Thousands of Kiama residents say "no" to merger in poll

Kiama residents have turned out in their thousands to formally vote on the NSW Government-?s plans to merge Kiama and Shoalhaven councils.

The plebiscite, held on Saturday at a cost of $120,000 to the community, attracted 8400 voters (including 3000 pre-poll votes).

The number represents half of the 16,826 enrolled voters within the municipality.

More than 95 per cent of those who took part in the ballot voted against the planned merger.

Mayor Brian Petschler applauded the turnout and strong result, declaring the vote a -?real demonstration of community strength-?.

-?This is an outstanding result for a voluntary poll and sends a clear message to the NSW government that it should not proceed with this forced amalgamation with Shoalhaven Council,-? he said.

-?The level of opposition is even higher than what was recorded in an IRIS Research survey of residents soon after the government announced its proposal for the forced amalgamations.

-?Obviously residents still feel very passionately about this issue.-?

Kiama Downs resident Leah Sinclair said he voted against the government-?s proposal because she wanted the council to retain its local representation.

-?You do know the councilors faces, they come around to the school and the surf club, it-?s just a nice little community,-? she said.

Tim Rossiter also voted -?no-?, saying Kiama had -?always been this way-?.

-?I don-?t see why we should change it,-? he said.

Katina Michael said residents wanted to see the area-?s history retained.

-?I want to see us keep Kiama Council-?s historical underpinnings and [provide] local services [and] local attention to all our amenities and for local people to be able to keep their jobs in Kiama,-? she said.

Kiama state MP Gareth Ward welcomed the result of the vote and said he would use it to reinforce to the government the community-?s opposition to the merger plans.

-?I will use everything at my disposal to make it clear to the government about the community-?s views,-? he said.

The state government is expected to hand down its decision on all proposed mergers later this week.

Citation: Angela Thompson and Shannon Tonkin, "Thousands of Kiama residents say "no" to merger in poll", Illawarra Mercury.

Point of View Technology in Law Enforcement

Meantime, UOW's Centre for Transnational Crime Prevention will sponsor an international workshop, Point of View Technology in Law Enforcement, to be held at the University of Sydney on February 22.
The workshop will examine the use of technology in law enforcement and features presentations by UOW's Dr Katina Michael.

Citation: Staff, February 4, 2012, "Point of View Technology in Law Enforcement", Illawarra Mercury, p. 11.


Cyber terrorists 'a real threat'

DRINKING water supplies, sanitation and telephone exchanges would be prime targets in the event of a cyber attack on the region, a University of Wollongong expert has warned.

Dr Katina Michael, an associate professor in the university's informatics faculty, said a computer-based attack could be launched for a variety of reasons, ranging from corporate espionage to terrorism, and the consequences might be devastating.

"The main things to hit are [telephone] exchanges but also water supply - water is very much linked to electricity - and so on. Sewerage is another one - as soon as you get rid of sanitation in an area, we have the spread of disease," she said.

Dr Michael, who also lectures at the university's Centre for Transnational Crime Prevention, said Telstra exchanges, which act as a vital hub for internet and telephone services, were particularly vulnerable.

"If they wanted to knock out an exchange ... it's probably quite easy [because] it's a single building and unprotected; you walk past Telstra exchanges," she said.

And a strike at the region's economic heart via the computer systems of BlueScope Steel wouldn't be difficult "at all".

She said the biggest risk came from so-called "social engineering" attacks, where employees are tricked into giving up sensitive details like usernames and passwords, which are then used to "walk through the front door" of computer systems.

A BlueScope spokesman said all computer services at the steelworks were outsourced to multi-national technology-services company CSC, which has an office in Coniston.

A CSC spokeswoman said the company could not discuss individual clients, but said CSC was at the forefront of cyber defence.

It is also possible that Wollongong City Council's IT systems could come under attack, bringing vital services to a halt, or resulting in the theft of ratepayers' personal details from databases.

In August, a teenage hacker from rural Victoria gained unrestricted access to the files of Ballarat City Council, resulting in a week-long shutdown of the council's computer network.

A Wollongong City Council spokeswoman said the threat of a cyber attack was taken "very seriously".

Dr Michael's warning came as more than 50 Australian organisations faced simulated cyber attacks as part of an international security exercise dubbed Cyber Storm III.

