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UK's MI5 Wants Oyster Card Travel Data

Soulskill posted more than 6 years ago | from the you-can-trust-us dept.

Privacy 291

Boiled Frog from a Nation of Suspects writes "The Oyster card, an RFID single-swipe card (which was recently cracked), was introduced to London's public transport users purportedly to make their lives easier. Now, British Intelligence services want some of the benefits by trawling through the travel data amassed by the card to spy on the 17 million Britons who use it. The article notes, "Currently the security services can demand the Oyster records of specific individuals under investigation to establish where they have been, but cannot trawl the whole database. But supporters of calls for more sharing of data argue that apparently trivial snippets — like the journeys an individual makes around the capital — could become important pieces of the jigsaw when fitted into a pattern of other publicly held information on an individual's movements, habits, education and other personal details. That could lead, they argue, to the unmasking of otherwise undetected suspects."

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291 comments

Acid Test (5, Interesting)

WarwickRyan (780794) | more than 6 years ago | (#22766102)

They should make records like this for all MPs and their families pubically available, updated daily and hosted on the interweb.

After 6 months, they can decide if they *REALLY* want the intelligence services (and anyone who picks an MI5 laptop up on a train) to have the same.

That's not good enough. (4, Insightful)

inTheLoo (1255256) | more than 6 years ago | (#22766342)

People in power really don't have as much to hide. Political dissidents, on the other hand, have to watch out for reprisals. Would you risk having anything to do with an opposition group if you knew your affiliation would be noted? Symmetry of information is not always the same as symmetry of power.

The best way to oppose this is to note that there's no real law enforcement benefit.

Re:That's not good enough. (4, Interesting)

MoonFog (586818) | more than 6 years ago | (#22766378)

People in power really don't have as much to hide? I know of a certain New York governor that is evidence to the contrary, and I don't really believe he's a one of a kind.

Re:That's not good enough. (2)

mi (197448) | more than 6 years ago | (#22766536)

Well, his case is an argument for transparency, rather than against it...

Re:That's not good enough. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22766546)

Politician's careers can be seriously damaged or even sunk on a single incident of sexual misconduct, a single drug offense, a few suspicious meetings with unpopular corporate or special interests, and a million other things. If we could actually have travel and/or communications data on our leaders, free and clear of interference, it would be a wonderful way to keep them in check. However, it is impractical because the same power disparity that makes this desirable means that there is no chance in hell of us actually receiving accurate information about them - if we got anything it would likely have been scrubbed clean.

Re:That's not good enough. (3, Interesting)

jgarra23 (1109651) | more than 6 years ago | (#22766790)


People in power really don't have as much to hide.

Wow, that is the most naive statement I've heard in well... as long as I can remember!

Re:Acid Test (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 6 years ago | (#22766604)

That's already happening, it's known as tabloids.

Everyone is a suspect then. (4, Insightful)

Mactrope (1256892) | more than 6 years ago | (#22766106)

What the honest hope to unmask is criminals by considering everyone a suspect.

What they will do is discover and harass political opposition. Dark times for the UK.

Re:Everyone is a suspect then. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22766160)

Nah, what they'll do is turn the UK into the 21st century's version of East Germany. Everyone will spy on everyone else, no one will be innocent. Everyone is already a suspect.

Re:Everyone is a suspect then. (3, Interesting)

Mactrope (1256892) | more than 6 years ago | (#22766278)

It will be worse than E. Germany, so it must be stopped now. Amateur law enforcement through paranoid informants [boingboing.net] is a part of any police state but centralized tracking like this was beyond the means of E. Germany and other previous tyrannies. The other thing that makes it worse is that there's no large free state left for escape or rescue. Once the ability to identify and quash dissidents is established, the laws will be changed to make it easier to round them up.

If they have their way, there will be no way to travel in the UK that can't be tracked. Roads and air are already tracked, now they are going for rail. Dissidents will be locked to stone age techniques of walking/biking to meetings where no one can carry a cell phone.

Re:Everyone is a suspect then. (1)

milsoRgen (1016505) | more than 6 years ago | (#22766906)

stone age techniques of walking/biking
Oh darn, having to utilize two of the most highly efficient methods of travel truly is worrying!

Re:Everyone is a suspect then. (1)

jgarra23 (1109651) | more than 6 years ago | (#22766816)


What the honest hope to unmask is criminals by considering everyone a suspect.
What they will do is discover and harass political opposition. Dark times for the UK.

Wow and people call my country (USA) oppressive! Makes me glad I'm not there... OTOH, I remember the complaints centuries ago when the US would complain about taxation without representation, the Brits would complain that they still had to pay more than us, that doesn't make it right! Nowadays we Americans are complaining aobut gas when the Brits are paying upwards of 7$/gallon, well I have news for you Brits, that doesn't make it right!! Just because you're getting screwed more than us that doesn't make it right that we're still getting screwed, albeit less than you! Now our rights are being eroded though at a lesser rate than the Brits... I have news for you...

Hopefully someday we in America will stop screwing ourselves at a lesser rate than GB and perhaps all together...

Re:Everyone is a suspect then. (1, Interesting)

cheesethegreat (132893) | more than 6 years ago | (#22766846)

Look, I'm all for privacy. Seriously, I'm a big fan. But help me out here...how will access to the Oyster card database enable them to "harass political opposition".

This gives the police/security service NO additional powers to detain/charge individuals. There's a big difference between having access to information and being given new ways of acting on the information. This doesn't give them access to any information which isn't already discoverable in the public domain. I could hire a PI to follow you around and accumulate a log of all your rail usage which would be identical to your Oyster log. It's not something you're doing in private, so why should it be protected?

