A subtle big brother

A subtle big brother

Summary: While doing a little last minute Christmas shopping last week, I noticed a book called Spychips.  The subtitle of the book is "How Major Corporations and Government Plan to Track Your Every Move with RFID.

TOPICS: Security

While doing a little last minute Christmas shopping last week, I noticed a book called Spychips.  The subtitle of the book is "How Major Corporations and Government Plan to Track Your Every Move with RFID."  The book goes on to explain, in tones meant to chill and frighten, that "plans and efforts are being made now by global corporations and the U.S government to turn this advanced technology, these spychips, into a way to track our daily activities-and keep us all on Big Brother's short leash."

This probably makes for exciting reading and will no doubt spawn dozens of conspiracy theories, but the real threat to privacy isn't overt technologies like RFID, but more subtle efforts.  I read a story in The Independent describing how cameras and video recognition software can be combined to track the movements of every driver:

Britain is to become the first country in the world where the movements of all vehicles on the roads are recorded. A new national surveillance system will hold the records for at least two years.

Using a network of cameras that can automatically read every passing number plate, the plan is to build a huge database of vehicle movements so that the police and security services can analyze any journey a driver has made over several years.

Britain already has the cameras in place.  The UK is one of the most surveilled countries in the world.  Software exists that can read vehicle license plates clearly at up to 70 MPH.   Throw in a little IT and you've got a system that would have given Joseph Stalin goosebumps.

Topic: Security

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  • Not so subtle and certainly not paranoid enough.

    If everything hinges on license plate number, then illegaly placed/installed plates won't do a damn thing UNLESS they compare the vehicle license number with a picture of the vehicle at the very least. What if you wanted to do a dirty deed then you would clone a "clean" truck down to the external body panels and color and paint job. BTW the licesne just like here in the states has to be readable from the front since there is no guarantee you can read the plate from the rear. The only way they will be able to detect the illegal truck is to do pattern analysis and register "flight plans" for every freaking trip. When the truck shows up on the wrong flight plan then you MIGHT have an illegal truck. That will require HUGE amounts of computer time or huge gigaflips or flops of processor horse power.

    Actually I would worry more about the container trailers. Often the containers loaded onto trailers which get loaded in who-knows-where, put on a boat, which sails to who-knows-where and then gets taken off the boat and put on another trailer and driven to who-knows-where. Unless you track every container EVERY step of the way under surveillance the entire time, a 10 megaton H bomb might be on a pallet inside one container on the back of practically any truck.
    • Paranoid enough for you?

      I do not know the mentality of the typical truck driver in this country or in Britain BUT I do know that something like that seems to be incredibly difficult to do in this country from past legislative efforts in the past. Its nearly impossible to get truckers to adhere to a 8 hour rest plan just for safety reasons. I doubt that you will be able to enforce a national "flight plan" scheme. Maybe the national trucking companies will come on board but their drivers might not. The independent truckers more than likely won't at all.

      All you have to do is sit at a busy truckstop on any of the interstate highways in the US and the magnitude of the required amounts of surveillance will sink in. Just count the trucks that come in and stop for lunch, a nap, fuel, whatever and then count the number that pass in both directions (or all 4 for those Interstate intersections)and DON'T stop.

      Certainly a truck is more likely to be easily pattern recognized by a computer system but all of the hardware and software to do an "after-the-fact" analysis much less a realtime analysis would be impossible to fund.
  • Is Google morphing into Big Brother?

    I am beginning to get the sense that Google is after everyone's access to the internet. Offering cities free web access via WiFi and data-farming everyone's web movements and searches sends a chill down my back. In San Francisco the City is wondering what they have to give up for the free access to their citizens. Perhaps it might just be personal privacy with all the profiling that Google does on everyone that uses their seearch engine.
  • They do it with cell phones in the US

    If you leave your cell phone on and you carry it with you, the Feds can find your whereabouts within 150-200 yards just using existing technology (cell towers monitor the reletive strength of your signal so they can determine when to hand off from one to the next).
    If you drive an upscale GM vehicle, a cell phone is built in (called OnStar) and it is always on - yes, even if you drop your subscription to the service. It is well known that the OnStar operators can listen in with the touch of a button - I'm sure you've seen the commercial where the OnStar operator asks a driver if she has been hurt in an accident that has just occured.

    To use this technology to track a person used to require a court order....but President Bush says that court oversite is no longer needed. You feel safer now, don't you?