Saturday, 12 March 2011

Technology, Function Creep and the Erosion of Privacy

With the rapid growth of technology and the designing of software to record information for marketing purposes, citizens are gradually giving away and lowering their expectations of privacy. As this happens the rules accepted by societies regarding the "ring-fencing" of our private space is changing and is gradually eroding. What we are witnessing, is a phenomenon known as “function creep”: identification systems incorporating biometric scanning would gradually spread to additional purposes not announced or not even intended when the identification systems were originally implemented.

The classic example of function creep is the use of the photographic drivers licence. Originated in the 1980’s the sole purpose was to facilitate efficient management of the driver licencing regime and its policing. “Not for Identification.” Was the mantra trumpeted by politicians of the day.

You can’t get on a plane for internal travel or open a bank account now without one from “Not for Identification,” has morphed to become virtual mandatory identification.

By Using Biometrics, Government Reduces the Individual’s Reasonable Expectation of Privacy

Just as function creep implies that biometrics will gradually (and innocently) grow to be used by zealous, well-meaning bureaucrats in numerous, creative ways in multiple forum, function creep will also enable the Government to use the new technology of biometrics to reduce further over time the citizenry’s reasonable expectations of their privacy.

Keeping up with the Singhs’ one day in the life of one family

It is Auckland in 2011. The Singh family are returning from their holiday in the States. In the US they were photographed, their iris’ are scanned and they are fingerprinted on arrival. At Auckland they have their hand luggage X-rayed and hand-searched, and they are all questioned. Passports - one member of the family has dual nationality with Malaysia are checked. Details of the flight and all other travel information is recorded.

The family are seen by airport security cameras and on the courtesy bus which drops them as the family drives out of the airport they switch on a sat-nav system, which guides them home but also alerts them to speed and traffic-light cameras on the way which record their progress. The son uses his mobile to call a friend this is logged by the telephone company and could be used by police to locate where the phone was at the time.

On the way back they stop at an out-of-town mall. CCTV records them in the car park and entering the supermarket. All details of their shopping is recorded where they pay using a loyalty card. This will be used to build up a customer “profile” and can be sold on to others. |

Patterns which could indicate the card has been stolen. The amounts spent and whether the family keep within agreed credit levels is also monitored and will be used by the bank or building society.

Later they go through the congestion-charging zone which they pay for via the mobile and all details including photographs of them entering Auckland Central are recorded.

At home in Mount Eden they unload under the watch of a neighbour’s private CCTV system. Waiting at home is a pile of junk mail. The names and addresses of the family have been obtained from a variety of databanks.

The son goes to his room to read a letter telling him his criminal records check is clear and that he has a place on a voluntary scheme.

He orders a takeaway his address, card details and previous orders are already held by the pizza chain.

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