Let's focus on privacy and the rights of individuals. But let's do it by restricting the powers of police/security services to intervene in our lives, and to discover what we do in our own home.

Besides, there's almost no chance that they'll discover anything useful in the mass of white noise of the Oyster network.

*sigh* (5, Insightful)

theaceoffire (1053556) | more than 6 years ago | (#22766116)

"That could lead, they argue, to the unmasking of otherwise undetected suspects."

Translated: We want to be able to spy on you. We are not sure why yet.

Re: *sigh* (2, Insightful)

chuckymonkey (1059244) | more than 6 years ago | (#22766174)

Smile! Your're on database!

Re: *sigh* (1)

Threni (635302) | more than 6 years ago | (#22766406)

They probably already do, and this is just a public thing. It would hardly be hard to them to have someone work for the company concerned, or access the computer systems involved.

Re: *sigh* (2, Insightful)

fastest fascist (1086001) | more than 6 years ago | (#22766460)

I think they mean it would lead to "the suspicion of otherwise innocent subjects", where "subject" is used the way a feodal lord would have used the word.

Re: *sigh* (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 6 years ago | (#22766634)

Doesn't the UK still have the "subject of the British Empire" thing?

Re: *sigh* (2, Informative)

Tony Hoyle (11698) | more than 6 years ago | (#22766710)

Nah you got it backwards.

The British Empire contains subjects. We're all subjects of the Queen.

OTOH she doesn't have a lot of power in practice - in theory she appoints the prime minister and the cabinet, and could unilaterally dismiss the government.. the army also swear allegience to her so they couldn't exactly stop her. In reality that just isn't going to happen. No monarch has dismissed an elected prime minister since 1834.

Re: *sigh* (1)

Tony Hoyle (11698) | more than 6 years ago | (#22766752)

Oh and of course because the's the head of the army she can unilaterally declare war on France, for example. Again this is unlikely.

She can no longer order the death penalty (no more 'off with his head!' :p). The death penalty for 'arson in the royal dockyards' was abolished in 1971. The death penalty for treason was abolished in 1988, just before the signing of the human rights act.

Re: *sigh* (1)

struansemail (1178835) | more than 6 years ago | (#22766726)

No, not since the early 1980s.

Re: *sigh* (2, Funny)

WolfWithoutAClause (162946) | more than 6 years ago | (#22766512)

You've got a slight mistake there. "We want to be able to spy on you even more. We are not sure why yet, but we'll probably think of something vaguely plausible sounding."

Oh look MI5 wants a pony (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22766144)

You can't have one until you show you are responsible enough to look after it

D Filter error: You can type more than that for yo (2, Interesting)

a whoabot (706122) | more than 6 years ago | (#22766150)

Would the anonymised version of the data be any help to them? They could have all the travel data but not tied to any actual names but just to the anonymous IDs of the cards, and then if that data implicates one of the anonymous travellers, or if there's a reason to belief one of those are tied to a suspect, they could get a warrant or something like that for the name tied to it?

Two problems with that (4, Insightful)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 6 years ago | (#22766184)

First, apparently what they are asking for is not "anonymized" data. Second, as was very clearly demonstrated by the AOL data-release scandal, it is sometimes possible to get an awful lot of personal data on people by putting enough "anonymous" data together.

Re:D Filter error: You can type more than that for (1)

plover (150551) | more than 6 years ago | (#22766372)

Not that I want them to proceed with a plan like this, but anonymising it's a good idea, at least from the standpoint of selling it to the MPs. Think about plotting a graph of a suspect's travels. Now, compare that against a similar graph of everybody else's travels. You don't need the names of everybody else in order to compute their graphs or perform the comparisons. But once you find a set of suitable matches, then you can start more closely examining only those particular people.

Of course anyone with even a tiny measure of tradecraft will not synchronize their travels with co-conspirators, and the crazies they've been dealing with are all receiving enough training to take simple countermeasures. They'll disembark from other stations and walk the remaining distances. They won't travel at the exact same times, or will put extra time on the beginning and/or ends of their trips.

Anyway, this map is going to be so vast as to be utterly worthless -- adding 500,000 people to the suspect list just because they happen to have work schedules that match the conspirators' meeting times just isn't going to help anyone.

Re:D Filter error: You can type more than that for (2, Informative)

fastest fascist (1086001) | more than 6 years ago | (#22766616)

Why does the system need to collect any personally identifiable data in the first place? Apart from the obvious surveillance uses, that is.

Incidentally, in Helsinki the public transport system uses an electronic pay card system, which is also used to create statistics on travel for use by the transport authority in designing their services. This data used to be personally identifiable, and was indeed used by the police to track the movements of the Myyrmanni bomber prior to the bombing. [wikipedia.org] There was a bit of a fuss about this, however, and nowadays the system can no longer be used to track the movements of any given individual. Or that is what they say, anyway.

Re:D Filter error: You can type more than that for (4, Informative)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 6 years ago | (#22766734)

There are two versions of the Oyster Card. The kind most commuters have is tied to a credit card. Whenever it becomes empty, it is automatically topped up. The other kind (which I have) can be bought for cash (technically I think it's a deposit and can be returned if you give the card back) and topped up for cash. When it is empty it stops working until you put more credit on it (by credit card or cash). If you ever top it up with a credit card then they can presumably tie your name to the card.

