We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

New Australian Threat?

Australia is often held up as an example of a country where the threat of Big Brother was beaten off once and for all. Now it looks likely to re-emerge.

ABC reports Steven Fitzgerald, General Manager of Operations from the Sydney Airport Corporation, giving evidence to the Committee into Aviation Security. The Committee was critical of Sydney airport’s own security record and questioning Fitzgerald about plans to tighten up.

Fitzgerald admitted he had discussed the idea of a national passenger profiling database with the Federal Government.

The last few lines of the transcript are of relevance to British readers and others in Commonwealth countries:

COMMITTEE MEMBER: Sounds very Big Brother-ish.

STEVEN FITZGERALD: It’s? I think, that’s an issue that really is one for the Commonwealth and not private sector airports at this at this point.

COMMITTEE MEMBER: Have there been discussions with them about it?

STEVEN FITZGERALD: It has been discussed in terms of the broad and, I’ll have to say, confidential discussions that we have about the range of, of issues that are being considered around the world.

“Confidential”. Or “secret”, depending on how much you trust the people involved.

A Future Fair For All?

Worrying words from Blair’s conference speech:

“And in a world of mass migration, with cheaper air travel, and all the problems of fraud, it makes sense to ask whether now in the early 21st century identity cards are no longer an affront to civil liberties but may be the way of protecting them.”

I don’t mind him asking the question, I just wish he’d listen to the answer.

Cabinet Split Over ID Cards Widens

Speaking on BBC1 Question Time yesterday, Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt made public her “grave reservations” over Big Blunkett’s plans to introduce compulsory National Identity Cards for innocent UK citizens.

By going public on the eve of the Labour Party conference Hewitt is taking a large political risk. She needs our support.

Cross-posted from The Chestnut Tree Cafe

No Pearl in this Foul Oyster

The BBC reports on the latest application of RFID technology: London Undergound’s new “Oyster” cards.

These are smart cards that will replace existing season tickets. The advantage is that they don’t even have to be swiped through a gate and will hopefully speed passenger flow through the stations.

The disadvantage is that they will be personalised to you and will – surprise, surprise – record full details of every journey you make on a central database. This information will be retained for “a number of years”.

Even more worrying, there have been suggestions that the people responsible for these cards are keen to extend them to “other applications”.

An anonymous card will be available, but will cost more. An estimated £200 pa for an average commuter.

So the question for London commuters is: Are you willing to sell your privacy for 200 quid?

Cross-posted from The Chestnut Tree Cafe

ID Cards – The Case Against

In an attempt to marshal my thoughts and arguments on the subject I’ve added some pages to my web site:

UK Compulsory National Identity Cards – The Case Against

Hopefully this’ll be of some use to those opposing Big Blunkett. There’s a load more that could be added (for example I haven’t even mentioned the problems with biometrics) but at least it’s a start.

UK ID Cards Bill This Autumn

Despite recent cabinet setbacks, Big Blunkett is determined to introduce compulsory National Identity Cards for innocent British citizens.

The BBC Reports that he intends the legislation to be announced in the next Queen’s speech.

When pressed about whether they would be compulsory he said: “my own view is that the minimum is you can’t actually work, or draw on services unless you have the card”

That sounds compulsory to me.

Cross-posted from The Chestnut Tree Cafe

Tesco Abandons Customer Privacy

The BBC reports that Tesco branches in Sandhurst and Leicester are running trials of the controversial Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chips.

These chips – each of which contains a unique identification number – will be attached to the packaging of almost every DVD in the stores.

What makes this trial unacceptable is that the chips will not be deactivated when the customer leaves the shop. Instead they will remain functional and will be broadcasting the customers’ purchase details wherever they go until they dispose of the packaging.

A useful reference regarding RFID is notags.co.uk.

Cross-posted from Chestnut Tree Cafe

New Labour’s Civil Liberties Record

White Rose readers might be interested in a few pages I’ve just put up on my web site:

UK Civil Liberties – New Labour’s Record

Typing it up depressed me even more than I expected.

I’ve tried to double-check everything, if you find any errors of fact please email me and let me know.

Police to Call For National DNA Database

A report in The Times suggests that the Police Superintendents’ Association (PSA) will this week call for a compulsory national DNA database. Kevin Morris, chairman of the PSA, insisted that “people were not as fearful as politicians believed”.

He’s wrong.

The article also stated that Big Blunkett hopes to announce this month that he is to go ahead with his plan for compulsory National Identity Cards for innocent British citizens.

Call me cynical but I suspect a smokescreen. The row over a compulsory DNA database could obscure the arguments over Identity Cards. The tactic appears to be to set up the DNA database as a bogeyman so that compulsory ID Cards don’t seem as bad.

Now is the time to write to your MP about Identity cards. Next month could be too late.

Partly cross-posted from The Chestnut Tree Cafe

Fake Barclays Spam Scam

If you use Barclays online banking, beware.

There’s a spam email going round claiming to be from them. It says that due to a systems update you should log in to Barclays and reactivate your account.

The link enclosed looks genuine but will take you to the spammer’s site. The objective is to steal your password.

There’re lots of clues that the email is a fake, including strange headers and bad English. However it’s very easy just to click, hence this warning.

This is not a hoax warning about a non-existent virus! I received this evil email myself this morning. Barclays have been informed.

Why is this White Rose Relevant? Because it shows once again that the weakest part of any security system is the human factor. Over-reliance on technical “solutions” gives people a false sense of security and can make them more vulnerable.

Partly cross-posted from An It Harm None.

The Price of Freedom

In an amazingly petty act of vengeful spite, the US Treasury Department is fining a peace protestor $10,000. Faith Fippinger was one of many who went to Iraq to act as a “human shield”. She has now been told that her action was in breach of trade sanctions because whilst in Iraq she spent around $200, mainly on food and water. She has also been accused of “providing services” to the Iraqi regime by her presence.

If she can’t or won’t pay she could face 12 years in jail.

Whether or not you supported the war, the right to protest against it was supposedly one of the things that US citizens had and Iraqi citizens were denied. Now a minor technical breach of sanctions legislation is being used to punish a citizen who dared exercise her civil liberties.

The message from King George’s regime is clear: defy us at your peril.

BBC report here

Cross-posted from An It Harm None

How Long is Long?

Tony Blair, at his monthly press conference, has just been asked whether he supports compulsory National Identity Cards.

He replied “In principle there is a case” and that he felt it was the right way forward in “the long term”.

However he also stressed that there are “huge logistical and cost issues” involved and that this was “not a quick fix” to issues such as asylum seekers.

Maybe I’m being too optimistic but I find this equivocation encouraging. It does tend to support the view that Big Blunkett’s plans are being put on the back burner.

The depressing thing is that the only problems Blair can see with ID cards are logistical and cost issues. No mention of privacy and civil liberties, those things simply don’t seem to matter.