Data Expert Warns Encryption Laws could have Catastrophic Outcomes

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A University of Wollongong data expert has labeled the government's proposed encryption laws delusional and warns they could have catastrophic consequences.

The changes would force technology companies to help police access encrypted messages.

Professor Katina Michael, from the School of Computing and Information Technology says the powers are unprecedented and have no oversight.

She is speaking to ABC reporter Kelly Fuller.

Citation: Katina Michael with Kelly Fuller, “Rushed Encryption Laws Herald a Watering Down in National Security”, ABC Illawarra: Radio, 6 December 2018, https://soundcloud.com/kelfuller/data-expert-warns-encryption-laws-could-have-catastrophic-outcomes

National Security Risks Associated with the Strava App

The Strava App story seems to have mesmerised readers worldwide. Understandably so. People as sensors is a concept that has gathered momentum in the fields of location-based services, social media and crowdsourcing applications. In 2003, I recognised the potential of GPS/GIS and ran a study titled Spatial Database National Australian (S-DNA) that was funded by the University of Wollongong. Here are some of the first outcomes of the work, that later grew to be funded by the Australian Research Council as a Discovery Project:

Source: https://gadgets.ndtv.com/apps/news/australian-military-says-strava-tracking-app-doesnt-breach-security-1806287

Biometric data from driver's licences added to government database

your face used to track you by government.jpg

Your face is becoming the latest weapon in the world of digital surveillance, and the humble driver's licence looms as a game-changer in tracking individuals through both the real and virtual world.

Experts warn your biometric data may already be vulnerable to misuse by criminals and terrorists, as the proliferation of mobile cameras combined with social media and ubiquitous CCTV feeds mean we're caught on screen more than ever before.

Key points

  • Biometric data builds an online profile using your photo, age and address
  • This can then be matched against photos gathered from the internet or CCTV
  • The data can be used by government agencies, along with companies and criminals

Driver's licences will be added to the Commonwealth Government's already vast biometric databases after it struck an agreement with the states and territories, handing authorities access to an unprecedented level of information about citizens.

A system known as "the interoperability Hub" is already in place in Australia, allowing agencies to take an image from CCTV and other media and run it against a national database of passport pictures of Australian citizens — a process known as "The Capability".

But soon driver's licences will be added to the system, allowing both government and private entities to access your photo, age and address.

It is a $21 million system being sold as a way to tackle terrorism and make commercial services more secure.

But experts warn people now risk losing control of their biometric identity entirely as commercial interests, governments and organised crime gangs all move to capture more personal metadata for their own gain.

Driver's licences change the biometric game

Technology and legal expert Professor Katina Michael said about 50 per cent of the population already had some kind of visual biometric stored in a nationally-accessible database, but the inclusion of drivers licenses would see the proportion of Australians scooped up in the net swell to about 80 per cent.

She said one of the biggest risks of the collection of biometric data was not deliberate misuse by the AFP, ASIO or another government agency, but rather vulnerabilities in the way biometrics work.

Who can access your biometric data?

Document Verification Service (DVS) - government and private sector

  • Companies and government can run an identity document through a database to see if it matches information held on file, and that the document has not been revoked
  • Individual must consent before DVS used

Face Verification Service (FVS) - government and private sector

  • Enables a facial image of an individual to be compared against government records of that same individual, such as passports and drivers licences
  • Individual must consent or a legislative basis must be established to collect the information, and use must comply with the Privacy Act

Face Identification Service (FIS) - only law enforcement agencies can use

  • A facial image can be compared against multiple facial images held on a government database, including Australian citizens' passport photos and now driver's licences.
  • Multiple records of people who have a close match to the image are usually returned
  • An agency must have a legislative basis or authority to collect and use the information
  • Access is restricted to law enforcement agencies or those with national security related functions

"It's not like a one-on-one match, where you put (in) an individual's face and say: 'they're a suspect'," Professor Michael said.

"But rather what you get returned is a number of possibilities … you might get back 15, or 20, or 30, or 50 matches.

So you might have 50 innocent people being suspects, rather than the person that you're trying to catch

Professor Michael said this meant that while over time a person's name might be cleared, their data could remain in a database linked to a criminal investigation.

"And then I'm thinking, what happens to their level of innocence as time goes on, because they accidentally look like a minority group?" she said.

She said real criminals and terrorists would opt out of the system, choosing not to have passports and driver's licenses in a bid to escape the net.