Citation: Matthew Jones, October 9, 2010, "Cyber terrorists 'a real threat'", Illawarra Mercury, p. 21.

Spy in the sky zooms in on illegal backyard pools

ILLAWARRA councils are using eye-in-the-sky technology to identify illegal backyard pools and prosecute owners.

Wollongong and Shellharbour councils say they are using satellite imagery, including Google Earth, to research and investigate pools.

In some cases, officers use Google Earth as a check against council's own aerial photographs to confirm the presence of a pool before sending staff to inspect the site for compliance issues.

"The evidence gathered from this inspection may, after many other steps, lead to prosecution or a fine," a spokesman for Shellharbour council said.

But the method concerns privacy advocate and University of Wollongong associate professor Dr Katina Michael, who said the practice of using satellite imagery blurred the line between public and private space.

"While it is legal, I don't believe it is ethical," she said.

"Ratepayers should at least be made aware their councils are using this technology."

The Mercury put the question of satellite imagery use to Wollongong and Shellharbour councils after reports a council in the United States had voted against using Google Earth to check the legality of pools.

Wollongong infrastructure systems and support manager Kim Batley said using aerial photographs for basic council mapping, planning, regulation and enforcement was standard across all levels of government.

He said Wollongong council had used aerial photography for many years and recently utilised Google Earth satellite imagery in a safety campaign on backyard swimming pools.

"Council made use of Google Earth as part of its research, cross-referencing against our own property database, but it was not used in enforcement," he said. "The use of Google Earth is not a common practice but proved helpful in this particular project."

The council's environment and development compliance manager David Day said satellite imagery and aerial photography would only be used to investigate pools after a complaint was made.

He said aerial photography technology would form only part of an investigation and the council would not issue a fine based just on aerial images.

Shellharbour's spokesman said council staff also used Google Earth, but a physical inspection would always be carried out to determine compliance.

Dr Michael, who is a board member of the Australian Privacy Foundation and a Kiama resident, said there were potential privacy issues in using satellite imagery but admitted it had not really been debated.

"It's grey territory," she said.

Dr Michael said residents who didn't want their homes included in Google Earth imagery could email Google or write to them requesting its removal.

Citation: Shannon Tonkin, September 22, 2010, "Spy in the sky zooms in on illegal backyard pools", Illawarra Mercury, p. 13.

Cyborgs walk among us

Cyborgs walk among us

Higher education Conference

A university conference is tackling the big issues of technology and features speakers who have devices implanted under their skin, writes BENJAMIN LONG.

Program chair Associate Professor Katina Michael is expecting plenty of robust debate at the 2010 IEEE International Symposium on Technology and Society this week at the University of Wollongong.

The multidisciplinary conference, which closes tomorrow (with a further workshop being held on Thursday), has attracted the world's leading experts in the area of new technology and its social impacts.

"What is fresh about this conference is that it is bringing people from different disciplines to discuss the same subject matter from different angles" says Dr Michael, a senior lecturer in the School of Information Technology and Computer Science at UOW.

"There should be a clash of sorts, because I don't think everyone will agree with what is being put forward.

The conference is looking at issues related to cyborg technology, microchip implants, nanotechnology and social networking

"We've got information and communication technology specialists. We've got applied ethics researchers. We've got political scientists. We've got lawyers talking about regulation and legislation of emerging technology such as nanotechnology.

"We've also got commercial entities that have invested heavily, for example, in GPS innovations. We've even got a theologian talking.

"It's not just engineering focussed or humanities focussed. It's going to create a lot of dialogue between those who conceive, those who implement and those who eventually critique the technology."

More than 100 speakers from 17 different countries will address the conference, and 70 academic papers will be presented.

It is the first time the symposium has been held in Australia, says Dr Michael, who has been working on it since UOW was awarded the hosting rights in 2007.

Speakers are looking at emerging technologies in four broad categories - location-based services, social networking, nanotechnology and automatic identification - and looking in particular at issues of security, privacy and human rights.

A number of the keynote speakers are addressing issues around implantable devices.

Professor Rafael Capurro of the Steinbeis-Transfer-Institute Information Ethics, Germany, is a leading ethicist in this area. He has been writing about these issues, says Dr Michael, since a time when "most other people were thinking this was the stuff of conspiracy theory".