It's a silly thing to ask for, since any terrorist who isn't a complete idiot is likely to use the anonymous version. Of course, anyone willing to blow themselves up is probably some kind of idiot to start with...

Re:D Filter error: You can type more than that for (3, Insightful)

digitig (1056110) | more than 6 years ago | (#22766702)

It's already anonymous if you want it to be. You can buy an Oyster card over the counter for cash without giving any personal details. You can optionally register the card, so you can top up the pre-pay online and so on, in which case it ceases to be anonymous, but the default is anonymous.

Of course, if you really have something to hide, you buy individual tickets, which would only be traceable with a lot of work correlating the CCTV images (no change from the present). Ok, it's £4 per Zone 1 journey instead of £1.50, but I bet the terrorists can afford it. In other word, this isn't a measure against the terrorists -- it's too easily circumvented: it's just more monitoring of the ordinary reasonably law-abiding citizen.

I predict a new business coming (4, Insightful)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 6 years ago | (#22766176)

Here is my pass, and an additional 100 pounds Sterling. Now, just travel around London for the next 7 days, sightseeing or whatever you like. When you are done, mail it back to me. Wow, now that is a really good tourism plan. What? Why am I being arrested at the airport? No, I did not rob a bank. No, I am not muslim. Oh, that's why? hmmmm

Or better, stick it inside someone else's bag and you look like you were traveling with them. The downfall of all of this is that there is no physical link between the tag and any human being. This is just stupid. Tracking people will not work, and will ONLY inconvenience the stupid criminals and honest people. When will governments learn?

Re:I predict a new business coming (4, Funny)

overshoot (39700) | more than 6 years ago | (#22766238)

The downfall of all of this is that there is no physical link between the tag and any human being. This is just stupid. Tracking people will not work, and will ONLY inconvenience the stupid criminals and honest people. When will governments learn?

So do the obvious thing and require that everyone in the UK (including those changing planes at Heathrow) get an RFID implant. Problem solved, identity theft a thing of the past [1]

[1] At least as long as the Forces of Evil don't figure out how to remove/transplant the suckers. Don't worry, they're not smart enough to figure that out.

Re:I predict a new business coming (2, Interesting)

M-RES (653754) | more than 6 years ago | (#22766298)

Are you kidding? RFID's are simple to implant. Go to any veterinary centre in the UK and you can have an RFID implanted in your dog in seconds. Likewise, you can read the RFID of anyone/anything within a 10 metre (give or take a few metres) radius, so it's a piece of piss to nick someone else's ID details, stick them on a black RFID and carry that with you - voila, ID theft made super-easy!!!

Re:I predict a new business coming (1)

M-RES (653754) | more than 6 years ago | (#22766314)

"black RFID" = BLANK RFID ;)

The lab called (4, Funny)

overshoot (39700) | more than 6 years ago | (#22766352)

Your sarcasmometer is overdue for recalibration.

Re:I predict a new business coming (1)

lordofthechia (598872) | more than 6 years ago | (#22766698)

So if you're a wanted man just remove your RFID, then get a buttload of RFID's made with the same code and implant them on stray dogs and cats everywhere?

Re:I predict a new business coming (1)

Splab (574204) | more than 6 years ago | (#22766304)

You just have to keep in mind that London has quite a lot of cameras, your alibi falters when you aren't on any surveillances footage from where you claimed to be.

Re:I predict a new business coming (1)

Tony Hoyle (11698) | more than 6 years ago | (#22766890)

Well once you've discounted the ones on the borders of the congestion charge zone (which are permanently focussed on number plate recognition), and those in stores (which are all independent so useless for tracking) there aren't *that* many.

Slashdot just likes to use a big numbers to say there are more in London than elsewhere.

Of course the best way to track anyone these days is a combination of credit card and mobile phone. No camera needed.

Re:I predict a new business coming (4, Interesting)

TheWizardTim (599546) | more than 6 years ago | (#22766308)

The downfall of all of this is that there is no physical link between the tag and any human being.

Shhhh don't give them any ideas! Next thing you know they are going to implant chips for you to travel, or go work, or get your chocolate ration for the week. I hear it's up to 20 grams!

Re:I predict a new business coming (4, Insightful)

fastest fascist (1086001) | more than 6 years ago | (#22766674)

Your idea of a criminal appears to be someone who has already committed a crime. To the government, a criminal is someone who might commit a crime, also known as a citizen.

Pervasive surveillance (5, Insightful)

realmolo (574068) | more than 6 years ago | (#22766178)

Spying on everyone, and having everyone spy on *each other*, is a fabulous way to run a civilization. As we all know, the former Soviet Union and China are the closest we've come to paradise-on-earth.

What the fuck is wrong with England? I mean, Orwell *showed* them in "1984" how bad it could be, but they keep moving towards it. It's very strange.

Don't forget the Nazis! (0)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 6 years ago | (#22766208)

It seems to me that they are hell-bent on making sure that the movie "V for Vendetta" becomes real life.

Re:Pervasive surveillance (3, Informative)

overshoot (39700) | more than 6 years ago | (#22766260)

As we all know, the former Soviet Union and China are the closest we've come to paradise-on-earth.

I believe that the DDR (former East Germany) holds the record with something like 30% of the population keeping tabs on the rest. Their status as a workers' paradise is left to the reader to judge.

Re:Pervasive surveillance (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22766622)

Well, if you absolutely had to live somewhere in the Warsaw Pact, East Germany was probably the best place to do it. Not that this is saying very much.