"Of course, if you've done nothing wrong, the old adage says you're fine. But increasingly, we don't know if we're fine," she said.

The rise of 'uberveillance'

Professor Michael said modern surveillance methods employed by law enforcement were not just limited to CCTV — they now incorporated vast amounts of metadata and social media, leading to a concept known as "uberveillance" in which people were constantly monitored.

"What we have now are digital footprints that we all leave behind," she said.

"Phone call records, internet searches, credit cards and even the data on your electronic train or bus ticket can be used to track your movements and activity.

"It brings together all these various touchpoints, telecommunications records, travel data via tokens, facial recognition on federal databases, your tax file number … that's accessible depending on the level of crime and social media.

"You've got this very rich almost cradle-to-grave kind of data set that's following you."

We asked if you were concerned about driver's licenses being added to a biometric database.

 

Organised criminals want your identity

Stephen Wilson runs Lockstep Consulting, a Sydney-based firm which researches and tracks trends in biometrics in the corporate and government spheres, and advises clients on best-practice.

He said at the moment very secure biometric systems took quite a long time to process images accurately.

Problems arose when consumer convenience, such as being able to unlock a phone or access a bank account with a quick face or fingerprint scan, trumped security.

"No police force, no public service, no business is ever perfect, there is always going to be corrupt people," Mr Wilson said.

"The more exposure we have to electronic databases, the more exposure we have to biometric matching, it's only a matter of time before these bad actors succumb to temptation or they succumb to corruption and they wind up using these systems inappropriately."

Your biometric twin is out there

VIDEO: Professor says nothing to fear from federal driver's license database (ABC News)

Mr Wilson said biometrics were creeping into consumer services like bank accounts and online betting facilities, with customers asked to send a picture of their licence and a "selfie" that will be run through an identity matching service.

"The real risk is that bad actors will take people's photos, ask for a match, and get back a series of matches of people that are kind of like your biometric twin," he said.

"We've all got doppelgangers, we've all got people in public that look just like us.

"If you're trying to perpetrate a crime, if you're organised crime, and you're trying for example to produce a fake driver's licence, it's absolute gold for you to be able to come up with a list of photos that look like 'Steve Wilson'."

Technology companies like Apple and Samsung have championed the use of biometrics such as fingerprints, and this has taken a step further with facial recognition becoming more common thanks to the release of the iPhone X.

PHOTO: Apple's iPhone X has championed facial recognition technology. (Twitter: AppleEventos)

However Mr Wilson said a key difference was that information stayed on the phone, while banking and other commercial interests trying to use your biometrics to confirm your identity could be storing it on a server anywhere.

"Do you really want your photo, which is a pretty precious resource, sent off to a company perhaps on the other side of the world just so you can get a quick bank account or quick betting service set up?" he asked.

What will happen next?

An annual industry survey conducted by the Biometrics Institute, known as the Industry Trend Tracker, has nominated facial recognition as the biometric trend most likely to increase over the next few years.

Respondents believed privacy and data protection concerns were the biggest constraint on the market, followed by poor knowledge of decision makers, misinformation about biometrics and opposition from privacy advocates.

The Australian law reform commission says biometric systems increasingly are being used or contemplated by organisations, including in methadone programs, taxi booking services, ATMs and online banking, and access to buildings

Dr Michael said governments needed to be very cautious about how they applied this rich new source of data in the future.

She said governments were building these agreements between themselves and corporations in a bid to stamp out fraud, but that goal was not always achieved and the potential for mistakes was vast.

"What we have is this matching against datasets, trying to find the needle in the haystack," she said.

"Often what happens is we don't find the needle."

A statement from the Department of Home Affairs said the Australian Government was exploring making the Face Verification Service available to the private sector, but nothing had started at this point.

It said arrangements for private sector access would be informed by an independent privacy impact assessment and those using it would need to demonstrate their lawful basis to do so under the privacy act and where they had gained consent to use a person's image.

 

Source: Rebecca Trigger, January 15, 2018, "Experts sound alarm as biometric data from driver's licences added to government database", ABC News, http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-01-15/alarm-raised-as-drivers-licences-added-to-government-database/9015484

Reprinted in The New Daily here: https://thenewdaily.com.au/news/national/2018/01/15/biometric-data-drivers-licences-government-database/

Furthermore, an interview with Professor Brian Lovell from the University of Queensland on the ABC further demystifies facial biometrics and the government's use of The Capability: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-01-15/professor-says-nothing-to-fear-from-federal/9330626

 

Facial Recognition and Scope Creep in Australian Proposal

'Before we know it…': worries over feature creep

But surveillance expert Professor Katina Michael pointed to an established trend of technology creeping up in scope and said The Capability would be no exception.

