Big Brother Down Under
NSW, AUSTRALIA: The state government of New South Wales is now using the same facial recognition technology as the Australian Passport Office. Australia has long led the way in terms of security, in their currency as well as passport identification.
Australian passports carry a microchip embedded in the center with a digital map of the holder’s face. Encrypted using PKI technology, the chip holds not only a digital map of the person’s face but also contains the name, gender, date of birth, nationality, passport number, and the passport expiry date. When surrendered to border officials upon entering the country the passport is scanned wirelessly and the citizen is identified.
The Australian government asserts that the citizen has nothing to fear regarding privacy:
Strict guidelines control how the department uses the information you supply with a passport application. The Privacy Act 1988 prohibits government officers from collecting, using or disclosing your information except in the performance of their duties. It obliges the department to take all reasonable steps to protect your information against loss, misuse, unauthorised access, modification or disclosure.
The data on the chip is PKI (Public Key Infrastructure) protected, guaranteeing that it was put there by an authorised issuing authority and has not subsequently been altered. The chip’s digital signature meets standards determined by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a specialised agency of the United Nations.
Australian citizens can take cold comfort in their Privacy Act of 1988. Forbidden from using citizenry data “except in the performance of their duties,” government officials apparently now feel their duty extends to monitoring all citizens, everywhere and all the time.
Evidently NSW state officials, envious of the Passport Office, have gone them one better. They’ve decided to scan in all NSW driver’s licenses in order to build a massive database. Oops! Now the federal government wants in on the action. They want access to all the new state data to help them spy on their citizens nationwide. After all, they need to do their “duty” too:
The State Government is quietly compiling a mathematical map of almost every adult’s face, sharing information that allows law enforcement to track people by CCTV.
Experts said yesterday few people realised their facial features were being recorded in an RTA database of drivers licence photos that the Government has allowed both state and federal police to access.
The federal body CrimTrac has asked NSW for its database so it can be mined nationally by police using the facial recognition information contained in it.
University experts in facial recognition said the correct match rate was as low as 90 per cent, meaning the names of people with faces sharing a similar structure to criminals could be returned in searches.
Dr. Carolyn Semmler from the University of Adelaide said police wanted to eventually use facial recognition in smart CCTV cameras allowing people to be tracked anywhere there was a camera. Gemma Jones, Daily Telegraph
What do you want to bet that the data also includes height, weight, last known address, and everything else required to obtain an operator’s license? It wouldn’t be hard then to tie in all other legal records, medical records, utility records, and everything else on computers everywhere.
You have an outstanding traffic ticket? No problem. Security cameras scan your face while you are walking down the street. Boom! The local constable gets a text message with your location and photo for him to grab you on the spot. Privacy infringement? No way! Just the local bobby doing his “duty.”
It’s time to reread George Orwell and Aldous Huxley. The truth is scarier than fiction. Once every other state in Australia uses the technology it will only be a matter of time until other countries follow suit.
What ever happened to privacy? The needs of the many apparently outweigh the needs of the one. Hello Big Brother, it’s a brave new world.