Re:Pervasive surveillance (1)

nunyabiz (854714) | more than 6 years ago | (#22766282)

It's not just the UK...every government wants more control over the people and they all try to inch towards that everyday. Some succeed more than others. In the US they have all that data already you just never hear about it...

Re:Pervasive surveillance (4, Insightful)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 6 years ago | (#22766360)

What the fuck is wrong with England? I mean, Orwell *showed* them in "1984" how bad it could be, but they keep moving towards it. It's very strange.
It's only strange if you believe that government exists to serve the people.

 

It Does (0)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 6 years ago | (#22766374)

At least in the "West", government DOES exist to serve the people, not the other way around. When a government ceases to do so, then it is time for the government to cease to exit... or at least to be put back the way it was.

Re:It Does (2, Insightful)

Daimanta (1140543) | more than 6 years ago | (#22766486)

That's right. And I am going to do something about it, right now.

Oh, wait.... Not now, American Idols is on. And I'm hungry. I think I'll get a pizza.

Re:It Does (0, Offtopic)

EdIII (1114411) | more than 6 years ago | (#22766542)

Exactly.

Let's not forget to use a high interest rate credit card to buy the pizza, unsustainable transport technologies to get the pizza to you, and let's add lot's of good ol' chemicals to it as well :)

Ohhh, and let's also spend 15$ on text messages to American Idol too.

I often have the same thoughts as the parent of your post too, until I see my shiny spinning tires....

Panem et circenses INDEED!

God this is depressing me. Time for some good ol' municipal water filled with *free* mood stabilizers :)

Orwell and the CIA. (1)

inTheLoo (1255256) | more than 6 years ago | (#22766396)

Someone at the CIA got really offended when he was told that 1984 was a comedy not a blueprint and decided to get even. This is why the BBC has produced great comedy like "Benny Hill" and why the UK is always on the cutting edge of police state technology. He proved both that people in the UK really do have a good sense of humor and that 1984 is serious political science, then he defected to the Soviet Union. The program, unfortunately, has a life of it's own.

Re:Pervasive surveillance (3, Interesting)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 6 years ago | (#22766412)

I mean, Orwell *showed* them in "1984" how bad it could be, but they keep moving towards it. It's very strange.

Not at all. The people in power are generally immune to any consequences, which is why they can do this and not care. The United States Congress was originally structured in such a way that the lawmakers would serve their term of office (a civic responsibility, much like jury duty) and then return to their previous lives to live under the very laws they instituted. That very powerful negative feedback loop was opened (to our detriment) when the idea of "career politician" was born. Now, I don't know enough about England's governmental structures to know if there were any similar controls that have also since lapsed into uselessness. If so, it would explain a lot.

MPs can remain in charge indefinitely, no max term (2, Interesting)

Peter Cooper (660482) | more than 6 years ago | (#22766642)

In England, you can, as a Member of Parliament, actually hold the same seat indefinitely. There's no maximum term, no maximum number of times you can be elected, so if you have a constituency where the majority of people support you, you can be in power forever. This is certainly the case where I live where the local MP has been in control since the mid 1960s. This is why I do not vote as he is unbeatable since he gets voted in by most of the over 60s (as well as others, since there's no good competition as you'd never win against him.)

Re:MPs can remain in charge indefinitely, no max t (1)

Tony Hoyle (11698) | more than 6 years ago | (#22766810)

The problem with that is it's self perpetuating... and why voter turnout has dropped to 15% in local elections at ties.

Really you should be voting for your chosen candidate *Even if he has no chance* because one day the other 85% might decide to do the same thing, and they need your support.

One vote means little, but for example in this seat I'm in which is a very safe labour seat... the majority is only 600 people. That's not a lot of people that need to change, and it's a good thing to break the apathy and actually give the system a chance to work.

Re:MPs can remain in charge indefinitely, no max t (2, Insightful)

Peter Cooper (660482) | more than 6 years ago | (#22766902)

My MP takes 48% of the vote with a majority of 10,000. But, yes, I'd certainly do what you suggest if I supported any of the other candidates, because what you say makes sense. That said, I'm not a supporter of democracy, so have resigned myself to not getting involved in any significant way (a bit like not going to church really) unless a party that'll transition us to technocracy arrives!

Back to democracy though, I dare say that getting Proportional Representation implemented would drive up those turnouts since every vote would count, but what party with a chance at winning First Past The Post is going to support that? :)

Re:MPs can remain in charge indefinitely, no max t (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 6 years ago | (#22766856)

We have a substantial number of permanent politicians here in the U.S. as well. Theoretically they could be voted out but it never seems to happen. The good news is that, eventually, they die of old age.

Al Gore was once asked his opinion on term limits for Congresspersons. He was wide-eyed with astonishment, and replied, "But that would deprive the American people of the benefits of professional politicians!"

Dubious benefits indeed, no matter what country you hail from.

Re:Pervasive surveillance (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22766784)

Spying on everyone, and having everyone spy on *each other*, is a fabulous way to run a civilization. As we all know, the former Soviet Union and China are the closest we've come to paradise-on-earth.

What the fuck is wrong with England? I mean, Orwell *showed* them in "1984" how bad it could be, but they keep moving towards it. It's very strange.

Bad? That's a matter of perspective. The former USSR, present-day Russia, present-day China, post-9/11 USSA, and Orwell's Oceania, were, are, are, are, are, and were, respectively, paradise-on-earth for members of their respective analogies to the Inner Party.

Pay as you go variant. (4, Insightful)

Angostura (703910) | more than 6 years ago | (#22766200)

... and I have to say that stories like this are exactly the reason why I opted out of using the original Oyster where you have to register and hand over personal details. I use the anonymous pay as you go version. Though, thinking about it, I'm sure with a little effort they could associate the card id with the debit card payments used to top it up.