Prof Capurro writes that while "ICT (information and communication technology) implants may be used to repair deficient bodily capabilities they can also be misused, particularly if these devices are accessible via digital networks. The idea of letting ICT devices get under our skin in order not just to repair but even to enhance human capabilities gives rise to science fiction visions".

Dr Mark Gasson, a senior research fellow in the Cybernetic Intelligence Research Group at the University of Reading, in the United Kingdom, has an engineering background and looks at implants from a different angle.

In particular he is interested in implantable RFID (radio-frequency identification) devices, which have evolved to the point where they can be considered simple computers.

Dr Gasson recently became "the world's first human infected with a computer virus" when he had a chip implanted in his hand and then infected with a computer virus.

Taking a more idiosyncratic approach is another keynote speaker, Amal Graafstra, who is not an academic but rather an RFID implant enthusiast from the United States.

The owner of several technology and mobile communications companies, Graafstra has two RFIDs implanted in his body which do things like allowing him keyless access to his home and car.

Another of the keynote speakers, Dr Roger Clarke, a consultant on eBusiness, information infrastructure, and dataveillance and privacy, and a Visiting Professor at the School of Computer Science at ANU, addresses the subject of cyborg rights.

"The first generation of cyborgs is alive, well, walking among us, and even running," Dr Clarke argues.

"Pacemakers, clumsy mechanical hands, and renal dialysis machines may not match the movie image of cyborgs, but they have been the leading wave."

He points to the case of South African athlete Oscar Pistorius, a double leg amputee whose prosthetic legs enable him to run faster than most able-bodied people. Pistorius doesn't want to be known as a Paralympian and would rather race against able-bodied athletes. Should he be allowed to run in the Olympics?

Dr Michael hopes that one of the outcomes of the conference is a greater awareness of how technology is affecting our lives.

"Technology can be used for positive means, but it can also be exploited," Dr Michael says.

"It is a great medium to communicate with other people on, but just be aware that even intelligent and street-savvy people can be fooled, and that harm can come from it.

"For example, one of the issues of location-based social networking is that Facebook now has a function that enables you to have a status update, which is automatic and which identifies your location based on where your mobile phone is.

"People can look at that without your knowing - if you've got 400 friends on your friends list - and see that you are in Figtree or you are in Wollongong.

"That might not mean much to people at the moment, but somebody might be able to use that to say, okay, well you're not at home right now so I can go around there and take everything you have. Or they could use it to stalk you.

"We are talking about technology that is not just in the virtual world, but which has repercussions in the physical world."

Citation: Benjamin Long, June 8, 2010, "Cyborgs walk among us", Illawarra Mercury, pp. 1, 23.

Robots of the flesh open door to future

Man with a chip-implanted hand at uni symposium

IMAGINE a world where a wave of a chip-implanted hand opens doors, turns on your computer, or starts the family car.

Or a world where your entire medical or personal history is carried inside your body to be accessed at the flick of a government controlled button.

Will there be a time when cyborg athletes running and jumping on artificial legs, arms, or even hearts, smash world records with ease?

Such Orwellian scenarios have now left the pages of science fiction to become a potentially frightening reality, with emergence of the latest generation of all-seeing, all-knowing technologies.

Just what the social implications of these emerging technologies might be will be explored during a three-day international symposium which starts at the University of Wollongong today.

Speakers from 17 countries will present more than 70 papers centred on automatic identification, location-based services, social networking, nanotechnology, and privacy and human rights.

Symposium chair, Associate Professor Katina Michael said some of the key topics to be explored will include ethical aspects of bar-code and microchip implants in the human body, the challenge of cyborg rights, tracking and monitoring living and non-living things, and internet filtering and regulation in Australia.

"We have seen an increase in the use of wearable and embedded technologies in everyday life, so I believe it's time for public debate on a range of associated issues," Prof Michael said.

"One recent example of an issue that has posed a number of social and ethical challenges regarding cyborg rights is South African runner Oscar Pistorius, who runs with the aid of carbon fibre transtibial artificial limbs," she said.