She expected the system to slide down a slippery slope of privacy erosion, eventually being used for petty crime, civil cases and a whole range of purposes unrelated to terrorism.

"It's a farce," she said.

"Before we know it'll be used for breath tests and speeding, it will be used to open a bank account … licences are our primary ID — so does that mean everywhere we've been using them for identity, all the clubs and pubs, will have access to it?

"Even car insurance — [people will think] 'we are using it for drivers' licences, maybe we should also use it for third-party compulsory insurance. And then we need it for health insurance'."

Your face 'may end up on some third-party selling list'

Ms Michael was equally concerned about systematic errors causing potential mistaken identities and leading to people being wrongly accused or suspected of crime.

"It's not going to take long for these systems to be hacked, no matter what security you have in place and once it's hacked, that's it — everyone's facial images will end up on some third-party selling list and possibly on the internet for accessibility."

"Yeah, people put photos on Facebook, but not in that kind of systematic, calculated way.

"Some Australian citizens are going to be completely freaked out."

Original Source: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-10-05/facial-recognition-coag-privacy-concerns-about-the-capability/9017494

Citation: Jake Evans and Clare Sibthorpe, "Facial recognition: Feature creep may impose government's software in our lives, expert warns", ABC News, October 5, 2017. Available: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-10-05/facial-recognition-coag-privacy-concerns-about-the-capability/9017494

Personal Information Entrusted to Government Leaked to the Public

Podcast available here 

Centrelink and Veterans Leak Sources:

Summary

https://theconversation.com/how-the-law-allows-governments-to-publish-your-private-information-74304

Robo-Debt

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-03-21/how-centrelink-can-win-back-trust-after-the-robo-debt-debacle/8372788

http://www.canberratimes.com.au/national/public-service/centrelink-robodebt-government-pledges-fairer-deal-after-backlash-20170214-gucz6t.html

http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/centrelinks-robodebt-creating-a-climate-of-fear-20170307-gut1z7.html

http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/not-good-enough-labor-slams-centrelink-robodebt-changes-20170215-guda4r.html

Centrelink Leak

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-02-28/watchdog-inquiries-after-centrelink-leaked-personal-information/8310034

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-03-03/centrelink-debt:-senate-concerned-about-impact-of-dhs-releases/8321478

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-03-01/centrelink-clients-advised-personal-information-no-longer-safe/8313924

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-01-17/labor-calls-for-suspension-of-centrelink-debt-recovery-program/8187934

https://www.businessinsider.com.au/centrelinks-crude-new-data-matching-system-falsely-claims-people-owe-large-amounts-of-money-2017-1

Veterans Leak

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/latest-news/labor-backs-law-on-veteran-information/news-story/3b639743bd77dc5cb83337e075e30fd8http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-03-02/government-wants-new-power-to-release-veterans-personal-info/8320268

http://www.news.com.au/national/politics/personal-medical-and-financial-documents-leaked-by-vets-affairs/news-story/bcdd3410b497f4175bb02faa77f9616e

http://www.illawarramercury.com.au/story/4519232/veterans-anger-over-personal-information-laws-prompt-privacy-review/?cs=12

Laws

Privacy Act 1998 Overview https://www.oaic.gov.au/privacy-law/privacy-act/

Privacy Act 1998 Quick Ref. https://www.oaic.gov.au/agencies-and-organisations/guides/app-quick-reference-tool#toc

Social Security Act 1991 http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/cth/consol_act/ssa1991186/

Veterans Affairs Legislation Amendment (Digital Readiness and Other Measures Bill 2017) http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Bills_Legislation/Bills_Search_Results/Result?bId=r5771

Data matching program: https://www.humanservices.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/co050-200710-1105en.pdf

Australian Privacy Principles include:

APP 1 — Open and transparent management of personal information

APP 2 — Anonymity and pseudonymity

APP 3 — Collection of solicited personal information

APP 4 — Dealing with unsolicited personal information

APP 5 — Notification of the collection of personal information

APP 6 — Use or disclosure of personal information

APP 7 — Direct marketing

APP 8 — Cross-border disclosure of personal information

APP 9 — Adoption, use or disclosure of government related identifiers

APP 10 — Quality of personal information

APP 11 — Security of personal information

APP 12 — Access to personal information

APP 13 — Correction of personal information

 

Citation: Katina Michael speaks with Trevor Chappell "The release of personal files from Centrelink and Veterans Affairs to journalists recently and some of the ramifications of this", ABC Radio - Overnights http://www.abc.net.au/radio/programs/overnights/. Producer Michael Pavlich. 4.20am-5am, 22 March 2017.