Re:Pay as you go variant. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22766492)

If you have paid ONCE in the history of the card with a credit card it's on file. Even if you get a new card you would have to ensure your face somehow doesn't make it onto CCTV, otherwise the card log can be time matched against the recordings.

Oh, and if there's a charging error you will find that London Underground staff will try to sell you a line of bullshit that you need to register the card first before you get a refund - which brings me to the next scam.

Ever since John Major came up with the Customer Charter idea it has been possible to get a refund if your journey was delayed for more than 15 minutes. Note the following:

1) Staff is ACTIVELY barred from talking about the possibility of a refund
2) No literature explains the scheme - all they do is put the refund forms out but never explain it
3) The method by which you get your money is strangely convoluted, somehow pushing a refund back into the Oyster card was "forgotten" in teh design.

As for the MI5 demands, AFAIK they're merely trying to legitimise what they're already doing.

BTW: protesting may be unhealthy. They may decide that you have a very Brazilian look..

Re:Pay as you go variant. (1)

Doug Neal (195160) | more than 6 years ago | (#22766514)

Same here. I saw this coming a mile off, and I refuse to register mine, although I usually top up with a debit card out of sheer laziness. Anyone that has a modicum of intelligence and is up to no good will use unregistered cards topped up with cash only, and probably only use them once.

Re:Pay as you go variant. (1)

Brother Phil (1151069) | more than 6 years ago | (#22766664)

That's easy to fix - cash it in (or put it in the charity box), get a new one from the dispenser, and only top it up with cash. Like anyone with anything to hide doesn't do that weekly anyway.

Unfortunately, I've got my railcard on mine, so I have to submit to get a discount. (though it is a big one).

Why link it to the individual at all? (4, Interesting)

sakdoctor (1087155) | more than 6 years ago | (#22766204)

Shanghai metro for one has an oyster type card that is anonymous. To top it up you pay cash at the ticket office.

There are logs, and you can check them yourself by inserting the card into a reader; same for your wife who took your card to see where you've been. It is anonymous in that your personal details are not tied to the card ID, so no fishing expeditions by the authorities.

Re:Why link it to the individual at all? (1)

Gossy (130782) | more than 6 years ago | (#22766796)

Oyster cards don't need to be linked to an individual at all - it's the choice of the owner whether or not they want to register their details. The main reason for doing so is that in the case of loss/theft, you can be reimbursed with the money you had loaded on the card.

Feature creep (4, Insightful)

Mac Degger (576336) | more than 6 years ago | (#22766244)

And this is why you should be wary of ANY data collection scheme...just like it used to be that any application would eventually evolve to a point where it incluided a webbrowser/IRC client/email reader, data collections like thses evolve until the government wants it.

And what happens when the database gets hacked (this is INEVITABLE) and your personal data is online, never to go away? Jack shit is what. The government won't reimburse you, the data will never dissappear (like they say, real men don't do backups, they archive to the internet!) and identity theives (including, you guessed it, terrorists) will have a field day with easily used personal data which can't be 'taken back'.

This is one of those cases where the certain (not potential, this shit is ionevitable) consequences are much worse than any 'problem' you are trying to solve.

Personal data will hit the net, identity thieves will have fun and you actually make tracing terrorists MORE DIFFICULT.

God, people are dumb sometimes.

The Final Cut (1)

nunyabiz (854714) | more than 6 years ago | (#22766248)

Ok, get it over with already. Just wirelessly transfer the data from the implants to the grid network so we can record everything...Then we could root out all the "SUSPECTS"...I just want to have editing rights over the data...I'd be insanely wealthy then.

Shock! (4, Funny)

ZorbaTHut (126196) | more than 6 years ago | (#22766264)

Oh man, I never saw this coming! Did you? Such a surprise. And here I thought they'd stop at the public cameras! Ha ha ha, boy is my face red.

Oh well. I'm sure this time they'll be satisfied with their new powers.

You're on camera (1)

overshoot (39700) | more than 6 years ago | (#22766328)

And here I thought they'd stop at the public cameras! Ha ha ha, boy is my face red.

I can understand your face being red -- whatEVER inspired you to do that for them anyway?

One does wonder just how popular it's become to wank (etc.) for the camera crews.

PS: Anyone else notice that previewing clears any edits made to the "Subject:" line?

This won't catch anyone doing anything... (2, Insightful)

M-RES (653754) | more than 6 years ago | (#22766270)

...because if you're going to be planning to commit some kind of 'terror' act, you're not going to be traceable by your oyster card. In fact, you're more likely just to pay cash at the ticket machines and be untraceable. I don't have anything to hide, but I won't use oyster - or own a customer loyalty card, or pay with debit/credit card when I can just pay cash. If it's not your own government spying on you, it's marketing companies working for corporations!

Re:This won't catch anyone doing anything... (1)

evanbd (210358) | more than 6 years ago | (#22766562)

No, but it will be used to catch plenty of mundan criminals comitting more mundane crimes. They sell the system for catching terrorists, then proclaim its success at catching mundane criminals who they couldn't have gotten this sort of warrant to go after without the terrorist bogeyman. And they don't even bother pretending otherwise afterward. They must have noticed no one objects loudly enough to be relevant.

Re:This won't catch anyone doing anything... (1)

Bieeanda (961632) | more than 6 years ago | (#22766896)

Ah, but that's the beauty of it. Sooner or later, they'll correlate oyster card ownership with census data, and everyone who doesn't use one will be immediately added to a terrorist watch-list because they clearly have something to hide.