"Pistorius's artificial lower legs have allowed him to compete in open competitions, but this has generated claims that he has an unfair advantage over runners with prosthetic limbs," she said.

One of those presenting a paper at the symposium is Amal Graafstra, who has a radio-frequency identification chip implanted in the webbing between his thumb and forefinger.

One of about 300 implant "hobbyists" around the world, he can unlock his car and his front door and even turn on his computer.

Citation: Paul McInerney, June 7, 2010, "Robots of the flesh open door to future", Illawarra Mercury, p. 3.

Controlling Technology

Katina Michael is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Information Systems and Technology, Faculty of Informatics, University of Wollongong. Her latest book, co-authored by her husband Dr MG Michael, examines the social and ethical implications of surveillance technologies.

University of Wollongong academics Dr Katina Michael and Dr MG Michael have co-authored a book about the social impact of surveillance technologies.

Automatic Identification and Location-Based Services:from Bar Codes to Chip Implants (Information Science Reference, 2009) is a 500+ page reference book that emphasises the convergence and trajectory of automatic identification and location- based services toward chip implants and real-time positioning capabilities.

Automatic identification (auto-ID) is the act of identifying a living or non­living thing without direct human intervention. Location- based services (LBS) is the ability for an information system to denote the position of a user, based on a device they are carrying or their position in a given context. Recording the history of automatic identification from manual to automatic techniques (eg tattoos, barcodes and biometrics), this book also  discusses the social, cultural and ethical implications of the technological possibilities with respect to national security initiatives.

The book co-authored with honorary senior fellow Dr MG Michael is one of the first academic books to address the potential use of microchip implants for commercial applications, outside the medical domain. Instead of the traditional use of beneath-the-skin chips for prosthetic devices such as heart pacemakers, this detailed empirical study on microchip implants focuses on the potential for use-cases in access control, electronic health record identifiers and e-payment systems.

Being able to imply someone’s identity by their very location is extremely powerful, with critical implications for law enforcement and emergency services. Indeed this book is about the social implications of technology, and how new emerging innovations are completely changing the rules of engagement.

The book will be of interest not only to technologists, but also scholars, policy makers and advisors, legal and regulatory bodies. Yet the book is accessible by the wider community, and can also be used to raise public awareness about the potential social implications of emerging technologies.

The book was largely written during a time of global geo-political and economic turbulence when the world witnessed a rise in a new kind of terrorism and also large- scale natural disasters. In this time of evident technological advancement, many questioned why in such a period of rapid scientific progress we were so incapable of responding to such catastrophic events as the Hurricane Katrina disaster of 2005.

Government agencies, whether in the business of strategic intelligence or emergency management or securitisation are seeking new ways to protect their nation’s borders. In doing so, they have turned to technology for the answers.

For now the ID trajectory appears to be one of aiming to control the masses using technologies innovators have created and instituted. The question is whether this is the kind of environment we want to live in, filled with smart sensors, smart objects and real-time analytics. On face value, most perceive competitive advantages in terms of cost savings in business or at least emphasise the convenience factor for the individual or family. Wouldn’t it be a great life if I could walk up to my house door and not have to fiddle with keys to gain entry? Or if my office space could gauge my desired level of comfort and adjust settings accordingly? Or better still wouldn’t it be great if I could just communicate with others just by thinking about them, and never have to lift a handset? Or even know the whereabouts of my children at all times!

All these kinds of potential lifestyle options seem great but what ofthe continual decline of the individual to live, act, and to make decisions within a discernible physical space? Have we seriously considered the extensive implications this “new order” of existence might have on our general well-being?

And these are real consequences (not simply imagined ones) both on the physical and mental levels. Are we trying to convince ourselves that such things are the “Holy Grail” to contentment, to happiness, to the idealised, if not ideal life?

The consequences of these initiatives will take some time to be felt but already we can predict with some confidence some of the shortfalls. Postmodernist theory might have us believe that the profession of history is in crisis and that its methods are outmoded, but as Richard Evans and others have effectively argued, the discipline can teach us many lessons and provide us with genuine insights.

And in the context of technology itself, thinkers in the sociological tradition of Lewis Mumford and Jacques Ellul continue to challenge us to stop for a moment and to critically evaluate the unchecked consequences upon our civilisation of an “artificial environment”.