Women Cops Should Join Hands to Fight Crime’

Hyderabad: The international conference, a first of its kind, on ‘Women in Law Enforcement’, jointly organised by the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel National Police Academy(SVPNPA) and the Charles Sturt University (CSU), Australia started here on Tuesday with Aruna Bahuguna, director, SVPNPA, urging all women officers to build on breakthroughs achieved by women pioneers. In her inaugural address, she said that “as today’s world has shrunk into a global village and crime and terrorism sweep across continents, it is but logical that women law enforcers join hands to fight crime- be it terrorism, technology or radicalization.” Introducing the conference, Professor Tracey Green of CSU, Australia, emphasized that this was a unique opportunity for networking at every level from global, regional to national scale on many key aspects of policing from organized crime, border security, terrorism and radicalization and counter radicalisation. Chris Elstoft, Deputy High Commissioner, Australian High Commission, touched upon the long-standing relationship between Australia and India.

“We have been collaborating and working on a range of transnational issues related to money laundering and counter terrorism to name a few and this conference is yet another milestone that we have achieved coalescing the issue of women policing and gender equality.” Elaborating further, Professor Green stated that “terrorism worldwide demonstrates the need to strengthen global response in the critical areas of investigation. Technology: A Double-edged Sword Speaking on the benefits and harms of National Security Technology, Associate Professor Katina Michael, who has been researching on security technology for over 16 years, of University of Wollongong in Australia said technology’s pervasiveness can be hideous. Speaking about micro-chipping people embracing the technology into one’s body, she touched upon India’s Aadhaar-unique identity cards. According to her, keeping upto the pace of change in technology one forgets the basic needs. “What is the need for collecting biometrics of 1.2 billion people, without a legislation, when the country already has a national registry. Wait till a hacker takes your identity and how you would not be able to reclaim your identity,” she warned of a concept called ‘Identity theft’.

Women as agents of de-radicalisation Gulmina Bilal Ahmad,an independent researcher from Pakistan, speaking about the radicalisation related tendencies in her country, pointed out how women police force could be used in counter-radicalising terrorist activities. According to her, evidences suggest that certain militant organisations use specific messages targeting women groups, youth and children oriented groups. She said a certain militant group in SWAT were recruiting militants through a radio station talking about social justice that resonated with majority population. She reiterated that women police personnel who form less than one per cent of Pakistan police force and remain largely un-utilised should be used as de-radicalisation agents by engaging youngsters in dialogue. Higher ranks & not Numbers matter While pointing out that the representation of female police officers in International Police Force was higher and has reached an all-high of 44 per cent in Interpol, Dr Saskia Hufnagel of Queen Mary University London, said “It is not enough to improve the numbers of women in police force, what we need to do is to ensure that women make it to the higher ranks.”

Citation: Staff, 7 October 2015, ‘Women Cops Should Join Hands to Fight Crime’, New Indian Express.

Uberveillance on Flipboard

MG Michael and I do not know the creators of this Flipboard: https://flipboard.com/@unsecurity/uberveillance-190rhkgiz that utilises the UBERVEILLANCE meme. One thing is for certain they gather some of the world's most relevant stories in relationship to the broader theme of uberveillance. The issues are organised by @unsecurity @mikeal0102 and @mlcp (Doris Cook).

Are disaster early warnings effective?

Key Link

Authors

Kerri WorthingtonSBS Radio
Katina MichaelUniversity of Wollongong
Peter JohnsonARUP
Paul BarnesQueensland University of Technology

Article comments

Details can be found here: http://www.sbs.com.au/podcasts/Podcasts/radionews/episode/251657/Are-disaster-early-warnings-effective

Abstract

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Australia's summer is traditionally a time of heightened preparation for natural disasters, with cyclones and floods menacing the north and bushfires a constant threat in the south. And the prospect of more frequent, and more intense, disasters thanks to climate change has brought the need for an effective early warning system to the forefront of policy-making. Technological advances and improved telecommunication systems have raised expectations that warning of disasters will come early enough to keep people safe. But are those expectations too high? Kerri Worthington reports.