The TERROR! (4, Informative)

Richard W.M. Jones (591125) | more than 6 years ago | (#22766344)

From TFA:

The fear of cyber-warfare has climbed Whitehall's agenda since last year's attack on the Baltic nation of Estonia, in which Russian hackers swamped state servers with millions of electronic messages until they collapsed. The Estonian defence and foreign ministries and major banks were paralysed,

Except that these were done by some Estonian script kiddies [theregister.co.uk] , so it wasn't "CYBERWARFARE!!!11@@!"

Rich.

Re:The TERROR! (1)

tokul (682258) | more than 6 years ago | (#22766590)

Except that these were done by some Estonian script kiddies [theregister.co.uk], so it wasn't "CYBERWARFARE!!!11@@!"
Have you read the article you are linking to? Dmitri Galushkevich. Does not look Estonian to me. If he is Estonian, then other 400 thousands Slavs living in Estonia are Estonians too.

Re:The TERROR! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22766758)

If one Estonian (ethnic Russian) man has been convicted, it doesn't mean Russian authorities were not involved in organizing the attacks. Equally, it doesn't imply they were involved in it. Pro-russian parties outside Estonia have claimed to participate in attacks, while denying getting orders from "above".

Re:The TERROR! (1)

Maestro485 (1166937) | more than 6 years ago | (#22766880)

It's interesting how anytime anything comes up involving "cyber warfare", the Estonian thing is brought up despite being utterly unrelated. The same story of Russian hackers taking down Estonian servers is reiterated again and again regardless of the facts. It's just another example of government using a random event as an excuse to abuse its people.

data trawling is ineffective (3, Insightful)

Nomen Publicus (1150725) | more than 6 years ago | (#22766354)

Unless you are already tracking a suspect, data trawling is ineffective. The bigger the database, the less effective it is as more and more false positives occur and have to be investigated. This wastes huge amounts of time and resources and starves real investigations that could well turn up real suspects.

Re:data trawling is ineffective (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22766692)

That is the WHOLE point.

How can we go to war if there is not an EVER GROWING threat?

Diminish the power of our crime fighters, and more terrorists will perpetrate their deeds. http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/news/localnews/stories/DN-redlights_15met.ART.North.Edition1.468120d.html/ [dallasnews.com] - Dallas News

It is about the EFFECT, not the symptoms. The effect will be more crime. They want more crime so they can build more prisons and put false positives in there.

Re:data trawling is ineffective (1)

KillerCow (213458) | more than 6 years ago | (#22766928)

See information bias [wikipedia.org] .

Sad but true. (2, Interesting)

Fuzzums (250400) | more than 6 years ago | (#22766364)

What can you say? That you didn't saw this coming? Really?

In the Netherlands there will be a travelcard that can be used in the whole country. Train, bus, tram, subway, everything.

They come in two flavours. One, *cough* anonymous, wihthout reduction and one, personalised, with 40% reduction. It appears anonymity comes at a price.

But who cares. They wouldn't do anything bad with it. They wouldn't use it to datamine your behaviour.

Recently I heared this story. I can't tell if it's true, but it sounds likely. They are still running trials with the cards and there are "some" flaws in the system. Somebody, with a registered card, described his traven from A to B and back again. After that trip, he found there was more money on his card than before and he wrote a story about is. Anonymously.

But surprisingly enough he got a call from the card company, so he asked how he got his phonenumber. The answer was "what do you think?".

I find this disturbing.

Predictable response (1)

overshoot (39700) | more than 6 years ago | (#22766418)

They come in two flavours. One, *cough* anonymous, wihthout reduction and one, personalised, with 40% reduction. It appears anonymity comes at a price.

Unless they take annoying steps to prevent it, this will just lead to the same response that a lot of people in the USA used: trading. People swap loyalty cards all the time, which I'm sure leads to some amazing connections turning up.

Re:Sad but true. (1)

drsmithy (35869) | more than 6 years ago | (#22766818)

They come in two flavours. One, *cough* anonymous, wihthout reduction and one, personalised, with 40% reduction. It appears anonymity comes at a price.

It's worth pointing out that there's no need to invoke Big Brother to explain this situation, as simple economics does a better job.

terrorism is just a pretext (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22766398)

"having to look for potential terrorists" and whanot is just a crutch, an intellectual cop-out just like saying "god gave us this land and we will kill all those living on it". consider two things:

* uk & usa citizens are being kept in a continual climate of fear, of having to be vigilant about terrorism, something other countries don't do. and the citizens of these other countries aren't any less safe. you have to wonder if murkans and brits are really in danger. think about it.

* the more the usa & the uk authorities are beating the drum of having to be on lookout for evil terrorists, their citizens find themselves deeper and deeper in an orwelian dystopia, with no privacy and with an increased risk of being arrested for terrorism-related charges (is it really different from a "thoughtcrime"?. and afaik, there are many 'false positives' as if the authorities didn't really care if they imprison innocent citizens just trying to cary on with their lives.

all this "big-brother'ism" (this made-up word is not very cromulent, I know) has nothing to do with the safety and the well-being of the ordinary citizen and more to do with some sick new world order being put into place. people should react and just say a resounding "no, that's enough" to these governments and, i don't know how, should force them to repel so many of these recent measures.

one last thought: and if there are (episodical) terrorist threats, maybe the problem isn't not enough security and order, maybe it has something to do with the foreign policies of the usa and of the uk? maybe this 'terrorist threat' is just a *reaction* to some prior and current actions of washington and london? maybe that's why some countries don't have to incessantly scream 'watch out for those evil terrorists!', maybe they have a saner conduct on the world stage?