Whatever road is taken, the irreversible consequences will be felt by future generations. This is perhaps a traditional problem that has less to do with technology and more to do with people. Are we continually building new defences with a “catch me if you can” attitude, and “here, try penetrating my latest solutions”, or are we genuine about peaceful resolutions which look at the root causes of national security concerns?

The question is how much room are we truly leaving ourselves for future modification and change, if we go ahead and implement what we are proposing today? For the record, no one is debunking technology. The point is to remain the masters over that which we create, and to not allow for the “machine”to dictate the terms and boundaries of our existence.


Are you getting anywhere?

When you see national and international linkages in the form of cross-institutional collaborative efforts with real tangible outputs, you know you must be getting somewhere. Collaborations take years to develop -you need to understand what it is you wish to contribute, how you fit into your academic institution and wider context of national innovation, and how you might play a part in the international arena.

Best part of your research?

I enjoy working with people - mentoring young scholars, collaborating with colleagues, ongoing education and helping break new ground. Next year I am excited about our hosting the 26th IEEE International Symposium on Technology and Society at the University of Wollongong on the theme of the social implications of emerging technologies. It is the first time academics across disciplines and countries will come together to discuss the socio-ethical implications of the potential use of microchip implants in humans, commercial location-based services and social networking technologies.

Funniest moment:

I was at an e-commerce conference in Chile in 2005 which had real-time translations of presentations (eg Spanish-to­English, English-to-Spanish). I decided I would try my hand at some Spanish and caught the translators off-guard completely, to the amusement of the audience.

Ugliest moment:

I’ve had a few while working in industry and much of this had to do with politics related to vendor-customer contract obligations. But in academia I cannot recollect a single ugly moment.

Have you had a true “Eureka! I’ve found it!”experience?

Yes, helping conceptualise the term “uberveillance” with MG Michael. It was voted Macquarie Online Dictionary Word of the Year in the technology category in 2008. That surprise still seems a little surreal.

Has it made you rich?

Not in dollar terms but it has contributed to raising public awareness about the implications of technology on society. When you receive messages of support outside academia you know you are striking a chord with your research. MG and I have been cited in government departmental reports, asked to give evidence in court cases on electronic surveillance, participated in federal government round tables, including international reference citations in Forbes Magazine, New York Times, LapTop Magazine, National Post and ABC America. The fact that uberveillance has now entered every-day language means people can relate to it.

What did you want to be when you were a kid?

I loved participating in theatrical productions a lot - to some degree academics are in theatre ... lecturers should put on real performances when delivering their lectures to invite the audience to reflect on the subject matter more meaningfully. We shouldn’t be teaching our students to be parrots but to be critical thinkers who can interpret. Has your career followed a straight line? No, I have not had the typical academic career path but far from having halted my progress, this non-traditional entry has made my perspectives multi­dimensional and transdisciplinary.

What would you change?

If I could, the number of hours in the day!

Advice for young researchers?

University years are what you make of them. Take advantage of every opportunity to become a part of extra-curricular activities. It will help make you a well-rounded person and provide a balance between work, study and social life.

Next adventure?

Well, we’ve just finished a 500+ page reference book. The next adventure is a secret but I can say it’s a sequel of sorts.

Website for further information: kmichael

Final comment:

“Day by day.”

Citation: Katina and MG Michael, Controlling Technology, Illawarra Mercury, September 22, 2009, p. 23.

A high-tech point of view

Helmet cameras and glasses that can record a persons point-of-view (POV) of the world were some of the subjects discussed at a conference held at the Wollongong City Beach Function Centre over the weekend.

The inaugural AUPOV09 national conference focussed on POV technologies - hands-free video and audio technologies that record your POV - and their applied use in an educational training and assessment context.

The conference brought together delegates from private enterprise, the Australian Navy, Australian Armed Forces, University of Wollongong, University of NSW, commercial publishers, educational consultants, and POV manufacturing and retail distributers.

UOW academics Associate Professor Tony Herrington (Education), Dr MG Michael (Informatics) and Dr Katina Michael (Informatics) addressed the conference.

Prof Herrington spoke on the topic of Mobile Learning at UOW and the use of emerging technologies such as mobile smart phones in education.

e presented some of the findings of a recent project of which he was a lead collaborator, The New Technologies, New Pedagogies, which investigated and created new teaching and learning strategies using mobile technologies.