Increasingly, the world's governments -- and their citizens -- rely on technology-based early warning systems to give sufficient notice to prepare for disaster. The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that killed well over a quarter of a million people led to the establishment of an early warning system for countries bordering the ocean. Last year, Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono praised the system for warning people to prepare for a possible tsunami after an 8.6 magnitude quake in the ocean floor northwest of the country. Japan's years of preparedness is also credited for saving lives in the 2011 earthquake and subsequent tsunami.

In Australia, the Federal Government has instigated an 'all-hazards' approach to early warnings, including terrorist acts as well as natural disasters, in the wake of a number of international terrorist attacks that affected Australians. Professor Katina Michael of the University of Wollongong specialises in technologies used for national security. Professor Michael has praised Australia's location-based national emergency warning system which allows service providers to reach people in hazardous or disaster areas, locating them through their mobile devices. "And that's a real new innovation for the Australian capability which I think is among the first in the world to actually venture into that mandated approach to location warning of individuals. And this allows people who are visiting a location, maybe working in a location they're not residing in, or maybe enjoying recreation activities in a location to be warned about a hazard." But there are concerns those systems can breed complacency.

Peter Johnson is a fellow at Arup, a global firm of designers, planners, engineers and technical specialists. "There is a concern about people in communities being too reliant just on official warnings to trigger actions. There's people in the community who think 'well I don't need to do anything, I just have to wait and someone will tell me what to do' and ignore the personal responsibility for their response and actions, so that's an issue. There's another issue about official warnings in some cases may come too late in flash floods or days of very high fire danger and rapid spread."

Mr Johnson says warnings need to be timely and relevant, with minimal false alarms to avoid 'warning fatigue', where people ignore alerts. That's an issue Victoria's County Fire Authority is currently grappling with. It's come under criticism after hundreds of people reported its FireReady app for mobile devices that gives location of fires and fire conditions, has proven to be unreliable. Many Victorians are anxious about early warning of impending fires, after many were taken by surprise -- with some fatal consequences -- in the Black Saturday fires of 2009. Fire experts say it's important not to rely only on one source of information for disaster warnings. And Peter Johnson says government bodies need to set warnings within an overall emergency management context. "We need the risk knowledge, we need the planning, the pre-event information and the broad season warnings and alerting us to days of flooding or total fire ban. Equally we need to understand, and probably better understand, the response of people and communities to those warnings and what actions are taking place."

Paul Barnes, the coordinator of the Risk and Crisis Management Research Domain at the Queensland University of Technology, agrees early warning policies need to be part of a broader risk and hazard communication capability. "When we have natural and socio-technical disasters often we start with the natural phenomena, the natural threat. We had seismic activity, earthquakes in Japan, bushfires, flooding in Australia. But very quickly the impacts from that initial source impact on technical hazards, technical issues, so we lose infrastructure systems, we lose telephony. We also therefore have, in some cases, biological problems in terms of water supply being contaminated." Dr Barnes says often what starts out to be one type of problem quickly cascades into others, and information about ongoing issues needs to be communicated to the public. "Once the initial event occurs, there will be an ongoing need to have continuing types of information flow to the public about cascading elements and the connective elements of these sorts of impacts as they go through time. So the basic principle of the complexity of the situation and matching the sophistication and adaptability of information that needs to go to the public, and also those not affected -- emergency responders, government officials, etc -- is a very complex situation that requires some very sophisticated application of thinking."

Suggested Citation

Kerri Worthington, Katina Michael, Peter Johnson, and Paul Barnes. "Are disaster early warnings effective?" SBS Radio: World News Jan. 2013. Available at: http://works.bepress.com/kmichael/318

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.

 

Govt launches security research network

The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet has sponsored a new online directory Australia's security professionals and academia, which aims to highlight leaders in the
industry.

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The National Security Research Directory is a brain's trust of hundreds of experts operating in a burgeoning list of fields across IT security, biometrics and counter-terrorism.

It includes research topic areas such as applied cryptography, physical security and "ubervelliance" — a system with the ability to automatically locate and identify individuals and predict their movements.

Nominated researchers must be members of the Research Network Secure Australia and clear its professional background checks. 