Re:terrorism is just a pretext (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22766548)

You make good points, but I refuse to allow terrorism to be excused. It's bullshit rationalization. I don't care how much you hate the US or its policies, if you choose to attack, to make things physical, you've fucked up. Doesn't matter how justified you feel. Plain and simple.

In other news... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22766494)

In other news, the British judiciary has released a statement that it intends to ask for a review of current legislative policy. In the future, people in court should be considered guilty until proven innocent. According to the British judiciary, this will lead to an increase in convictions and reduce the amount of unsolved crimes. Terrorist suspects will no longer be able to walk free if evidence against them is insufficient, or simply not available. "Quite simply put, this adjustment will make the public safe from Terrorists. There really is no better way to safeguard the nation." In a first response, a police spokesperson revealed to be "cautiously optimistic" about this possible new policy, and announced that it would be a great help to dealing with crime and terrorism, especially in combination with a new police policy that would allow people to be arrested because they "looked funny" or "somewhat suspicious".

Statistics/probability analysis (1)

192939495969798999 (58312) | more than 6 years ago | (#22766558)

Even if the data is totally anonymous other than boarding and unboarding the trains, just having a log of what people went where for "everyone" can make it easy to identify an individual from their riding habits. For example, while many people would go to work in the morning and go home in the evening, the odds of any particular person boarding the same train at the same time variance over a few weeks dramatically decrease. If I can see that there is a person boarding at 7:37 on mondays, 7:39 tuesdays, etc. then the more of these I am able to produce, the smaller a group of people it will be until I have the exact individual boarding at their "regular" times. Imagine if you're the only person that's 15 minutes late on a wednesday because you happened to get robbed, etc. this type of statistical tracking might have the granularity to pick you out based on when you usually would've boarded.

There's a lesson in this (1)

44BSD (701309) | more than 6 years ago | (#22766576)

This system could have been designed not to store travel data, or to store it only for a short time (enough to, say, calculate a reduced fare based on number of segments recently-travelled, etc). The surest way to prevent MI5 from gaining access to these records is to not create the records in the first place.

An identical observation applies to the privacy-destroying US "EZPass" system for highway tolls, of course. Sigh.

A stupid idea (1)

stevedcc (1000313) | more than 6 years ago | (#22766588)

The very concept is crazy: organised terrorists who have something to hide KNOW BETTER THAN TO TRAVEL USING IDENTIFIABLE METHODS OF PAYMENT. This is police-state logic at its worst. The obvious next step is to prevent any method of payment that isn't identifiable. Would you be happy with being FORCED to reveal your identity for every financial transaction in your entire life? We may choose to do so now using credit cards, but most of the time we have the option of paying cash.

So what else can the Forces of Good do? (1)

overshoot (39700) | more than 6 years ago | (#22766648)

The very concept is crazy: organised terrorists who have something to hide KNOW BETTER THAN TO TRAVEL USING IDENTIFIABLE METHODS OF PAYMENT.

I'm sorry to burst your bubble, but the whole War On Terror (tm) is founded on the idea that the Bad Guys are too stupid to use any of the fifty thousand or so obvious attacks that we have no way to defend against and instead will attack where the Forces of Truth and Justice (tm) have spent billions on security theater.

It's a really good thing, for instance, that Al Queda was never able to recruit anyone who knew anything about engineering.

Oh, wait ...

Congestion Cameras, Oyster, Biobank??? (1)

cardpuncher (713057) | more than 6 years ago | (#22766602)

When London's congestion-charge cameras were introduced, the privacy of the recorded information was loudly proclaimed - now it's routinely shared with police: it was only a matter of time before Oyster was dragged into the net. Even using an anonymous Oyster card (if they continue to exist) topped up with cash will not allow you to hide - since every interaction with the transport system is timestamped, a simple CCTV crosscheck will provide a visual identification.

Potentially more worrying is the attitude of future govemernments to UK Biobank [ukbiobank.ac.uk] . At present they're trying to engage millions of UK citizens in an ongoing medical research programme tracking their health over decades and attempting to correlate it with lifestyle and genetic patterns (the latter courtesy of a retained blood sample). I can't really believe that a database containing the DNA of a sizeable proportion of the UK population is going to remain off-limits to the security services, despite Biobank's assertion that

We will not grant access to the police, the security services or to lawyers unless forced to do so by the courts
. After all, think of the children. Just not the ones who might benefit from the medical research that privacy-conscious individuals might choose to opt out of...

Re:Congestion Cameras, Oyster, Biobank??? (1)

drsmithy (35869) | more than 6 years ago | (#22766862)

Even using an anonymous Oyster card (if they continue to exist) topped up with cash will not allow you to hide - since every interaction with the transport system is timestamped, a simple CCTV crosscheck will provide a visual identification.

You can get anonymous cards ? My wife and I just bought a couple for when we're visiting (we're living in Switzerland at the moment and have friends in the UK) and have to give an address to be able to get Oyster cards. These were just some pay-as-you-go cards with 20 quid each on them. (We used our friends' address.)

This is why... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22766610)

I buy paper tickets, well appart from the fact that the all dacing, all seeing Oyster card system doesn't actually cover the whole of the greater ~London 1-6 zones, Pathetic!

The more they use digital technologies to monitor and track so called terrorists the less they (the terrorist) will use them, eventually you just become invisible. because guess what. Your technology isn't so all dacing and seeing as it turns out.