Dr Michael and Dr Michael presented a plenary session on Teaching Ethics Using Wearable Computing and the Social Implications of the New 'Veillance'.

Citation: ILM, June 30, 2009, "A high-tech point of view", Illawarra Mercury, p. 24.

Big Brother an Inside Job

BY EMMA SHAW 25/02/2009 4:00:00 AM

Dr MG Michael wears a radio-frequency identification wristband, stick tag and button. Picture: GREG TOTMAN

Dr MG Michael wears a radio-frequency identification wristband, stick tag and button. Picture: GREG TOTMAN

Big Brother could soon be tracking our every thought and movement, according to a University of Wollongong academic who says microchips implanted in the human body could become commonplace within two or three generations.

Dr MG Michael, honorary senior fellow at the School of Information Systems and Technology, coined the term "uberveillance" to encompass the notion of surveillance systems as embedded networks within the human body.

"It is Big Brother not on the outside looking down, but on the inside looking out," Dr Michael said.

"We are presently witnessing the emergence of uberveillance in various forms.

"Today we have cars tagged with radio-frequency identification for use in electronic toll collection, animals that bear national livestock identification system tags, prisoners adorned with electronic bracelets and even people that have embedded chips for making transactions at VIP lounges at clubs."

Dr Michael, whose area of interest covers philosophy and theology, as well as the social implications of information communication technology, said the chips could be located just about anywhere in the human body.

He said the issue raised many concerns.

"There is currently a heightened tension between the trade-offs of national security versus personal security," Dr Michael said.

"There will always be the potential to use uberveillance in positive applications to save lives, but once instituted the risks, especially to human rights, are incalculable."

Citation: Emma Shaw, February 25, 2009, "Big Brother an inside job", Illawarra Mercury,

Uni 'boss' finds top job relaxing, not taxing

LIFE'S tough at the top.

University of Wollongong Faculty of Infomatics executive director Solveig Dewhurst found out the hard way yesterday when she slipped into Vice-Chancellor Professor Gerard Sutton's shoes for a day.

The honorary vice-chancellor took the taxing schedule of a university executive in her poised stride, perusing the daily papers reclining on the leather lounge and enjoying a cup of tea before racing off to host a morning tea with staff.

Ms Dewhurst landed the top job at the university's Pink Ribbon breakfast auction last year, bidding $1750 for the mystery prize.

"It was definitely Patto (UOW Pro-Vice Chancellor Professor John Patterson) dressed in pink lycra that inspired me," she said.

Ms Dewhurst's colleague, Dr Katina Michael, chipped in $250 at the crucial moment in the auction to ensure Ms Dewhurst's win.

When asked if she could handle the immense task of running a university, Ms Dewhurst simply replied "absolutely".

"I'm a mother with five kids - I'll be fine," she said.

Prof Patterson, who is acting vice-chancellor while Prof Sutton is overseas, said he had a busy day planned for the interim VC.

"We were considering setting her an agenda of considering pay rises, rearranging the university, approving major university building programs and the like," he said.

"But we opted for a visit with the German consular general, morning tea with staff and discussing issues of paid maternity leave," he said.

Citation: Katelin McInerney, May 24, 2008, "Uni 'boss' finds top job relaxing, not taxing", Illawarra Mercury, p. 5.

MG Michael's Research on Uberveillance

Dr MG Michael with his new book From Dataveillance to Uberveillance and the Realpolitik of the Transparent Society. Picture: ANDY ZAKELI

Dr MG Michael with his new book From Dataveillance to Uberveillance and the Realpolitik of the Transparent Society. Picture: ANDY ZAKELI

Dr MG Michael, studies the social implications of technology, including the way governments can use it to intrude on the lives of citizens. The term ‘‘uberveillance’’ means an exaggerated surveillance of citizens, an above and beyond omnipresent 24/7 version using tracking technologies which are embedded within the body. Think of it as Big Brother on the inside, looking out.

It is an emerging area of information and communications technology which preoccupies me.

However, if the powers behind some of the intrusive surveillance technologies which I am studying do not pause to consider both the trajectory and consequences of the
new ‘‘machinery’’ they are building, then we are in for a bumpy ride and the effects will potentially be catastrophic.

