Friday, August 14, 2009

Latest from NO2ID

Comments made in connection with each news item are personal observations and not necessarily those of NO2ID.

The biometric residence visa card that foreigners in Britain are to eventually carry and which are due to be trialled in Manchester can be hacked into in 12 minutes, according to an article in this week’s Daily Mail. Not only could they be easily hacked into, but the data could be cloned and changed, leaving the original card unaltered. Of course, the Home Office dismissed fears that this could be done so easily in future because the encryption to be used on the next generation of cards - which won’t be introduced for another couple of years - can’t be hacked into. Oh yes! Where have we heard that before! As always it’s all about the authorities gaining easy access to every aspect of our lives and nothing to do with the protection of our identities.

On the back of the recently unveiled ID card is a space entitled ‘Observations’. This can be used to indicate whether the holder is a bona fide British citizen and allowed to travel freely within the European Economic Area (EEA) and therefore also act as an authority to travel within that area, or whether the holder is either Irish or of another EEA country or non-EEA resident but who has a family member who is, and is therefore not valid for travel in other EEA countries. The mere fact that this information is to be handwritten for all to see, eg. by bank staff when opening an account, has raised fears that it may also be used to openly advertise the fact that the holder may have an ASBO or some other restriction placed upon him/her, therefore acting as a ‘gatekeeper’.

The London Borough of Hillingdon has introduced smart cards for those who are local residents and therefore identifying them as eligible for certain services not available to those who are not. The council claims that the cards will only carry the holder’s name and a unique ID number, but, of course, it’s the ID number which will act as the all-important link to a back-end database that collates other information about the holder that will be stored. As a carrot, it will also act as a privilege card offering holders discounts at participating stores, working like a loyalty card. This will enable shopping profiles to be added to the back-end database, creating a cosy relationship between the council and local shop chains while prying on residents’ shopping patterns for commercial database use. What a stitch-up!

The tracking and tracing of every aspect of our lives including financial matters and where we travel is being greatly enhanced by a little-advertised and debated initiative released under the title of ‘G8 Declaration on Counter-Terrorism’. It is reported to have organised a ‘ground-breaking’ operation on bulk cash smuggling (under the title of Operation Mantis), practical guidance on cyber crime which charges it with measures to ‘identify and promote best practices for expanding biometric identity management practices for travellers and impoving security in all modes of transportation’.

Saturday 12 September will hopefully see the second International Action Day against the retention of telecommunications data and other instruments of surveillance. It is hoped, once again, that public demonstrations will take place in capital cities across the world.

The Tories, in their pre-election rhetoric, are stating that by scrapping the ID card scheme, some £3bn could be saved. In addition they are making overtures that they would scrap the adding of fingerprints to passports. Obama promised all sorts of things prior to his election that he has ‘U’-turned on. Isn’t that what politicians do all the time these days as instructed by their masters?

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