commons Home Affairs Select Committee is expected to announce an inquiry into the growing use of surveillance.
Who will watch the watchers?
“ It could become possible, with appropriate antennas and amplification, to construct a bomb that would only detonate in the presence of a particular nationality or even a particular individual”
The report by the Royal Academy of Engineering
“ We have supermarkets collecting data on our shopping habits, and also offering life insurance services. What will they be able to do in 20 years’ time, knowing how many doughnuts we have bought?”
Professor Nigel Gilbert, chairman of report group
“ If we’re being watched we need to be able to watch the watchers. I may have nothing to hide but it’s still my business. We are the most watched society in the world, which is befitting a society that gave us George Orwell”
Ian Forbes, co-author
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