I am not a naysayer per se, but that’s how I see things as they now stand. This is not to say that technology is not affording us some amazing and groundbreaking possibilities, especially in the areas of biomedics, communications and, of course, business information systems.

I am certainly not a neo-Luddite. But I do not buy into the glossy and predictably misleading publicity of where this ‘‘computer age’’ is supposedly taking us. I genuinely doubt, based on past and present evidence, that we are about to enter the cornucopia of an electric world.

On a more positive note, our work is about promoting discourse among the academic disciplines, the various sectors of the community and the public itself which is a critical and significant stakeholder in this discussion which is shaping both our immediate future and the civilisation to come.

I have been contemplating the social implications of technology from within an apocalyptic framework and narrative for almost 25 years, and have travelled the world during that time listening and speaking to recognised experts in their respective fields.

This group includes both religious persons and those who are firmly fixed to the empirical side of things. It is a truly extraordinary and revealing mix. People might be surprised with some of the points of agreement.

There are several strong connections between the desert and city that we often altogether miss, or choose to ignore.

My research focus extends to:

  • modern interpretations of scripture and the Apocalypse of John;
  • the historical antecedents of modern cryptography;
  • the auto-ID trajectory;
  • uberveillance and Big Brother;
  • data protection, privacy and ethics related issues;
  • biometrics, radio frequency identification and chip implants;
  • national security and government policy;
  • and more broadly the system dynamics between technology and society.

Each one of these subjects intensely fascinates me. There is a noticeable cross-disciplinary indication here; we are finding this more and more in perceived ‘‘monolithic’’ disciplines such as engineering and computer science.

My passion extends to teaching, writing papers, and presenting at conferences. But particularly teaching, above all else. 

I have been invited to present at international conferences and have published a number of papers in the disciplines of IT, bioethics, and biblical studies. More recently we have been given the honour to deliver a paper in the high profile 29th International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners which was held in Canada, alongside such keynotes as Michael Chertoff, Secretary, US Department of Homeland Security.

Dr MG Michael is an honorary fellow at the University of Wollongong’s School of Information Systems and Technology.


Best part of your research?

Sharing my work in class with my students at the University of Wollongong and listening to what they have to say; meeting and exchanging ideas with colleagues both locally and internationally; working closely with my wife, Dr Katina Michael, who is the driving force behind this funded research collaboration; and educating and regularly surprising myself with new bits of information and knowledge.

What did you want to be when you were a kid?

Lots of things! One of these, the dream to become a policeman, I actually fulfilled for a short period. I also liked to make believe that my bedroom was a spaceship and that I was an astronaut taking off into the heavens, heading for the Moon.

Has your career followed a straight line?

Positively not. I found myself in the IT world through an unbelievable twist of fate. I really am the proverbial ‘‘accidental tourist’’. In previous incarnations I have been a police officer, high-school teacher, soldier, and clergyman. I have moved about a bit and have found that institutional hierarchies and I do not always see eye-to-eye. I have a habit of asking too many questions! But there are other things which I think matter a whole lot more, and those things I have tried to let follow a straight line. However, like most people, I do not always succeed.

What would you change?

Ten years ago I probably would have said quite a few things; and five years prior to that a whole lot more. But I have increasingly come to the realisation that providence really does know best, and that all things do work together for good. We just need to hang in there.

Advice for young researchers:

Passion for your work; endurance in reaching your goals; humility with your successes; and the desire to become ‘‘builders’’. Also to read as many books as you can, to make this a life-long habit. Be predisposed to biographies. And to make sure that you surround yourselves with suitably qualified mentors. 

Next adventure:

Carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero. (Seize the day, trust least to the future).

Citation: MG Michael, "MG Michael's Research on Uberveillance", Illawarra Mercury, November 27, 2007.

Hi-tech versus Privacy

Hi-tech vs privacy



University of Wollongong senior lecturer Katina Michael researches the use of tracking technologies and their human impact. With the threat of terrorism prompting the increased use of technology to keep track of people, and talk of the reintroduction of a national ID card, KATINA MICHAEL, senior  lecturer at the University of Wollongong, researches these options with a view to their social impact.

