Thursday, December 22, 2005

Britain will be first country to monitor every car journey -- The Independent

Apparently in England the government is very open about wanting to track every citizens every movement. For example they're planning a national ID card that presumably will be required everywhere. But the article in question, Britain will be first country to monitor every car journey From 2006 Britain will be the first country where every journey by every car will be monitored (By Steve Connor, Science Editor, The Independant) concerns automatically monitoring cars and other vehicles driving down the road. They'll be using TV cameras monitoring the roads, connecting them to computers which can identify and read license plates. Hence, all cars driving the roads will be identified and tracked.

Hmm... I guess Big Brother is arriving a little later than predicted.

For that matter, this capability is one of the ones to be developed under the Total Information Awareness system. Under TIA it's not just license plates which would be recognized and tracked, but faces. For example if you have a crowd of people going into a sports arena, it would be "helpful" to do face capture and recognition of everybody entering the arena. Well, "helpful" so long as you can clearly identify culprits.

What occurs to me of why this is disturbing, is this makes a broad presumption that everybody is a criminal. Until now the only time Police would stop and identify you is if they had reasonable cause to believe you were some kind of criminal. For example if your driving is weaving all over the road, they might think you're drunk, pull you over, and in the process identify you.

But under this system, the police is going to be identifying everyone regardless of any determination of whether they're a criminal. Every car driving the road, or everybody walking down the sidewalk, everybody will be inspected by a computer and identified.

In the Independant article they talk about caravaning. Criminals will sometimes steal a car, then the stolen car plus several others (a.k.a. caravan) elsewhere to commit a crime using the stolen car as some kind of subterfuge to hide their tracks. A caravan is several cars driving together, so one pattern they could program into their BigBrotherPro software is "has this group of cars been together for more than 'n' miles of driving". But, isn't it possible to accidentally caravan with someone? And if you accidentally caravan with the 'wrong' people, ones who later commit a crime, might you not be accidentally caught up in their crime?

Think the police don't make mistakes?

Just last month it was revealed a German tourist was mistakenly identified as an al Qaeda operative. He was kidnapped by U.S. agents, illegally renditioned to Afghanistan, where he was tortured for several months. Once they realized their mistake they flew him to Kosovo and dumped him on the street with no money. And that's just one mistake that happened to get into the mainstream news.

The potential for grave mistake is very high here.