Deputy national security advisor Margot McCarthy said the network will tighten coordination on matters of national security in the public and private sectors.

McCarthy also announced the National Security Advisor's Group within the Department of the Prime Minster and Cabinet, which will report directly to the National Security chief information officer, Rachael Noble, on issues including cybersecurity.

Citation: Darren Pauli, "Govt launches security research network", ZDNet.comhttp://www.zdnet.com/govtlaunches-security-research-network-1339306227/

What is Uberveillance? IEEE Technology News

Uberveillance, a newly emerging term in the name of national security, refers to surveillance that applies across all space and all time and supports some organisation that is omniscient, at least relative to some person or object. Uberveillance insists on embedding the surveillance mechanism within the person or object to be monitored and sends the report to the monitoring organisation periodically or continuously. With this will our society become more safe to live in or will it be heading towards self-destruction through the denial of the very freedoms of individuals?

IEEE Staff. "What is uberveillance?" IEEE Technology News, August 6, 2010.

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, https://works.bepress.com/mgmichael/36/

Humans 'will be implanted with microchips'

All Australians could be implanted with microchips for tracking and identification within the next two or three generations, a prominent academic says. 

This VeriChip microchip contains identity and health information and is embedded under the skin. (AAP)

This VeriChip microchip contains identity and health information and is embedded under the skin. (AAP)

Michael G Michael from the University of Wollongong's School of Information Systems and Technology, has coined the term "uberveillance" to describe the emerging trend of all- encompassing surveillance.

"Uberveillance is not on the outside looking down, but on the inside looking out through a microchip that is embedded in our bodies," Dr Michael told ninemsn. 

Microchips are commonly implanted into animals to reveal identification details when scanned and similar devices have been used with Alzheimers patients. US company VeriChip is already using implantable microchips, which store a 16-digit unique identification number, on humans for medical purposes. 

"Our focus is on high-risk patients, and our product's ability to identify them and their medical records in an emergency," spokesperson Allison Tomek said. "We do not know when or if someone will develop an implantable microchip with GPS technology, but it is not an application we are pursuing."

Another form of uberveillance is the use of bracelets worn by dangerous prisoners which use global positioning systems to pinpoint their movements. But Dr Michael said the technology behind uberveillance would eventually lead to a black box small enough to fit on a tiny microchip and implanted in our bodies. 

This could also allow someone to be located in an emergency or for the identification of corpses after a large scale disaster or terrorist attack. "This black box will then be a witness to our actual movements, words — perhaps even our thoughts —-and play a similar role to the black box placed in an aircraft," he said. 

He also predicted that microchip implants and their infrastructure could eliminate the need for e-passports, etags, and secure ID cards. "Microchipping I think will eventually become compulsory in the context of identification within the frame of national security," he said.
Although uberveillance was only in its early phases, Dr Michael's wife, Katina Michael — a senior lecturer from UOW's School of Information Systems and Technology — said the ability to track and identify any individual was already possible.

"Anyone with a mobile phone can be tracked to 15m now," she said, pointing out that most mobile phone handsets now contained GPS receivers and radio frequency identification (RFID) readers. "The worst scenario is the absolute loss of human rights," she said. 

Wisconsin, North Dakota and four other states in the US have already outlawed the use of enforced microchipping. "Australia hasn't got specific regulations addressing these applications," she said. "We need to address the potential for misuse by amending privacy laws to ensure personal data protection."

Uberveillance has been nominated for Macquarie Dictionary's Word of the Year 2008.

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Citation: Josephine Asher, "Humans 'will be implanted with microchips'", ninemsn.com, January 30, 2009.

Addendum: The following comment was provided but was not included in the final production of the article for reasons of space and readability. I provide here regardless.

  • "Technology is not foolproof. That’s one of the paradoxes of these surveillance systems," Katina Michael said. "Our ethical and legislative discourse lags far behind the diffusion and application of location based services. "There needs to be some public discourse and debate."

  • Dr Katina Michael recently received a grant from the Australian Research Council to research and propose new regulations to address these new technologies. "Implants is only one small component of the research - the main things we’re investigating relate to consumer mobile location records and data protection, socio-ethical dilemmas related to social networking applications based on the tracking of other human beings and privacy.

  • "Where do we stop and where do we begin? We have to be very careful at this early point as the new capabilities and their effects on society are relatively untested," Katina said.