Are there actually people in the UK? (1)

Mex (191941) | more than 6 years ago | (#22766624)

OR is it just a bunch of sheep?

For all the outrage on the US about privacy issues, it seems like the UK has been leading in the "Surveillance society" field.

Are there no protests about this sort of thing in the UK? Do the people not care? Or are they already so afraid of being singled out that they'd rather stay silent?

Keep track of the muslim terrorists. (1)

iknownuttin (1099999) | more than 6 years ago | (#22766748)

Are there no protests about this sort of thing in the UK? Do the people not care? Or are they already so afraid of being singled out that they'd rather stay silent?

It's because of the whole Muslim terrorism thing. The riots that happened there, etc ... so the people don't care because they're afraid of the Muslims - that's who's really going to be tracked in the beginning anyway.

Also, the IRA has been sitting around so the the MI5 guys need something to justify their cushy Government jobs. When the Muslims chill out, MI5 and the Government will think of some other reason to monitor their citizens.

In other news, a coil has been wrapped around Orwell's grave ....

Re:Are there actually people in the UK? (1)

nicklott (533496) | more than 6 years ago | (#22766858)

Are there no protests about this sort of thing in the UK? Do the people not care? Or are they already so afraid of being singled out that they'd rather stay silent?
If you'd RTFA you would have seen that that is the point of the story.

As an aside, this and most other stories of this ilk you read on slashdot are about London. London != the UK. The are only 8m people in London, the other 55 million of us live our daily lives quietly estatic that we don't have to worry about Oyster Cards or Congestion Charges, tube stations or jellied eels; it's unlikely our local police force will shoot us on the way to work and speed cameras are the only things likely to surveil us; People don't push us out of the way in the street and there is no one selling the Evening Standard. Yes, Not London is actually fairly nice. Except for the weather.

17 Million? (2, Interesting)

nicklott (533496) | more than 6 years ago | (#22766700)

I wonder where they got the 17 million stat from? Is that the number of Oyster cards ever issued? Given that there are only 8 million people in the whole of Greater London (which is the only city the oyster card exists) and only some of them (i've no idea how many but I'd guess about 50%) use public transport that seems a touch high to be current users.

Re:17 Million? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22766852)

Maybe some people are throwing these (come free with a week fare) each week away to protect their privacy ? ;-)

Re:17 Million? (1)

drspliff (652992) | more than 6 years ago | (#22766868)

How many tourists come to London every year?
Or people living around Britain travel to London?
The Olympics are coming up soon?

17 million doesn't seem too far out, although maybe 3/4 of them would be used infrequently.

Re:17 Million? (1)

Cederic (9623) | more than 6 years ago | (#22766922)


Don't forget those of us that don't live in or near to London but resent subsidising its public transport then being charged twice the price to use the damn thing, so have an oyster card that only gets used once every few months.

As for the fucking congestion charge.. that could almost be specifically designed to fuck over people making an occasional visit to the city.

Re:17 Million? (1)

nevali (942731) | more than 6 years ago | (#22766926)

8 million people _live_in Greater London.
~20 million people _work_ in Greater London.

Reason for this is moral collapse in the UK... (1)

Wonderkid (541329) | more than 6 years ago | (#22766712)

... government has lost trust in the people due to it's lack of moral authority, and so, rather than encourage family values and street police, it is allowing people freedom to do as they wish, but use technology and fines (citations) to tax bad behavior. Think a combination of Minority Report and Demolition Man. And those of is who care don't intend to let them get away with it or stick around. You fight, or you flight.

The totalitarian democracy... (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 6 years ago | (#22766766)

...is an utopia like the Communist state. It's the kind of state where the all-seeing, all-knowing state only acts in the best interest of the people and all the workers are incorruptible and never abuse the surveillance powers they're given. Where the state doesn't interfere with any democratic rights and has no bias to supporters or opponents to the current regime. Where everyone can say and do anything, associate with anyone and the state will not react unless there's anything illegal happening. Where these powers are solely used to enforce the law and protect the innocent in an equal and effective manner. In short, a system where you really have nothing to fear if you have nothing illegal to hide.

Of course, you can start arguing against this and that the system can surveil itself to catch corruption, at least up to a certain level (who watches the watchers) and that it could have some sort of division of power or democratic oversight on top. The first one doesn't work, like the Communist Party in the Soviet Union all you'll get is a superclass of citizens taking advantage of the others, and democratic oversight means that the very people the system has a massive power over is supposed to police it, that's not going to happen. In short, you need to think that power doesn't corrupt, and near-absolute power still doesn't corrupt. I'm not nearly that much of an optimist.

Boycott Oyster (1)

MrSteveSD (801820) | more than 6 years ago | (#22766850)

As soon as the Oyster card was launched, I knew this sort of thing would happen, just like I knew the police DNA database would expand to the ridiculous degree it has despite government assurances to the contrary. This is why we must vigorously oppose every since little infringement of our privacy, because if we don't the problem will just get much worse.

How about a "Boycott Oyster" campaign?

Zapping RFID Passports? (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 6 years ago | (#22766876)

People now walk around cities around the world with RFID passports stuck in their pockets. That spooks can read from any distance, using "RFID rifles" and the like. Multiple RFID detectors can even see stereoscopically just where in 3D space the RFID tags are, and correlate their locations with data mined from retail transaction logs like buying in stores, paying for gas etc.

How does someone zap their passport with an RFID embedded in it, without damaging the passport itself?
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