I research emerging technologies targeted at mass market applications, and the social implications of these technologies on citizens and business. In 1996 I began researching smart cards and then in the following year expanded my interests to the wider automatic identification industry: bar code, magnetic-stripe card, biometrics, radio-frequency identification (RFID). In 2004, I further extended my research agenda to include location technologies such as global positioning systems (GPS), wireless local area networks, UHF, cellular triangulation, chip implants and geographic information  systems (GIS). 

My work explores the dynamics between technology and service providers,  customers, endusers (eg citizens) and government agencies in the process of technological innovation. I am particularly interested in the technological trajectory of the identification and location-based services (LBS) industry and use a historical method to analyse changes that have occurred over time. 

My predictive studies are based on the  current state of development and verifiable  cutting-edge research. My unit of analysis is multi-layered - the technology at the first  instance, then the application context, and finally the given product or process innovation.

Together with research students, I have developed the 3Cs and 3Ts classification of  location-based applications - Control, Care, Convenience and Tagging, Tracking, Tracing.
This approach lends itself well to usability contexts, used to analyse applications that are focused on identifying or locating objects, animals or people at varying levels of  location accuracy - from precision to proximity. 

More recently I have become interested in how emerging technologies impact social ethics and legislation. My work is aimed at influencing Australian government policy, and for that reason has broader applicability than just in the information technology sector alone.
Currently, the rekindling of the Australia Card debate, the controversial use of RFID and  Biometrics for ePassports, and the newly defined laws in telecommunications interception and anti-terrorism are important issues as they affect not only suspected terrorists and intercountry travellers but all citizens of Australia. 

Consider the 24x7 tracking of suspected terrorists or the obligatory adoption of card schemes mandated by the Government and enforced by law. The latter example appeals directly to the national security debate, in which I have been an active participant since completing my PhD. However, given the area of study, my research has as much applicability to national security as it does to the emergency management sector, as there are common approaches to aiding communication and collaboration using electronic and mobile business applications in either context. 

Perhaps my single-most passionate research area is looking at the development of the human-computer metaphor. I have been studying the implantation of chips into humans for a variety of applications, including for medical purposes. This topic brings together research from diverse fields including medical, robotics, automatic identification,  ubiquitous computing, technology trends, culture and ethics. 

Katina Michael is a senior lecturer in the School of Information Technology and Computer Science at the University of Wollongong.


Will it save the world?

No. The best most of us can hope for is that our research plays at least a small part in the wider context of a larger research project which is considered useful to society at large. 

Years spent trying:

My first minor research project began in July 1996 and was titled Social Implications of Smart Cards: an Australian Case Study. So I guess that means I have been researching in the field for about 10 years. Are you getting anywhere? Yes. Research however is a lifelong endeavour. 

Best part of your research? 

Without a doubt it is mentoring younger scholars, collaborating with colleagues, ongoing education and helping break new ground. Have you had a true ‘‘Eureka! I’ve found it!’’ experience? Yes - founding the concepts of ‘‘electrophorus’’ and ‘‘homoelectricus’’ with DrM G Michael while collaborating on a paper. I have also had a great number of ‘‘you  beaut’’ moments, particularly while supervising my research students. 

Has it made you rich?

Not in dollar terms, but rich in experience and  perspective. What did you want to be when you were a kid? I never quite knew what I wanted  to be when I was growing up, although I liked studying English, writing poetry and being a part of theatrical productions all through primary and high school. I never set out to be an academic until after I left my previous workplace. It happened quite unexpectedly. 

Has your career followed a straight line?

I do not think I’ve had the normal academic career path, although I did a Bachelor’s degree followed by a PhD in close succession. When I finished my undergraduate studies, I had discounted further research as an option, until my husband encouraged me to work and study at the same time. It was tough but well worth it. I used my annual leave to hack away at my thesis. One of the toughest things I faced was maintaining  focus on the same research question after long periods away from the university campus but I  was passionate about my PhD topic and in the end that is what got me through the very late  nights and long haul. 

Advice for young researchers:

Persistence, hard work, integrity and passion for learning and sharing. Website:

Citation: Katina Michael, "Hi-Tech vs Privacy", Illawarra Mercury, October 31, 2006.