Monday, January 30, 2006

Dutch biometric passport cracked - personal details vulnerable

Biometric identity cards are being sold on the basis that they're supposedly secure. Before this debate comes to Ireland, it's worth noting that the Dutch biometric passport has already been cracked - allowing anyone to intercept your date of birth, facial image and fingerprint. To do this, they don't have to ever see your passport - merely come within 10 metres of a place where it is being used. (via The Register)

Monday, January 16, 2006

The innocent have nothing to fear: CCTV edition

We're often told that the innocent have nothing to fear. That extraordinary powers of surveillance won't be abused. This lady might disagree. From BBC News:
Two council CCTV camera operators have been jailed for spying on a naked woman in her own home.

Mark Summerton and Kevin Judge, from Sefton Council, Merseyside, trained a street camera into the woman's flat.


The images from the camera, including the woman without her clothes on, were shown on a large plasma screen in the council's CCTV control room in November 2004, Liverpool Crown Court heard.

Over several hours, she was filmed cuddling her boyfriend before undressing, using the toilet, having a bath and watching television dressed only in a towel.

[The trial judge said:]

"You only have to read the impact statements of the lady to realise the harrowing effect that this had on her.

"Her life has almost been ruined, her self-confidence entirely destroyed by the thought that prying male eyes have entered her flat."
It's worth noting that the Irish Law Reform Commission warned about the abuse of CCTV in 1996 and again in 1998. To date, the Department of Justice has taken no steps to act on these warnings, despite rolling out extensive CCTV systems throughout Ireland.

[Edited to add:] The Garda Siochana Act 2005 does address CCTV operations in section 38. That section provides no real safeguards however, and certainly does not meet the recommendations of the Law Reform Commission. It authorises the installation and operation of CCTV by the Garda or Community CCTV schemes. It does not prohibit others from putting CCTV in place to monitor public areas, nor does it require any permission before they can do so. Although authorisations to install Garda / Community CCTV systems can have conditions attached to them, those conditions are not backed by any criminal or civil sanction - the worst that can happen is revocation of the CCTV authorisation. The activity referred to in the above story, if it happened in Ireland, would most likely see the perpetrators escape any punishment.